Marketers take note: Thais top the world in time online

Thais are leading the cyberspace race, topping the world in average time spent online, according to a global survey released last week, and analysts regard that as a positive trend as the Kingdom strives to develop a higher technology economy.

The passion of Thai citizens for spending time online is also significant from a business standpoint in that it supports the contention by analysts from Credit Suisse and others who assess the potential of cyber-business that the Kingdom and the rest of Southeast Asia are the next great frontier for global e-commerce.

Thais spend an average of 9.38 hours a day online, according to the “Digital 2018 Global Overview,” recently published by Hootsuite, a social media marketing and management firm, and We Are Social, a global agency that monitors social media platforms and trends.

Thais also spend more hours a day online through mobile devices at an average of 4.56 hours, according to the findings that came from surveying random groups of internet users between the ages of 16 and 64.

For average daily time online, Thailand was followed by the Philippines at 9.29 hours, Brazil at 9.14 hours, Indonesia with 8.51 hours and South Africa at 8.32 hours. Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines were also in the top 10 for time spent online through mobile devices.

Thailand was ranked eighth in the world in terms of its number of Facebook users. “Only very small children and the very elderly don’t have accounts, as Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years old. Some users have multiple accounts, at least two or three,” said Kla Tangsuwan, managing director of Thoth Zocial Co, the Bangkok-based leading social listing service. He said that Facebook had essentially reached its saturation point in Thailand.

Despite the penetration of the internet and social media, e-commerce still makes up only about 1 percent of total commerce in Thailand, and so marketers need to take a strategic approach to succeed, according to Nick Annetts, Managing Director of Wunderman Thailand, an advertising and marketing agency.

Because credit card penetration remains relatively low, Annetts suggested that cash-on-delivery could be the best approach for online retailers.

“Thais can still do all their standard browsing, choosing and basket filling, but it’s then that the experience differs.  The guy on the motorbike turns up, finds his customer, does the transaction and is away,” he said.

But the potential for e-commerce growth in the Kingdom and in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is high, according to a recent article by Santitarn Sathirathai and Michael Wan of Credit Suisse.

“With 158 million middle class consumers, ASEAN is often seen as the next frontier for the e-commerce market. Despite experiencing rapid expansion over the past five years, e-commerce penetration is still less than 2 percent of total retail sales in ASEAN,” they wrote.

A major factor in exploiting ASEAN’s e-commerce potential is the increasing presence of and investments by Chinese firms such as Alibaba, and Tencent. The analysts predict that Chinese firms will drive e-commerce expansion and also logistical efficiency because of their resources and experience.

“Thailand may offer interesting opportunities in the near term as it has many catalysts coming together including Chinese investments, high smart phone penetration and the government push to promote e-payment adoptions,” they wrote.