Social commerce in Southeast Asia: Thailand
It is, perhaps, still too early to say that social commerce is 'mainstream'. Unlike the web and search, social media is still not used by consumers in many major markets, such as the USA, for researching and making purchases.
But in countries where social media is used for commerce, like China, it has become one of, if not the, most important channel for marketers there.
So where is Thailand on the map of the global social commerce economy? Have its consumers adopted social media as part of the social journey - or are they still mainly using social media to be, well, 'social'?
To find out, Econsultancy and Magento recently surveyed hundreds of consumers and marketers across Southeast Asia (SEA) and asked them about how they are using social media for commerce. Below are summary results from respondents from Thailand, but for more on this topic, please download the full report here: The State of Social Commerce in Southeast Asia.
1) Thai consumers use social media a lot - and buy a lot online, too
According to survey respondents, social media is very popular in Thailand and people use it a lot every day.
When asked how long they spend on social media, more than half (58%) of the survey respondents from Thailand replied 'more than 3 hours every day'.
They buy a lot online as well. Asked to estimate how much they spend on internet shopping, more than 1 in 3 (38%) spend more than $50 every month and 1 in 4 (25%) stated that they spend more than $100 monthly.
While these figures may seem low when compared to consumer spending in other markets, for marketers selling in Thailand this level of spending is significant.
2) Consumers in Thailand favor different social media channels than others in SEA
Digging deeper, we then asked respondents from Thailand which social media channels they use daily.
Unsurprisingly, nearly all replied that they use Facebook (90%) and YouTube (83%) on a regular basis. But unlike their SEA peers, very few Thais use WhatsApp daily(9%).
Instead, for messaging and social sharing, Thais use the popular Japanese social network LINE. Eight in 10 (80%) report using it daily, far more than the SEA average (28%).
Thai respondents were also less likely to use Instagram and LinkedIn than others in SEA.
3) And Thais do use social media when shopping
Turning to the main topic of the survey, respondents were then asked about how they use social media for commerce.
First off, which social networks did they use for recommendations and reviews? Facebook and YouTube took the top spots (83% and 58% respectively), followed by Instagram (30%). Significantly, only 2% said that they do not use social media for researching products ('none') leading to the conclusion that social media is important to Thai consumers when buying something.
Survey respondents also said that they use social media to share online purchases with friends and family. More than 3 in 4 (76%) said they use Facebook to do this and only around 1 in 5 (19%) said they do not share purchases on social media ('none').
4) Thai consumers will increasingly use social media for shopping in the future
Finally, we asked our survey takers about the future of social commerce. Do they think they will use social media to shop in the future?
Responses were an enthusiastic 'yes'. Nearly all (93%) percent said they either 'strongly' or 'somewhat' agreed that they would 'buy more through social media in the next few years'.
5) Brand marketers in Thailand are active on social media, too
Brand marketers based in Thailand were surveyed for the report as well. When asked how active they were on social media, every respondent indicated that their brand was using social media with Facebook and LINE being the most used daily (78% and 72%, respectively).
Thai marketers indicated that they were actively promoting content, as well. More than 9 out of 10 (91%) of respondents said they were boosting posts on Facebook and, interestingly, more than 2 in 3 (68%) are paying for promotion on LINE.
5) Thai marketers believe that social commerce is gaining momentum in the country
In addition to paying for reach, marketers in Thailand are also investing in technology which supports social commerce. Over the next 12 months, more than 8 out of 10 (82%) professional marketers said they will be increasing their spending on social commerce technology.
6) Technical challenges, among others, remain
Marketers in Thailand did, however, highlight some of the challenges that they will face in adopting social commerce. When asked what the single most significant barrier they faced when integrating social commerce, more than 1 in 4 (26%) cited a 'lack of technical knowledge' about the platforms and 13% said that that they still had 'data security concerns'.
Marketers in the country are, however, optimistic about the future of social commerce. When asked about the outlook for social commerce over the next five years, 80% 'strongly' agreed that it will become increasingly important and no respondents felt that it would not.
So, Thailand seems to be somewhat in-between the market leaders and laggards with regards to social commerce. Thai consumers spend a lot of time on social media and are spending more online but there still appears to be an opportunity for brands who can overcome the technical challenges of integrating their ecommerce and social media platforms.
For more information about social commerce across all of SEA, please download the full report here: The State of Social Commerce in Southeast Asia.