Shopee counting on phones to proliferate m-commerce boom
Shopee, Southeast Asia's leading online marketplace, is riding the staggering growth of mobile commerce in the Thai market and aiming for a second straight year of double-digit growth.
"Mobile commerce (m-commerce), or purchasing through mobile devices, will be inevitable among Thai online shoppers over the next five years because Thailand is a mobile-first country," said Terence Pang, chief operating officer of Shopee.
Despite having yet to turn a profit, Shopee Thailand could potentially reach profitability within 5-8 years, in line with the global e-commerce trend, Mr Pang said.
Shopee does not charge fees for product listings, transactions and advertising.
Launched in December 2015, the Singapore-based m-commerce startup achieved 5 million app downloads in Thailand -- one-fifth of the total downloads in the seven countries where it has already established an online footprint: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Shopee achieved a total of US$1.8 billion annualised gross merchandise value across seven markets, with 25 million app downloads and over 65 million product items.
Shopee Thailand achieved over 1 million orders per month in 2016.
The five best-selling categories are cosmetics/skincare, women's fashion, electronics devices, audio products and mobile gadgets.
Half of Shopee customers in Thailand are from provinces and rural areas, with the remainder in Bangkok.
"Thailand, together with Vietnam, is classified as a fast-growing, massive potential markets for m-commerce, thanks to the country's strong and connected e-commerce ecosystem, the proliferation of smartphones, mobile-first consumers and the high purchasing power of young people aged 16-25 who make up the highest share of online shoppers," Mr Pang said.
Shopee Thailand expects to maintain strong double-digit growth as the company strives to solidify its leadership position in the m-commerce market in the region.
Mr Pang said shopping through smartphones in Thailand took off in 2016, while e-commerce involving shopping through computers started in 2012.
"M-commerce is poised to burst into the mainstream thanks to a host of technological advances that are making it easier for people to shop on their phones," he said.
Mr Pang acknowledged that while online commerce in Thailand is just a small portion of retail sales, with a market share of 1-3%, he expects the figure to reach 5-10% soon.
In comparison, he said online commerce in Taiwan accounts for up to 17% of retail sales.
Shopee will continue to focus on optimising the product portfolio, improving end-to-end user experience and empowering entrepreneurs to expand and grow their online businesses.
To capitalise on the growing sales of electronics and mobile gadgets, Shopee will join forces with its sellers to launch the Mobile & Electronics Madness Shopping Day campaign, running March 3-26.