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Social commerce continues to be on the rise in South East Asia as Covid-19 restrictions ease off in some parts of the region.

In the first half of 2021, orders and Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) jumped 102% and 91% respectively over the same period last year, IKala’s annual study ‘Riding the Pandemic Wave & Beyond’ found.

“South East Asia already had some of the most avid social media users in the world, and spurred by the pandemic, they’ve taken to social platforms for their shopping needs at an exhilarating pace,” said Sega Cheng, co-founder and chief executive officer at IKala.

“Even as brick-and-mortar reopens, it’s become clear that social commerce is not a phase – the ease, convenience and accessibility of this format has earned it a permanent place in the way this region shops.”

Cheng added: “The beauty of social commerce is that almost anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection can start selling on social media, but it’s not without its challenges. Navigating consumer expectations poses challenges, but more retailers are starting to leverage emerging tools and technologies to make the customer journey seamless. As the landscape matures, sellers who are quick to adopt effective solutions to eliminate pain points will be able to retain engagement and trust in the long run.”

What did the study find?

  • While e-commerce (91%) remains the preferred channel for shoppers in SEA, social commerce (78%) is emerging hot on its heels, surpassing even traditional retail (35%).

  • As many as 42% of total shoppers said they use social media to make purchases one to two times per month, and 35% use it shop more than three times a month.

  • Social commerce’s success goes beyond frequency too, with revenue per order up 88% during the period. This means consumers aren’t just shopping more, they are also spending more on each order.

  • Shopping on social platforms is not friction-free as consumers across the region report expensive shipping (51%), no return and exchange policies (41%) and a lack of customer service (34%) as key points of friction.

  • Payment preferences also vary wildly across the region, with consumers in Singapore and Malaysia relying much more on credit cards and digital wallets respectively, while those in Thailand and the Philippines prefer cash on delivery (COD).

  • Much of this has to do with the rising levels of scams, and as many as 70% of respondents said they had experienced product fraud at some point in their social shopping journey.