Innovation

Malaysia has highest percentage of digital consumers in Southeast Asia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is keeping pace with Southeast Asia’s digital transformation by recording the highest percentage of digital consumers with 83 per cent of its population (aged 15 years and above), based on a study titled “Digital Consumers of Tomorrow, Here Today” conducted by Facebook and Bain & Company.

The study said almost 70 per cent of Southeast Asian consumers will go digital by year-end and the growth of digital consumers in Southeast Asia is expected to reach around 310 million by year-end, with millions more expected to join in the coming years.

Bain & Company, in a statement, said this growth was originally forecast for 2025 in the 2019 study by Riding the Digital Wave, indicating a five-year acceleration within 2020 alone.

It said that Malaysian consumers were not just spending more online as forecast in 2019, instead they were also buying into more categories online and Malaysians purchased an average of five categories in 2020 compared to 3.8 categories in 2019.

“Malaysia’s online groceries recorded the highest growth (2.2x) in online retail penetration in 2020 since 2018.

“Discovery commerce and online inspiration remain all-important, with 67 per cent of Malaysian consumers saying that they still don’t know what they want to purchase before they shop online, while 66 per cent said they learn about new products and brands via social platforms, with short videos being cited as the top format of choice,” it said.

Facebook Malaysia country managing director Nicole Tan said the impact of digital adoption on businesses has never been more apparent with five years of digital acceleration condensed into one year and in Malaysia we are expecting approximately four million new digital consumers in 2020.

“Online is no longer just one of many channels, for many businesses, it has become their main channel. It is crucial for businesses to connect with consumers in ways that are frictionless and to replicate in-person interactions through social platforms, messaging and short videos as much as possible to drive discovery and loyalty,” she said.

Based on the report, with the rapid immigration of digital consumers from offline to online, coupled with the evolution of home-consumption habits, more brands have shifted their business models beyond the “omni-channel” option to meet the consumers where they are. 

“Southeast Asian-based venture capital and private equity funds hit a record of US$8.7 billion in unspent capital as of end-2019. This opens doors for internet and technology disruptors to obtain more funding, grow profitably, and compete on a larger scale in the region,” the report said.

The report suggests that disruption may be more apparent in healthcare, education and online entertainment as it rapidly evolves to adapt to consumer’s home-consumption habits such as home-based learning, telemedicine and the sharp increase in preference for online gaming and live-streaming.

Meanwhile, Bain & Company partner Gwendolyn Lim said the number of Southeast Asian digital consumers has grown exponentially and their consumption habits are shaping today’s new norm and looking forward, online spending is expected to triple by 2025 and reach close to US$150 billion.

The study surveyed approximately 16,500 digital consumers and gathered insights from interviews with over 20 chief experience officers or CXOs (executives responsible for the overall experience of an organisation’s products and services) across six Southeast Asian countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.