Taiwan’s e-commerce sites losing ground to overseas competitors

84.3% of Taiwanese online shoppers said they would consider buying from overseas vendors

(By Taiwan News)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- 40 percent of online purchases made in Taiwan are from overseas sellers, and 84.3 percent of online shoppers said they would be willing to buy from foreign vendors, according to statistics from Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (MIC), a Taipei-based global ICT industry research organization.

China accounted for the most-used cross-border e-commerce sites in Taiwan with 72.7 percent of respondents saying they shopped on Chinese online retailers. It was followed by Japan with 40.4 percent, the U.S. with 22.9 percent and South Korea with 12.8 percent. The most popular sites were Taobao/Tmall, Rakuten, Amazon and eBay, respectively.

The MIC survey found the highest proportion of shoppers using overseas online shopping websites to be among the 26- to 30-year-old demographic. The reasons respondents gave for shopping on non-Taiwan-based websites included affordability (69 percent), better variety (42.2 percent) and frequent discounts or promotions (29 percent).

MIC industry analyst Chang Hsiao-chi (張筱祺) said that the affordability response indicates that either shoppers want to buy cheap products or that the products are cheaper from these sites than they are in Taiwan.

In December, Chang noted that Taiwanese online retailers were losing market share to foreign competitors and that domestic websites would have to cope with the consumer demand moving abroad, according to a Business Next report. As the industry matures, she said, cross-border transactions become easier, and with that the consumers’ mentality shifts and they no longer differentiate between domestic and foreign retailers.

At the time she made the comments, 37 percent of Taiwanese online shoppers had made a cross-border transaction. She also noted that language settings make international e-commerce sites easier for Taiwanese consumers to use.

As of last year, 62 percent of Taiwan residents had shopped online, the third highest penetration rate in the world behind the U.K. and U.S., respectively. Online retail accounts for 11 percent of Taiwan’s overall retail industry revenue, according to reports. Taiwan’s online retail market value in 2015 totaled NT$1.042 trillion (US$34 billion), according to the most recent data available.

Meanwhile, according to MIC, per capita consumer spending online in Taiwan has continued to increase from NT$21,681 in 2014 to NT$27,715 in 2016. Last year, online transactions accounted for 17.8 percent of monthly expenditures, up from 12.3 percent in 2014.

The most common online cross-border products purchased were clothing and accessories, 3C products and daily necessities.

The MIC report noted that 45.3 percent of consumers said they go directly to their preferred e-commerce site, while 25 percent have been directed to the site via Facebook ads. Blogs and Internet celebrities influence 20.3 percent of those surveyed.

According to the most recent available data from e-commerce data provider EZPrice from Jan. 2016, PChome was the leader in number of transactions among domestic online retailers; it recorded almost double the number of transactions of its closest competitor, GoHappy (GoHappy快樂購物網). They were followed by momoshop (momo購物網), Yahoo Taiwan and UDN shopping (UDN 買東西).

Despite its leading position, PChome’s transaction volume fell nearly 18 percent from the previous year, while that of GoHappy increased more than 10 percent. Momo also saw a decline of 16.88 percent, while ibon Mart, which ranked 14th at the time, saw the largest growth of over 300 percent.

According to the MIC survey, the three most popular online retailers in Taiwan are Yahoo Taiwan, PChome and momo, respectively. MIC did not rank the sites based on transaction volume or value but rather on survey respondents' preference.