E-Commerce in Malaysia: Outlook & Retail Trends in 2023

Last Updated: October 30, 2023


How's The Development of E-Commerce in Malaysia?

E-commerce sales in Malaysia have continued to experience strong growth, with double-digit sales increases seen through the past decade. This growth has carried over into 2022, although the rate of increase has slowed slightly compared to the previous year. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce was already seeing robust growth in Malaysia. However, the pandemic has led to an even greater increase in sales, with growth rates slowing only slightly in 2022 and 2021 despite the higher base from which sales in the category are now starting.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting social distancing regulations have been the main drivers of the high consumer interest in e-commerce. In 2021, non-essential retail outlets, including non-grocery specialists, were forced to close for several weeks due to quarantine measures in response to the Delta wave of the pandemic. Even after reopening, these stores were restricted in their ability to operate at full capacity. Many consumers have also been hesitant to shop in crowded stores out of fear of contracting the virus. Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that e-commerce has seen very strong sales growth in 2021.

In 2022, the e-commerce growth has slowed further as many customers are returning to the physical stores as the movement restrictions were further relaxed from April 2022. Also, the lifting of border restrictions drive some consumers starting to go abroad again, with this taking sales of some products out of the country.

One factor that has historically hindered the growth of e-commerce in Malaysia is the low level of trust that many consumers had in online payment systems and digital payments in general. However, as digital payments have become more prevalent and the use of cash has declined, these barriers to the wider adoption of e-commerce have become less significant. In particular, the popularity of e-wallets such as ShopeePay and Touch N Go E-wallet has significantly increased in recent years, making it easier for e-commerce platforms to attract and retain customers. One survey from PayNet, a national payments network, also found both the adoption rate and usage rate have increased dramatically.

While the growth of e-commerce will stabilize further as fears surrounding COVID-19 start to lessen, the increased reliance for online shopping will enable many different online businesses and innovation in the coming years. For example, younger consumers, who have grown accustomed to online shopping, are expected to continue to fuel online sales in the foreseeable future. This presents businesses and brands with unique opportunities to enhance their digital offerings, ensuring a smooth and integrated shopping experience for their customers. Advanced technologies like augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics will probably be further utilized to elevate the shopping experience and cater more precisely to the individual needs of consumers.

There’s an increasing appetite for more interactive and engaging online shopping experiences, driving the growing popularity of formats like live streaming. This not only offers entertainment but also an innovative avenue for shopping. In the next five years, online shoppers are likely to seek items such as fashion, groceries, toys, games, and consumer electronics the most. However, products like home appliances, where consumers often desire hands-on advice or physical examination, are expected to see less demand in the e-commerce space.

Online & Offline Retail in Malaysia
Unit: Billion USD
Online & Offline Retail Growth in Malaysia
Unit: %
Retail Value Added (% of GDP) in Malaysia
Unit: %
E-Commerce Sales a a % of Retail in Malaysia
Unit: %

Competition Among E-Commerce Platforms in Malaysia

In Malaysia, as with other Southeast Asian nations, a substantial portion of e-commerce value comes from third-party online marketplaces. Here, international powerhouses Shopee and Lazada are the frontrunners, commanding market shares of 37.9% and 20.9% respectively. However, in 2021, Lazada began to lose ground to its rival, Shopee. One challenge for Lazada has been its inability to adequately localize its products for the diverse and culturally specific Malaysian market.

In addition, since being acquired by Alibaba, Lazada has experienced stagnation. These factors have created opportunities for Shopee, which has expanded its reach and product range in order to appeal to a wider consumer base and gain market share from Lazada. It is uncertain whether Lazada will be able to recover and present stronger competition to Shopee in the future, but the company has been running strong advertising and marketing campaigns in both the digital and physical realms in an effort to do so.

The e-commerce landscape will continue to be fiercely competitive owing to low entry barriers and an ever-growing assortment of online stores and platforms. Predominant online marketplaces, Shopee and Lazada, are projected to maintain their rivalry by introducing more appealing promotional events to drive traffic and increase their market share. These platforms tend to attract smaller vendors who favor gaining exposure to their substantial user bases while enjoying reduced set-up and maintenance expenses, as compared to building their own websites and online stores.

