Evolving e-commerce in Asia: Preparing for the next wave of digitalization


The digital future of Asia is already here. In China, millions of people enter public transportation each day using their smartphones, emerge and pay for their breakfast with WeChat, and use an app to have their lunch delivered a few hours later. They work at offices that are rapidly leveraging blockchain, AI, robotics, and cloud computing seamlessly around them. They book restaurants for dinner over the internet and late-night shop on the train.

Much of this has been enabled by rising smartphone adoption. For example, in 2017, Asia saw 319 million new mobile connections, compared with just 5 million new mobile connections in Europe over the same time period. Smartphone access to the region’s high-speed 4G networks has enabled Asia’s consumers to go online even if they haven’t invested—or can’t afford to invest—in fixed-line home broadband.

As this smartphone revolution transforms individuals, cultures, and societies at an unprecedented pace, the changes ahead are going to continue being remarkable. They are also going to increasingly challenge the policymakers and businesses tasked with skillfully navigating the evolving digital ecosystem.

Understanding Asia’s fast-moving digital ecosystem

Asia’s consumers are particularly open to integrating technology into their lives compared with shoppers in other markets. According to research firm Kantar TNS, 77 percent of connected consumers in APAC at the time of survey (2017) made their most recent purchase on a mobile, compared with 61 percent globally and 24 percent in Europe. Asia also leads the world in online payments, according to KPMG, with an average 22.1 transactions per person annually. This compares with 19 transactions per year for the average North American.

Capital flows from investors into the region suggest that Asia’s online commerce is just getting started. Tech in Asia reported that venture funding for Southeast Asian tech startups alone more than tripled in 2017 to nearly…



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