The social element to shopping online

Social shopping is surging globally, and Thailand and Southeast Asia are at the forefront of the trend.

The phenomenon of recommending products on social media, and other ways of using technology to share shopping ideas and advice, is a powerful force in retail and is forcing big business to take notice.

Rakuten, the world's third-largest e-commerce marketplace and owner of the Thai site, has released insights from their E-commerce Index, an independent global survey into shopping trends.

The E-commerce Index shows that consumer interest in social shopping is up around the world, with almost half of consumers (45%) actively recommending products on social media sites. Southeast Asian nations led the way in social shopping with those in Thailand (65%), Malaysia (67%) and Indonesia (78%) the most likely among the countries surveyed to share their recommendations.

However, despite the strong sharing habits, people in these countries were spending less on average than everywhere else surveyed, at less than US$300 (8,700 baht) per person. The research found that the average amount spent across all markets was US$725 per person last year.

There was a huge gap between countries, with the UK leading the way spending an average of US$1,700, while at the other end of the spectrum Thais only spent an average of US$243 per person last year.

Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, managing director and founder of Rakuten's, noted that the site's traffic from social networks has grown nearly 200% in the past 12 months.

Social media is set to become increasingly important to consumer culture in the coming years. Research firm Gartner predicted earlier this year that 50% of information on new customers will be based on social network identities by the end of 2015, which is up from less than 5% today.

''As an industry we need to build consumer confidence in social shopping platforms, as well as allowing shoppers to easily share content through these channels,'' Pawoot said.

Indonesians continue to be the most mobile shoppers, with 14% of consumers reporting that they mostly shop online using a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device. Thai shoppers are close behind with 12% regularly using a mobile device to make online purchases. Top Western markets were the UK (12%), the US (10%), and Spain (9%).

Austria (46%) and Germany (46%) lead the way in preferring to stick with the bricks-and-mortar experience. However, the survey also found that consumers in Brazil and Taiwan prefer the shopping experience online to in-store, while almost one in five Thai consumers recorded the same preference.

Pawoot added that whether online, on mobile, or in-store, consumers are coming to expect a high level of customer services and uniform brand experience across all available channels.

''It's no longer enough to merely have a website that complements your brick-and-mortar presence, they must ensure that they are offering shoppers all the information they require through their website or mobile offering as well,'' he said.

About the author

Writer: Sasiwimon Boonruang
Position: Life Writer