Cross-border Business to Southeast Asia: Part I

by Kathy Tan

July 26, 2021

3 minute read

Why Southeast Asia and Why Now?

Southeast Asia is home to a diverse range of customs, economics, and people, but its rich legacy shares a common thread.

Southeast Asia’s emphasis on community has had a huge impact on customers’ purchasing habits and the role of online platforms in forming relationships between buyers and brands. This points to a bright future for cross-border corporate growth and innovation.

👥   Large Population Size

As of 2020, the number of Southeast Asians aged 15 and above is 442 million. Almost 70% of them are also digital consumers who have purchased a product online in the past 12 months.[1]

💰   An Increasing Disposable Income

Middle-class communities in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are estimated to number some 350 million by 2022, and hold a collective US$300 billion in spending power.[2]

🤳  A Strong Digital Culture
Southeast Asians are highly Internet- reliant, and better-connected with the rest of the world than ever before. 82% of the population already own smartphones, with this figure likely to increase to 105% by 2022.[3]

The “New Normal” is Digital

People are now spending more time online than usual due to increased social distancing and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Southeast Asians have expanded their use of social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram by at least 49%. In the first four months of 2020, 84% of respondents said they tried new digital apps, showing that mobile app use is likely to grow and diversify over time.[4]

Understanding Southeast Asia’s consumer markets[5].

Social media, video streaming, and instant-messaging platforms had the greatest increase in overall usage and new sign-ups. During COVID-19, the use of eCommerce, fooddelivery, and digital payment apps increased considerably, indicating that millions of people are looking for ways to receive goods and services that physical amenities no longer provide.

To take advantage of this increase in online engagement, marketers must first comprehend the distinct characteristics that distinguish Southeast Asia’s consumer markets.


Stay Tuned for Part II: Understanding Southeast Asian eCommerce


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[1] Source: Data compiled and modelled from: Forrester ForecastView, Forrester Analytics: Online Retail Forecast, 2019 to 2024 (Asia-Pacific, China, India, Southeast Asia, USA) by Forrester Research. Passport: Economies and Consumers Annual Data 2018 to 2025, by Euromonitor. Digital 2019 (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) by Hootsuite, Jan 2019
[2] Source: Facebook IQ, “The Rising Middle Class” by Bain & Co (Facebook-commissioned study of 4,745 people ages 18+ in ID, MY, PH, TH, VN), Feb 2018. Disposable income measured in Purchasing Power Parity; Middle Class defined as people earning $16–100 (USD) daily.
[3] Source: insights/how-southeast-asias-emerging-middle-class-is-embracing-the-digital-world
[4] Source: YouGov COVID-19 Syndicated Omnibus Tracker, April 2020
[5] Source: YouGov syndicated tracker (SG, MY, ID, PH, TH, VN), April 2020; Kantar, “Q7 : Compared to pre Corona-virus times, how has your lifestyle across following activities changed? Note : 11-13 March 2020 Second Wave SG (N=500), PH (N=500), ID (N=500), TH (N=501), KR (N=502), VN(N=500), TW(N=500), MY (N=501)”; YouGov, Consumer Behaviour, May 2020
Source: Facebook

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