2020 was an unprecedented year as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across some retail categories in Asia Pacific while benefiting others. Although Asia Pacific’s overall retailing industry registered a 4% sales decline in 2020, the region continues to drive the industry forward, thanks to tech giants, such as Alibaba and JD.com. Second to Latin America, Asia Pacific is predicted to see the highest value sales CAGR for retailing during 2020–2025, with digitalisation, connectivity and demographics being key growth drivers in the region’s evolution as an innovation hub post-pandemic.
The region reported double-digit growth in e-commerce in 2020. World-class mobile connectivity enables digital transformation in industries like retailing, supported by extremely tech-savvy consumer segments in Asia Pacific. Proximity payment has become the next big opportunity for many fintech players while retailers integrate their online and offline operations to better serve their customers who are more connected than ever.
Amid such a culturally nuanced and economically diverse region, there are some more prominent winners to reckon with — India for its massive domestic consumption-driven economy, Japan and South Korea’s advanced technologies and China’s burgeoning middle class. These four markets also unsurprisingly, happen to be among the world’s top 10 countries with the highest e-commerce potential, according to Euromonitor International’s E-Commerce Readiness Model.
While livestreaming experienced explosive growth in 2020 in tech-advanced markets like China, other emerging economies in Southeast Asia including Indonesia and the Philippines witnessed a surge in social commerce through WhatsApp, Instagram and Viber. In the years to come, more brands are expected to tap into social media to virtually engage and build trust among consumers in addition to serving as retailtainment.
As the retail landscape becomes more competitive with players fighting to stay relevant in the digital space, it will be crucial to localise the shopping journey to individual markets and personalise the retail experience for various customer segments in the diverse Asia Pacific region.
The retailing industry in Southeast Asia registered a decline of 6% in 2020. Despite effort from the government to set up a contingency plan in order to tackle the pandemic, second and third waves of infection still occurred in most Southeast Asian countries, resulting in a slowdown for domestic business recovery.
However, the crisis gave e-commerce players the opportunity to rise at a much faster pace. Tokopedia overtook Seven & I Holdings to rank first in 2020 and Sea Ltd, brand owner of Shopee, also saw its ranking rise by five places to become the third-placed player in the year. This shows how vibrant and dynamic a landscape the Southeast Asia region is. Aside from benefiting from the online purchasing trend, e-commerce platform players, such as Tokopedia, Shopee and Lazada, played a big part in onboarding many brick-and-mortar brands onto the online retailing platform. With consumers in the region becoming more tech-savvy and many brand players forced to explore the omnichannel, e-commerce and omnichannel are expected to maintain their influence on the overall retailing industry.
The Southeast Asia region is challenged with the uncertainty of the political situation, which may hinder some development and growth opportunities. The recent coup d’état in Myanmar and continuous political unrest in Thailand have raised concern among international parties and may slow down investment from foreign investors. However, overall, Southeast Asia’s retailing value is still able to register forecast growth at a 6.7% CAGR (USD, constant, y-o-y exchange rate) over the next five years (2021–2025) due to a strong rebound performance post-pandemic. Although the overall region may recover from the pandemic, retailers in the region need to continue to innovate and explore new ideas in order to overcome other types of challenges.
Source: EuroMonitor Int'l
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