Thailand leading world in using social media to shop: PwC

Information Technology Press Releases Wednesday April 20, 2016 11:45
Bangkok--20 Apr--PwC Thailand
Thais consumers are leading the world in embracing social media as a way to buy goods, leading to a new set of opportunities and challenges for retailers.

More than half (51%) of online shoppers in Thailand said they purchase goods directly via a social media channel, outpacing India (32%), Malaysia (31%), and China (27%), according to PwC's annual Total Retail survey 2016.

The global report, titled "They say they want a revolution," polled some 23,000 online shoppers in 25 countries to track consumer behaviour across retail channels, including mobile shopping and social media influence.

Social media influenced 78% of shoppers globally, up from 68% in a similar study last year, with 92% of emerging market shoppers buying products based on social media recommendations. Some 60% of all respondents cited price as the biggest influence on where and how they shop.

Sira Intarakumthornchai, CEO for PwC Thailand, said that Thai consumers today are moving quickly toward social media as the explosive growth of mobile devices offer a new shopping tool.
"Social media is set to become a driving force in influencing online shopping behaviour," Sira said.

"As more consumers buy online products and services based on peer reviews, comments and feedback through the use of virtual social networks, the stakes for Thai retailers and consumer goods companies have never been higher."

The report found that 53% of Thai online shoppers said that customer reviews influenced their buying behaviour. Some 48% compared prices using mobiles while in a store. More than half (56%) also said they're likely to buy from offshore online retailers if prices are better.

Although Thai shoppers are conscious about price, convenience offered by the retailer also plays a significant role in determining value. PwC's survey data shows that Thais buy online primarily because of convenience (51%), followed by price (38%).

Geography and age are also crucial factors.

Consumers in emerging markets are far more influenced by social media (92%) than those in established markets (66%). Millennials and those in their mid-30s are likely to have more interactions with their favourite brands on social media than consumers aged 45 or over.

Despite the increased popularity of online shopping, many consumers still prefer a physical store when researching and buying certain products such as groceries, jewellery, furniture and home appliances, the findings showed.

Furthermore, many customers are seeking an in-store experience and want to interact with a knowledgeable store employee.
"Shopping in-store in many ways still offers the best option of getting the right product that we want," Sira said.

"Many people, especially the older generation, like to touch and feel the actual products before buying. They also don't like to wait for items to ship and, in many cases, like to get advice from a sales person."

Millennials favour mobile purchase

When looking at specific age groups, 24% of Millennials (18-34 years old) pay for purchases on their mobile compared with 16% for everyone else, while 23% of them access loyalty and reward programmes compared with 18% for other age groups.

These digital natives also navigate online using their mobile devices while in the store more than any other generation.
"Mobile shopping will increase its share of the online shopping revenue pie, and enlarge the pie itself, driven by this group of younger buyers," Sira said.

While the number of online shoppers is likely to continue to grow, today's consumers also desire to be part of a retailer community where they can engage through loyalty programmes on top of picking up the perks of membership, such as discounts and offers, reward points or free shipping.

Higher degree of customisation, personalised marketing offers and access to special member events are also listed as key benefits that a consumer looks for when joining a loyalty and reward programme.

Swedish retailer IKEA, for example, has empowered its customers who interact through its own blogs and other forums throughout its social community, organising postings by room or interest. Customers showcase their decorating projects or furniture arrangements, receive feedback from fellow customers and discuss common challenges, such as furniture assembly.

As online retailing evolves, Sira said there is room for retailers to become more innovative as consumers seek shopping experiences through a variety of different ways, whether it be their mobile phone, PC, wearable device or traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

The survey showed that perceptions of retailer innovation are most positive around product availability, while less so in sustainability and online presence.

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