Going online in the Philippines

I was fortunate to be invited to the Ecommerce CEO Forum a few months ago to share new trends in the online market in the country. Let me share some of the data I talked about during the event, which was attended by some of the most-forward looking speakers and companies across Asia and the globe.

The author Rose Ong speaks at the Ecommerce CEO Forum: You do not need to focus on your competitor, rather learn to anticipate the needs of your own customers.


We have an interesting state in terms of online engagement and actual online shopping. The Philippines has some of the most active online users in Asia, particularly for online research and social media activities. As a result, many consumers are now also making their purchases online.

According to DataReportal survey, there are 76 million internet users and active social media users in the country. We spend an average of 10 hours and two minutes browsing the internet and four hours and 12 minutes on social media. Most of the time, Filipinos go online to search for products or visit online stores.

While online shopping is fast becoming popular in the country, it still has not dominated retail sales. Currently, online shopping comprises just about two percent of the total retail sales in the country, and lags behind compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors. But it is expected to grow by 5-7 percent in the next few years.

There are at least 37.7 million e-commerce users in the country in 2018 from the 30.2 million estimated in 2016. The number is expected to grow to 53.8 million by 2022.

In terms of sales, Statista said that the Philippine e-commerce market revenue grew to $840 million or about P44 trillion in 2018 from $688 million or about P36 trillion in 2017. Revenue is expected to grow about 10.5 percent annually.


For those planning to venture into online retailing, DataReportal notes that the country’s largest segment is travel and accommodation at $3.54 billion, followed by electronics and media, which garnered $234 million, followed by fashion and beauty products with $203 million, and furniture and appliances with $148 million earnings in 2018.

With the growing preference of consumers to shop online, we need to think of new ways to continue being relevant to them, whether online or offline.

Wilcon for instance, may be late in the online bandwagon, but we have finally decided to venture into online shopping and launched our online store (https://shop.wilcon.com.ph/) early this year to deliver better product offering and customer satisfaction and service.


The online store offers two modes of getting your purchased items: BOPIS and Via Delivery. BOPIS or “buy online, pick up in store” allows you to still examine the products at a Wilcon branch near you.

Not all of our 35,000 active stock keeping units (SKU) of Wilcon products will not be available online but we are introducing a few thousand SKUs online and will focus on Wilcon exclusive and private-label brands.

Moving forward, any brand can start their online journey by planning ahead, and here are some tips I want to share in any development project you want to take on:

• Whether online or offline, always think: customer first. With the influx of a large quantity of innovations, retailers may get excited about new strategies, but you must ask yourself first if this will benefit your customers and will make your business operations more efficient — thereby benefiting them. We cannot stress customer centricity even more at this time, when they have the information at their fingertips. So, whether you want to go online, focus on your digital campaigns, etc.

• Know your customer and anticipate their needs. With Filipino consumers being a top mobile users across Asia, we should leverage on technology to learn more about their digital imprints. Social media is one of the most powerful tools you can use to reach and understand your customers. This time, it’s not about getting or collecting the data anymore, it’s about learning from it. Be proactive.

• Experience is everything. Give your customers a good experience because they are willing to pay for it. At a time when they have limitless shopping choices, both offline and online, experiences are the new currency. Consumers want more than just to shop for what they need — they want to discover new products, be entertained, and even engage with the community and friends.

Good customer service that shows extra care and kindness to the customers is what makes people come back to your store. In terms of online, great customer experience can be translated to efficient delivery service and flexible payment terms.

In this dynamic industry, with disruptions coming from all corners, it is important to always have a collaborative and innovative mindset. Whether you are an offline or online retailer, remember that excellent customer experience and service is the key to drive people to your store and keep them. You do not need to focus on your competitor, rather learn to anticipate the needs of your own customers.

To sum it all, a very timely quote I read says: “Your competitor will not kill you, the future will.”