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Trends show 2013 will be year of e-commerce, Net service firm says

Leading Internet service company Rakuten Tarad.com predicts an exciting year ahead for e-commerce as increasing numbers of people gain Internet access through mobiles devices, online shopping services improve and well-known brands turn to online channels to boost brand awareness and sales.

According to PayPal, Thailand's e-commerce market is expected to reach almost Bt15 billion this year, while the Department of Business Development predicts an increase of 20-30 per cent in e-commerce website registration. Business owners now have good reason to create their own online stores, whether as a complement to their existing business or a completely new venture.

Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, founder and managing director of Rakuten Tarad.com, said: "Most shoppers now carry a virtual shop in their pocket in the form of a mobile or tablet device. With so much choice only a few clicks away, encouraging customer loyalty and nurturing shopping experiences will be essential for online businesses as we move into 2013.

"At Rakuten Tarad.com we have more than 2 million members, more than 300,000 merchants and more than 200,000 unique visitors per day."

As a result of its experience, it anticipates a number of trends in e-commerce development in the coming year.

From e-catalogue to e-tailer

Many businesses have realised the importance of online channels and have created websites to display their products.

However, many of these webpages are merely e-catalogues or product-display areas where interested buyers can access more information.

Crucially, lack of a purchasing system and an inability to process orders and payments on the same webpage can mean businesses risk losing up to 50 per cent of their potential customers.

Businesses looking to take full advantage of the trend towards shopping online need to consider turning their existing e-catalogue into a complete online store where products can be sold to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Growth of mobile commerce

The new year will see a third-generation wireless broadband network established countrywide, which should become available at lower rates and extend the reach of the Internet throughout the Kingdom.

Mobile gadgets are becoming more advanced and affordable, and this should allow a larger number of Thais convenient access to the Internet and an acceleration of Internet penetration rates in the country.

According to statistics gathered by Rakuten Tarad.com, 30 per cent of traffic and 11 per cent of the firm's sales are generated via its recently upgraded mobile platform. It expects these numbers to continue growing throughout 2013, making mobile commerce a very dynamic trend.

Rise of debit-card payment

An increasing number of banks have been making debit cards valid for online payment in the past year, opening up more opportunities for consumers to make transactions online.

The latest statistics from the Bank of Thailand showed that there were 38.7 million debit cards in use, against 15.3 million credit cards, indicating a tremendous opportunity for banks to encourage e-commerce further.

As a result of increased debit-card acceptance, Rakuten Tarad.com predicts that 2013 will see a large number of first-time online shoppers taking advantage of this new transaction method.

Social media as a new sales channel

Social-media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Line have gained huge popularity among Thais over the past few years as they are great communication tools with minimal, if any, cost.

Employing social media to boost sales is an indispensable strategy for today's businesses and, when used appropriately targeting the right audience, can yield significant results. With the use of social channels, retailers not only enter personal dialogue with fans but reach friends of fans, too.

However, when it comes to driving return on investment from loyalty in 2013, engagement will be the buzzword, rather than fan count. Ultimately it is not the number of fans that makes a difference, but how vocal they are.

Fast-moving consumer goods go online

Online has, until now, not been the realm of the many consumer-facing businesses, but that will change in 2013.

From relying on branding and traditional marketing activities to attract consumers to various places to buy the product, 2013 will see a line-up of brands turning to online platforms as their sales and marketing channels with tailored tactics targeting specific demographics. Tao Kae Noi and Cerebos have led the pack with their growing online presence, and many more are likely to follow suit.

"In any retail business, the customer is central to success, and mobile and social uptake provides businesses with the opportunity to engage with consumers on a more personal level," Pawoot said.

"In the year ahead, innovating the ways in which we build brand loyalty in an increasingly multi-channel retail environment will be key, as well as ensuring the platforms we offer are robust and secure.

"As an industry, we need to build consumer confidence in mobile and social shopping platforms by refining the shopping experience online, engaging consumers with more tailored offers and ensuring payments are secure, smooth and hassle-free."

Rakuten Inc is one of the world's leading Internet service companies, providing a variety of consumer- and business-focused services, including e-commerce, e-reading, travel, banking, securities, credit card, e-money, portal and media, online marketing and professional sports.

Selected by Forbes as seventh among the "World's Most Innovative Companies of 2012", Rakuten is expanding globally and currently has operations throughout Asia, Western Europe and the Americas.

Founded in 1997, Rakuten is headquartered in Tokyo, with more than 10,000 employees worldwide.


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