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One of the biggest questions for Thailand when we are talking about the growth of e-commerce is essentially this: Is the country ready to be a cashless society?

Speaking at the Priceza Awards on 25 January 2017 in Bangkok, industry leaders Mr. Worawoot Ounjai (CEO of COL Public Company Limited), Mr. Nuttawit Polwattanasuk (MD of LnwShop), Mr. Thanawat Malabuppa (CEO of Priceza Group), Mr. Tarin Thaniyavarn (CCO of Lazada), and Mr. Thananan Arunrugtichai (Assistant Director of Ascend Group) shared their thoughts and predictions on the eCommerce trends in 2017.

According to Mr. Thanawat, the e-commerce economy in Southeast Asia is fast-growing and it is factors such as the quality and reliability of online shopping services that help to drive the growth and acceptance rate in the region. As such, the Priceza Awards was organised to recognise online sellers at the top of consumers’ mind in Thailand.

Also Read: Here’s what Southeast Asia can learn from India’s tryst with cashlessness

Consequently, Mr. Worawoot said he feels the number of Thai consumers who purchase products online is still small compared to retail and physical stores at a mere two to three per cent. Mr. Worawoot shares that he is certain that the potential for online shopping should in fact be five to six time higher at around ten per cent, further explaining that it is omni-channel strategies that Thailand needs right now to strike a balance between physical retail stores and online shops.

A shift toward social commerce

Speaking on what will the trends be in 2017, Mr. Tarin from Lazada stated that the trends is moving toward social commerce, for which he shares his thoughts: that it should be very effective not only in Thailand, but for the whole Southeast Asian e-commerce market.

“People nowadays tend to engage more with electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets. For the e-commerce industry, we refer to this large group as the millennial shopper. And things such as direct interaction with the sellers, and being able to contribute more than just making the online payment during the buying process, are important.”

“The marketplace is a better fit for online shops to sell more and gain recognition, especially for small brands that would like to compete in the market. The reason for this is that creating their own website is hard. If they are not a big brand, and would like to go online, but the cost for website development can be daunting. Not to mention the efforts for integrating payment systems.” In his opinion, Mr. Tarin felt the marketplace platform is still the best option for smaller players.

Moving on to the topic of payment method and whether a better payment system is needed in Thailand, such as cashless payments, Mr. Nuttawit shared his opinion.

“Cashless payment systems are a challenge for Thailand. Many Thai online shoppers still voice their concerns about the safety of online payments.”

Accordingly, Mr. Nuttawit mentioned that many online consumers in Thailand is at a stage where the preferred option is cash on delivery (COD) or to do a direct bank transfer.

On the contrary, Mr. Tarin felt that e-payment systems may apply well in big cities such as Bangkok. However, it would be a challenge in the rural areas. For e-commerce in Thailand, it is a challenge to implement cashless payments, a reality that cannot be ignored, and should be improved.

Mr. Thananan, continued to share his prediction that e-payment systems should be well established in Thailand within two to three years’ time.

“By that time, Thailand will be ready to fully apply the system and integrate it well with all sectors.”

Ready, but a lot of challenges in sight

Thus, when it comes to whether Thailand is ready to become a cashless society in 2017, the consensus is: yes, the country is ready, but there are lots of challenges along the way.

In a consequent session on what millennial shoppers want, Mr. M Khajochi from MacThai.com and Mr. Supadej Sutthiphongkanasai, Moderator at the Tech Offsite TV Show, contributed several insights.

Mr. M Khajochi started by explaining what a millennial shopper is.

“The millennial shoppers are consumers who spend time to search for options. This kind of shopper will spend a lot of time researching before deciding to buy something. They will read reviews; they will want to know more about the product details and benefits.”

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Mr. Supadej added that this type of shopper is more picky, careful but also impulsive.

“They have the need to spend their money in the best possible way. They want it to be worth the spend. Millennial shoppers will have less time watching TV or reading newspapers and magazines. They spend most of their time on smartphones or any other mobile devices.”

“As a business owner, it becomes very important to follow this trend and keep watch on anything viral. Creating ads based on this behaviour is a good way to target the millennial shopper. They need convenience, and everything should be fast. Fast internet, easier login to online shops using LINE ID or Facebook login, fast delivery. And the most important thing is after-sales service.”

Mr. Supadej highlighted the importance of after-sales service, explaining that the experience can impact businesses in many ways, given that the millennial shopper will lose their loyalty fast if shops do not provide them with on-time-delivery or good communication. This is where social commerce comes into play.

Mr. Thanawat ended the session sharing that the Priceza shopping search engine and price comparison platform has millions of buying intent data every month, that he and his team hopes to gain and share insights on how the eCommerce trends develop in Southeast Asia. Mr. Thanawat envisions Priceza as being part of the efforts in making the retail ecosystem in Southeast Asia as transparent as possible.

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