E-commerce in Myanmar is in its nascent stage, with just US$6 million (K9.16 billion) in market value, according to Colliers. In comparison, Myanmar’s retail market is estimated to be worth $10 billion, according to export.gov.
However, with high mobile phone and internet usage, e-commerce start-ups are optimistic about the potential for growth in the near future. With 30 percent of Myanmar’s people living in cities, and 70pc of the population under 40 years old, there is room for huge growth.
Facebook accounts for over 85pc of all internet traffic in Myanmar. Its dominance means there is a lot of online shopping on the social media behemoth. Anyone can set up a Facebook page to become a seller in minutes, and anyone with the Facebook app is a potential buyer. Facebook instant messaging allows quick communication between sellers and buyers.
Many physical shops set up Facebook pages to reach out to buyers online, such as Endra Store, and Suu Baby & Mommy Store. Brand owners and distributors, such as Pigeon, also use Facebook to sell to customers online, bypassing the middleman, and small wholesalers find potential buyers through Facebook groups.
Sellers increasingly use live videos on Facebook. Myanmar Snaker 42 posts a three-hour live video on the platform daily to sell second-hand shoes, with most of its videos attracting more than 10,000 viewers and 1000 comments.
The rise of online marketplaces
However, businesses are investing significantly in building online marketplaces that do not rely on Facebook.
Alibaba entered the Myanmar market in 2018 with the acquisition of Daraz Group, previously owned by German-based Rocket Internet, which operates Shop.com.mm. The online marketplace has a zero-commission strategy to attract sellers, and aims to expand from 230 employees to more than 1000 over the next few years. In partnership with Yoma bank, it also offers sellers business loans of K100,000 to K10,000,000. A local version of Alibaba’s global “11.11” online sale was conducted by Shop.com.mm, which offered discounts on 50,000 items in the largest online sales event in Myanmar in 2018.
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