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Southeast Asians Are Revolutionizing Social Media Shopping

Businesses in Southeast Asia are using social media sites to reach consumers as internet and smartphone usage rates in the region explode.

The Wall Street Journal reports that social media platforms like Facebook and Line are becoming increasingly common avenues for shopping. The news source highlights research by the consulting firm Bain & Co. which shows around 30% of online sales in Southeast Asia took place through social networks this year. 

Meanwhile, GlobalWebIndex, a London-based market research firm, estimates that only 7% of the nearly 290 million internet users in the US are likely to buy through social media.

WSJ puts the regional success of social media shopping down to a massive number of small- and medium-sized enterprises, rapidly growing smartphone usage and the lack of a dominant shopping platform like Amazon.

According to the news source, Facebook and Japanese messaging app Line have both released shopping features specifically aimed at the Southeast Asian market.

For example, earlier this week Facebook launched a special sticker pack for its Messenger program in Thailand designed for online shopping, WSJ reports. These stickers are the first of their kind and include cartoons to go with phrases like "your order is ready" and "can I get a discount?"

Last year, Facebook introduced a new section called Shop, first to Southeast Asia. The page allows entrepreneurs to display their products on Facebook's News Feed. Shoppers can also view goods and use Messenger to directly contact businesses.

According to the WSJ, Facebook named Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines among the top 10 most active users of Shop.

Line, meanwhile, allows small businesses to use a feature called Line@. Over 2 million companies in Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan use this feature to send promotions and coupons directly to customers. Users of the app can even order groceries and food in Thailand or taxis in Indonesia, the news source reports.

Small businesses are likely to continue working to attract customers through social media in the future, as Southeast Asia is expected to have nearly 300 million social network users by 2020.

[Photo via Wall Street Journal]

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