A burgeoning middle class is leading to new pockets of wealth that have triggered a huge spike in consumer buying power, resulting in demand for newer and increasingly sophisticated products.
Where those consumers go to find out about new products depends on what part of the region they live in, but in countries with higher rates of online use, the digital arena is leading the way.
Southeast Asian consumers are in the know
“Southeast Asian consumers are increasingly educating themselves about new trends and products coming to the market, and for the most they are getting this new information from the main TV channels,” said Jane Henderson, global president of Mintel Beauty and Personal Care Division.
“However, in more developed countries within the region, which include Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, it is increasingly digital channels, particularly social media, where consumers are getting new information about products.”
In line with this, Mintel’s data indicates that e-commerce in the Southeast Asian region was around $6 billion in 2015, but as digital retail platforms invest in the necessary infrastructure and logistics for optimal market reach, that figure is likely to reach $88 billion by the year 2025.
Such moves by e-commerce players are also being backed up by government investment in transportation and othe
r infrastructure projects across the region, which is helping to gradually boost the availability of e-commerce services beyond the major urban centres.
Social media plays its part
Social media is acting as the go between for many of these ecommerce platforms, which are dominated by big multinational players such as Alibaba, Amazon and JD.com.
“Facebook appears to be the trigger behind brand awareness and digital retail growth, with our data indicating that 77% of users in the region ‘like’ at least one beauty product, which translates into nearly 40% of those consumers making a purchase from a Facebook campaign,” said Henderson.
Indeed, much of this digital activity is being carried out on mobile devices, leading to a huge uptick in m-commerce activity. Underlining this, Mintel’s data reveals that in 2015 alone, 43 million smart phones were sold in Indonesia, which is also by far the biggest market in the region.
But traditional brick and mortar stores also remain an important part of the beauty retail landscape throughout the region, with Japanese retailer Matsumoto Kiyoshi recently setting up a store in Bangkok, while Sephora will soon have 11 stores in Singapore and Guardian is set to open its 49th store in Vietnam, Mintel’s data reveals.
“Ultimately consumers in many parts of Southeast Asia will still want to have a physical retail experience so they can connect fully with brand and products, try them out and make an informed decision about what works best for them,” said Henderson.
Country by country
It is Singapore that is the testing ground for new cosmetics launches in the region. With the highest per capita spend and the most informed consumers, the market there has evolved as both the anchor and the first step into the regional market.
But overall Southeast Asia is a diverse and, in places, a disconnected market, with countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar still having a long way to go before larger scale investment is made by beauty companies.
“Right now it is Thailand and Indonesia that are the real markets to watch in the region because they are offering infinite business opportunities, particularly for both larger scale multinationals and domestic brands,” Henderson said.