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Indonesia will be Asia’s next biggest e-commerce market


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Wed, 7 Sep. 2016


Hugh Harsono

Indonesia presents much opportunity for e-commerce among other emerging Asian economies, with current projections putting this archipelago nation’s e-market at $130 billion by 2020 (coming third behind China and India). With an estimated annual growth rate of 50 percent and strong mobile-first initiatives, retailers have a unique opportunity in Indonesia to focus on developing truly mobile platforms to help facilitate e-market growth, particularly in the consumer packaged goods (CPGs) sector.

Indonesia’s current e-commerce market is similar to China’s online marketplace beginnings, with a large pool of entrepreneurial sellers providing goods purchased based largely on social media recommendations. Similarly, e-commerce in Indonesia also mimics the early U.S. e-market, which was flooded with customers wary to trust online payments and retailers. Indonesia is truly unique in that it has the potential to create a hybrid of the widest opportunities from America and China’s e-commerce economies, propelling the Indonesian online marketplace onto the global stage.

Mobile-first Indonesia

Indonesia has established itself as one of Asia’s foremost mobile-first nations, with a StatCounterreport estimating that in 2015, more than 70 percent of Indonesia’s internet traffic originated from mobile devices.

Further evidence that Indonesians have embraced mobile-first initiatives comes from social media, with Indonesians having the highest mobile Facebook usage rate worldwide, with 63 million users in 2015. Further projections put Indonesians’ future Facebook access via mobile being almost 99 percent by 2018, showing a true dominance over desktop platforms. The mobile-first path that Indonesia has taken also allows retailers to focus on creating truly mobile functionality, presenting unique opportunities to dominate in the retail space.

Why specifically Indonesia?

Prospering with multiple entrants

Indonesia’s retail market currently consists of CPGs being sold in retail spaces known as “fragmented trade,” which is primarily made up of independent small business owners. E-commerce is currently growing at a rate twice as fast as fragmented trade, forcing many of these independents to turn to the e-commerce model. This in turn creates a sea of individual sellers eager to satisfy e-consumer demand, alongside mass retailers targeting this same demographic.

Unlike other Asian nations, Indonesians currently do not solely rely on mass retailers to guide their purchasing decisions, allowing for these individual sellers to maintain market share. This in turn allows the e-market segment to be open to any competitor determined enough to form a market impact, something uncommon in other mobile-first nations.

Procuring specialized goods to rural areas

Many Indonesian cities are currently woefully underdeveloped, because of a lack of strong government and infrastructure to support retail construction. However, e-commerce’s rise in popularity exploits this challenge by allowing consumers to purchase CPGs previously unavailable in their specific locales.

With lots of potential growth in rural and semi-rural areas, e-commerce specifically allows Indonesian consumers to source hard-to-find goods, as opposed to other nations, where rural areas would not have as high use of internet-capable mobile devices. In fact, popular Indonesian online site BliBli has more than one-third of its 2.5 million customers living in rural areas, providing goods ordered almost exclusively off mobile platforms to a population whose sole form of internet access comes via smartphone. This procurement of specialized CPGs to rural areas makes Indonesia a uniquely perfect place for online marketplace growth.

Providing truly mobile-first platforms

Indonesia’s e-market also allows for retailers and participants in the fragmented trade space to focus on developing truly mobile-first platforms. This specifically targets the mobile user as the captured demographic, instead of simply re-tooling a desktop platform to a mobile one.

This truly mobile-first scenario also allows sellers to use smartphones to their advantage, gathering hyper-personalized data to target individual Indonesian consumers as opposed to just specific demographics or groups among Indonesia’s more than 250 million population.

Mobile-first also allows for the easier entry of participants into the Indonesian e-commerce scene, with startups having the flexibility to choose what CPGs they sell, and even who they want as a consumer, through market penetration via mobile apps.

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