Thailand’s e-commerce market experienced significant growth during the Covid-19 pandemic as lockdowns drove consumers to online shopping, social media, internet telephony, and streaming services. According to the Electronic Transactions Agency, business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce reached $49 billion by the end of 2020, up from $33 billion in 2017. A report by JP Morgan estimates that e-commerce accounted for only 2% of overall retail sales in 2020, indicating significant potential for growth. Mobile devices were used in 57% of total e-commerce transactions. Despite this growth, only 23% of the population shopped online in 2020, but the average annual spending per customer was one of the highest in Southeast Asia at $1,738. The most popular segments of the market were travel (57%), followed by consumer electronics (11%), and fashion (10%).
The wider availability of internet services, widespread use of internet-enabled smartphones, as well as improved logistics and e-payment systems are the driving forces behind e-commerce. The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) estimates that internet user penetration per 100 people in Thailand will increase from 75.1 in 2020 to 81.5 by the end of 2025. The number of broadband subscriptions is projected to grow from 11.4 million in 2021 to 13.4 million by 2025.
Thailand was the first nation in Southeast Asia to see the commercial rollout of fifth-generation (5G) services, after the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) conducted a 5G spectrum auction in February 2020. AIS activated its 5G network in February 2020, True Corp launched 5G services in 77 provinces by the end of 2020, and DTAC launched 5G services in six major cities in the first quarter of 2021.
The rise of internet usage in Thailand is attributed to government initiatives and lower access charges, particularly for broadband connections. As part of its Thailand 4.0 initiative, the government launched the Village Broadband Internet or Net Pracharat project in 2017. The project invested in digital infrastructure to strengthen the national broadband network and provide affordable high-speed internet access across the country. The project was completed in 2019 and included the installation of free public Wi-Fi hotspots in tens of thousands of rural villages by the NBTC and state-owned telecom operators.
The increased time that people spent at home during the pandemic led to a greater digital engagement and encouraged consumers to turn to online channels for a wide range of purposes, including socializing, entertainment, work and study, as well as shopping. Furthermore, many non-grocery retailers worked to offset the sales lost from physical outlets by developing online sales during the crisis.
The competitive pricing and opportunities for price comparison offered by e-commerce were also important factors in the channel’s growing popularity, especially as measures introduced to limit the spread of COVID-19 had serious economic consequences, including job losses and salary cuts, which made local consumers more price-conscious. Retailers targeted consumer price-consciousness with promotional activity and campaigns, such as offering free delivery without a minimum order, while discount campaigns by leading marketplaces like Lazada and Shopee also supported growth.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Thai consumers have become much more willing to shop for groceries online in order to avoid crowded spaces and limit their risk of contagion. According to Happy Fresh, the number of local consumers using its website rose by around half during the lockdown in July-August 2021. Consumers’ familiarity with food and drink e-commerce was further strengthened by the closure of consumer foodservice outlets, which encouraged them to order food online for home delivery. Convenience stores players with numerous outlets across the country also participated in online services, such as 7-Eleven offering delivery of its products to nearby customers through its mobile app.
According to our analysis, which includes data from sources such as Euromonitor, Similarweb, eCommerce DB, and reports from public companies and trade associations, it appears that Lazada has maintained its position as the top e-commerce platform in Thailand. However, we have noted a decline in market share for Lazada, while competitor Shopee has seen an increase and now holds roughly half of the market share held by Lazada.
It is uncertain which platforms will dominate the e-commerce market in Thailand in the future, but it is likely that a mix of both foreign and local platforms, retailers, and cross-border e-commerce will play a role in shaping the market. Online shoppers in Thailand are increasingly utilizing these options.
The Diversification of Vending Machine: The vending channel is expected to see significant diversification of the product offer to include more items such as insurance products. During the COVID-19 crisis, vending machines did not only sell food and drink products, with Forth Smart Service launching new insurance products in its vending machines, allowing consumers who did not want to have face-to-face contact with a salesperson to buy products directly from machines near their homes. Products like facemasks and mobile phone chargers are also increasingly sold through vending machines.
The Cashback Model: Cashback service websites allow customers to claim cashback when they make purchases from other online stores through the cashback website. These cashback companies also provide discount coupons and voucher codes for online shopping. Shopback, a Singaporean-headed e-commerce player that started operations in Thailand in 2017, is one of the leading cashback companies in the country. However, cashback services still have plenty of room for growth and will need to invest more in marketing campaigns and advertisements in order to boost awareness. The further growth of e-commerce is key to the development of these cashback services, as the competition in cashback services will likely become more intense in the forecast period. The leading companies will be judged by the performance of their marketing strategies and how effectively they attract consumer attention, including the percentage of cashback they can negotiate from each online shopping store and the retailers that have signed up to their services.
In Thailand, There are about 9.8% of people use credit cards, and 59.8% of people use debit cards. While there are 16.8% of people purchase on the internet, there is only 17.4% of people with online banking accounts.
% with financial accounts
% with credit cards
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% get paid through digital channels
% buy on the internet
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% pay bill through online
% E-Commerce Penetration
There is 36.60 million consumer goods e-commerce users in Thailand, and they spend total of around 18.97 billion USD dollars in 2021. That makes a per capita spending on consumer goods e-commerce of around 518 USD. Also, in those e-commerce users, about 65.1% of them purchase through their mobile phone.
There is around 12.20 million people using e-commerce to order delivery in Thailand in 2021 . And throughout 2021-2022, the growth rate of food delivery users is at 21.1% according to a report issued by Statista, a data compiling company. The current market size of the food delivery market in the country is 400.2 million USD which translate to per user spending of about 32.8 USD.
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Spend Per User (Nominal $)
There is about 36.79 million people using digital channels to transact in Thailand in 2021. Over the period of 2021-2022, the figure had even grown at around8.7%. The total transaction value is worth 19.34 billion USD and or around 526 dollar per digital payment user.
Annual Digital Payment Users Growth (%)
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Transaction Per User (Nominal $)