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Online shopping in Asia is big business

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Asia is driving the massive growth in online shopping, with youngsters in particular leading the charge. But why are they so keen and what are they spending their money on?

Asia – its younger generations, in particular – has embraced online shopping and digital payments with remarkable enthusiasm.

And given the UN’s estimate that there are 720 million people aged 15-24 living there – dwarfing North America’s 47 million and Europe’s 82 million – it’s no wonder Asia is driving the e-commerce explosion.

China, which overtook the US in 2015 as the country with highest e-commerce spending, now accounts for 40% of the world’s online commerce.


Retail giant Alibaba, founded by billionaire Jack Ma, recently reported a 61% rise in quarterly revenues to 55.1bn yuan ($8.3bn; £6.4bn), thanks largely to the popularity of its online shopping platforms, Tmall and Taobao.

Monthly active users of its Chinese retail marketplaces grew to 549 million in September, up 20 million from three months ago – that’s an astonishing rate of growth.

By 2020, 60% of all those aged 18-29 will live in Asia and will have a disposable income of $6tn (£4.6tn), says consultancy firm Accenture – that’s higher than any preceding generation.

But why are Asia’s youngsters so keen on buying online and what do they spend their money on?

Well, this has clearly been a technology-driven phenomenon, with the smartphone as the key innovation changing consumer behaviour. About two-fifths of younger people in Asia have bought something online via their mobile, says Accenture.

“I do buy quite a lot of books online,” says Theophi Kwek, 22, who recently finished university at Oxford and is now doing national service in Singapore’s army.

“Books from overseas are cheaper than they are in Singapore”, he says. He often uses UK sites and says shipping “usually takes a couple of weeks at most”.


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