Smaller vendors may also choose to showcase their products on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. These platforms offer a potent avenue to interact with consumers while also promoting products. Despite this, online marketplaces are generally expected to remain the primary choice due to their well-established system that facilitates a smooth journey for the customer, from product discovery to delivery.

Nonetheless, larger vendors or those with their own loyal customer base, such as Lotus and Love Bonito, might lean towards creating their own .com websites. Having their own websites allows them access to customer data analytics, an asset that is increasingly recognized as invaluable.

Retail & E-Commerce Trends in Malaysia

The Rise in Proximity Retailing: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in demand for convenience stores and other proximity retailing formats in Malaysia. This is due to people avoiding crowded stores and wanting to stay at home, leading to competition for hypermarkets from these smaller retail formats located closer to consumers’ homes and workplaces. As a result, some hypermarket chains have closed stores and Giant has rebranded and introduced smaller concept stores in an effort to compete with the rise of convenience stores.

Social Commerce Prevails: Social commerce, has become a common sales channel in Malaysia for small vendors. Facebook is the most popular platform for this type of online commerce, followed by WeChat and Pinterest. The growth of social commerce in Malaysia was driven by the high penetration of smartphones and the increasing use of social media and digital channels before the COVID-19 pandemic. The most popular categories for s-commerce include beauty and personal care, apparel and footwear, and toys and games. Instagram stores, known as Instashops, have particularly seen strong growth in Malaysia, particularly among Muslim fashion apparel and footwear retailers.

The Cross Border Effect: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, cross-border e-commerce became a common business model in Malaysia’s retail industry and the number of players in this sector has continued to increase in 2021. Jetspree and Yellow Porter have been at the forefront of this trend, offering services that connect online shoppers in Malaysia with travelers who can purchase products from their countries of origin and deliver them to the shopper, or provide affordable end-to-end international shipping and last mile delivery services for items purchased from e-commerce or physical stores abroad.

Financial Environment

Source: World Bank, Payment Providers, eMarketer

In Malaysia, There are about 21.3% of people use credit cards, and 73.8% of people use debit cards. While there are 33.9% of people purchase on the internet, there is only 32.6% of people with online banking accounts.

% of People With Financial Accounts
Unit: %
% of People with Credit Cards
Unit: %
% of People with Debit Cards
Unit: %
% of People Exchange Through Digital Channels
Unit: %
% of People Buy Through Online Channels
Unit: %
% of People with Internet Banking Accounts
Unit: %
% of People Pay Utility Bill Online
Unit: %
E-Commerce Sales as a % of Total Retail
Unit: %

Weekly Use of E-Commerce

Source: Statista Digital Market Outlook

E-Commerce Driving Factors

Source: GWI.com (Q3, 2021)

For E-Commerce Customers in MalaysiaWhat are the major driving factors to purchasing online?

% of respondents think is their main drivers
Source: Multi-select survey

Consumer Goods E-Commerce in Malaysia

Source: GWI.com (Q3, 2021)

There is 14.43 million consumer goods e-commerce users in Malaysia, and they spend total of around 8.17 billion USD dollars in 2021. That makes a per capita spending on consumer goods e-commerce of around  566 USD. Also, in those e-commerce users, about 55.9% of them purchase through their mobile phone.

Market Size of Consumer Goods E-Commerce
Unit: Million USD

Digital Media E-Commerce in Malaysia

Source: Digital Market Outlook 2021
Market Size of Digital Media E-Commerce
Unit: Million USD
  • Retail Sales & E-Commerce Penetration: eMarketer, Edge By Ascential, Euromonitor Retail Passport
  • Currency: Based on IMF Data 2022/12
  • Consumer Behavior: Statista Digital Market Outlook
  • Retail Channels: Euromonitor, Local Association, Financial Reports (Of Relevant Retailers)
  • Data Compilation: OOSGA.org
  • Analysis: OOSGA CR Team Analytics
Author: CR Team

Our consumer research practice tracks what customers spend and how they make decisions across major economies in the world.

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