Marketing in South East Asia’s Fast-Growing English Speaking Economy



Looking for a new market to pitch your ideas or maybe start with some cross-border e-comm sales? Well, one place where opportunities are arising in South East Asia which on paper is the world’s fastest-growing economy. This group of 10 countries is part of a huge cross-border trade deal known as the ASEAN which is similar to the EU and NAFTA trade agreements.


Why is it worth looking to market your goods/services in Asia?

Seeking out new markets is always a good way to expand your business. And what better way than to appeal to nations that are increasingly becoming more Westernised. In fact, in many of the SEA countries speaking English has become fashionable and so those in Gen Z and Millennials are increasingly seeking out Wester branded products.


Another reason is the statistics. We all love statistics and if GDP growth is anything to go by, SEA countries are some of the top performers in the world.


Southeast Asian Economies and their average GDP growth:

· Cambodia – 7%

· Laos – 6.6%

· Vietnam – 6.5%

· Philippines – 6.2%

· Indonesia – 5.2%

· Myanmar – 4.5%

· Malaysia – 4.5%

· Thailand – 3.5%

· Singapore – 2.4%

· Brunei – 1%


If we compare the GDP growth rates to that of Western societies, then let’s look at the US economy which averages around 2% growth per year and the UK which is just over 1%. In Asia itself, only China is on par with SEA countries. Right now, China boasts an average of 6% per annum which is actually down from a decade ago when it reported 10% growth rates while India is still growing at a rate of almost 7%.


Looking over to other major Asian economies and Japan only reports an average of 1.5% and South Korea about 2.5%.


Although the size of Western economies as well as Far Eastern economies like Japan and Korea are far larger than many of the SEA countries, these growth rates show a region that has been playing catch up for a long time now finally catching up!


SEA e-Comm Market Set For a Boom!

Now here’s the crunch point – an e-Conomy SEA 2019 report by Google has recently estimated that there are 360 million SEA citizens connected to the internet, and 90% use their mobile phones to surf the World Wide Web. That’s not all…


The e-comm market is set to boom tripling from $100 billion in worth to $300 billion by 2025. Now let’s think about this for a second. The market is set to become 3 times bigger than it is now in just half a decade. If you were ever looking for a region to sell your products/services, then now is time to start investing in a cross-border e-comm solution.


Which Markets in SEA Are Set to Boom?

Countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand are already booming economies with plenty of Western products circulating with their retail markets and huge online gaming communities.


Tangible Retail Products

The cost of designer perfumes and clothes is more than you would expect to pay in let’s say New York or London – and that is saying something because New York ranked one of the 6th most expensive cities in the world while London is the 19th.


Aside from Singapore which is ranked the 5th most expensive city in the world, Malaysia and Thailand are well known for their more than affordable cost of living. However, when it comes to Western-branded products, you expect to pay through the roof when you purchase goods from high street retail stores.


However, that is about to change as new companies are emerging that encourage cross-border e-comm trading by connecting Western countries to Southeast Asian markets. Many of these digital companies such as Amazon (although an expensive example) take care of the entire supply chain process including tax levies because they have a deal with the local governments.


As a result, these branded products can be purchased for much lower prices, and those prepared to wait a few days for delivery are quite happy to trade price for the time it takes to deliver the product as opposed to heading straight to high street stall and buying it ‘now’.


Now if there was a way to still offer these products at a low cost and speed up the shipping time, then there is a market in Asia.


Intangible Markets

It does not have to be just products or goods sold in Asia. Take for example the online gaming industry. South Asia is now fully wired up with fibre optics, high-speed broadband, and 4G mobile networks. Marketing online games in a region in which its eComm market is about to triple in size versus marketing in a Western society where growth is limited is a no brainer.

Right now, online gambling sites SEA are the new craze as many Chinese citizens like to play card games like blackjack and baccarat. While in other regions around Asia iGaming is also popular but instead, they like to play online video slots which are popular in places like Thailand and Malaysia.


eSports are also exceedingly popular but the problem here is that the most popular games like Dota 2 and League of Legends are free to play. That said, this has opened an entirely new market – which is selling skins and trading collector's items for these games. Websites that are currently doing this are virtual e-shops selling virtual items so there is no product to be shipped.


Another booming market is online teaching. Now the time difference is a huge issue here if you are in Europe or the USA. However, nothing is stopping you from recruiting online teachers and taking a finder fee.


Finally, the cryptocurrency exchange and wallet affiliates market are booming in Asia as many SEA countries have now legalized cryptos whereby in the past it was possible. In fact, cryptocurrencies are so prevalent in Singapore now that one Singapore Crypto Exchange is eyeing up expansions into the USA.


How can your business reach these markets?

The beauty of targeting these markets is the fact that you do not necessarily need to translate your website into the local native language. You could go all out to target the English-speaking markets in these nations and by doing so you will also be attracting citizens are more likely to have a good job with cash surplus to shop.


As for sales channels, there are plenty of platforms to market your products. For example, Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Instagram, and in some SEA countries Twitter – although Twitter is not overly popular in Asia. Furthermore, there are local platforms such as in Thailand there is Lazada while many countries in Asia also use an app called LINE which is similar to WhatsApp.


To sum up, if you are looking for new markets to target and you have the luxury of running a business that can be borderless, then the South East Asian market is certainly worth looking into.

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