How To Establish A Successful eCommerce Business In Southeast Asia

Published on
June 6, 2022

Ecommerce businesses are exploding onto the scene in SouthEast Asia, and there’s good reason for that. Everyone and their mom’s been shopping online since they are trapped at home and in quarantine. And even though the lockdowns are easing up, online shopping isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Ecommerce businesses are exploding onto the scene in SE Asia, and there’s good reason for that. Everyone and their mom’s been shopping online since they are trapped at home and in quarantine. And even though the lockdowns are easing up, online shopping isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

The growing demand for e-stores has brought some new players to the digital marketplace, while the old ones can barely keep any products in stock. So, if you are thinking about starting an eCommerce business in Southeast Asia, now is the perfect time to do that! 

There was a 35.2% rise in eCommerce activity in the region over the last year, and experts predict that this percentage will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. 

The good news is that starting an eCommerce business in Southeast Asia has become easier and more profitable than ever. And you don’t have to do it alone.

Zaapi is here to help you.

Yup, we’ve made it our life’s mission to help you launch your online shop and start selling in a matter of seconds. We are here to help you figure out how to start an eCommerce business in Southeast Asia.

Let's get started. 

Identify What You Want To Sell 

You bought the domain name, a snazzy website theme, and got a developer onboard.

That’s all cool, but what exactly are you selling?

If you are starting an online store, the first thing you need to do is create a plan for the products that you want to sell. If you already have a brick-and-mortar shop, you can narrow down your inventory to list the items you will feature in the store. 

When you start, you will have a limited budget. Therefore, it is vital to select a specific niche of products to sell on your digital store and avoid markets dominated by more prominent brands. If you have a well-defined niche, you are less likely to face competition.  

Let's say you have a brick-and-mortar clothing store that sells articles for men, women, and kids. You can do market research to analyze your competition and subsequently choose an in-demand category in the Southeast Asian market that is not yet covered by the competition. For example, your eCommerce store can sell clothing and succeed since 20% of women in Southeast Asia shop online. 

On the other hand, if you start a store from scratch, take some time to study the eCommerce trends in Southeast Asia to gauge the target market. Then, based on the information collected, you can narrow down the niche, calculate the costs, find suppliers, and create an effective system to sell products. 

Study the Market 

Now you know what you’re selling, but who are you selling it to?

Let’s figure that out. 

start a business in south east asia
Photo by Darren Lawrence from Pexels

Know Your People

Customers are the key to any successful business. Therefore, you must collect in-depth information to learn what kind of problems your customers face, what products they prefer, and what they need. Once you study what your customers want, you can create a marketing strategy to target potential customers. 

Researching your customer needs should not be a one-time activity, as customer needs change with time. So, once your store is up and running, be sure to regularly research buyer personas. 

Figure Out How To Make Them Happy

In addition to understanding your customers, you also need to have an understanding of their needs. Identify the struggles of the people using the products and develop an innovative solution to resolve them with your store. 

Taking the previous example of selling women's clothing, you can take the time to learn the problems encountered by the target demographic. For instance, are there fashionable clothes available for plus-sized women? Are the clothing brands creating more modest designs? Is there a need for plus-sized or modest clothing?  Once you discover the customer's needs, you can use your store to resolve them.

Spy On The Competition

No! We don’t mean round-the-clock surveillance of their offices!

The next step is to research other businesses in your niche. You start by creating a list of your competitors and the products they offer. Then, please look at their marketing strategy, strengths, weaknesses, and how well their products do in the market. 

Researching your competition doesn't necessarily mean that you need to copy your competitors. Instead, the true benefit of competitive research is that you can identify the gap in the market and use your eCommerce store to fill it. 

Choose a Supplier

Before starting your Southeast Asia eCommerce business, you need to create a plan to source the products. At this stage, you can either purchase items directly from the manufacturer/ wholesaler or create a dropshipping model for your store. So let's dive in to see which option is right for you. 


Getting inventory directly from a manufacturer is ideal for businesses that want to micromanage their branding. If you're going to replicate the exact vision for your one-of-a-kind products, manufacturers can help you create a product that reflects your brand perfectly. 

If you are working with a manufacturer, you have the freedom to choose your branding. This means you can feature products that are unique to your store and set your own sales price. Additionally, you can purchase the products in bulk at low prices and set a high-profit margin without making the items too pricey for the customers. 

Unfortunately, you will need a higher investment to source products from a manufacturer. This is because the products will need to be designed, developed, tested, and purchased while considering the minimum order quantity (MOQ). 


Sourcing products from a wholesaler is ideal if you need a variety of products quickly. You can purchase products at a wholesale rate and sell them at the market price. However, in this case, you will not be able to sell unique products, as the items will come with their original branding. 

Additionally, the profit margin can't be too high since prices are usually regulated, and customers also have a good idea about what you've paid for the goods. Moreover, if you are sourcing products from a wholesaler, it is crucial to have a contingency plan to overcome demand uncertainty. For instance, if there is a high demand for a particular item, the wholesalers may not provide you with enough inventory to meet the needs of your clientele. 

You will also have to come up with unique ways to brand your store and stand out from the competition selling the same products. Therefore, you will have to invest in digital marketing services. 


This is the process of selling products without having to store or stock the inventory yourself. As a dropshipper, your goal would be to create an eCommerce store, invest in marketing, take orders, and subsequently work with vendors who store those items and ship them directly to your clientele.  

You can set your prices for the products, but it shouldn't be too different from the product's market price. 

This option is perfect for new businesses because it does not require a significant investment, as you would purchase the product (at a wholesale rate) from the vendor only after the customer places an order at your store. Next, you will convey the order details and shipping address to the vendor, who will then ship the items using your store's packaging. 

Dropshipping is ideal if you do not initially have a large investment budget, but your profit will also be relatively lower. You will also have to manage and market the store and regularly talk to customers and vendors. 

If you do not research the vendors properly, you can become a victim of fraud. Additionally, you won't have the option to test the product's quality, making customer communication a bit difficult. Therefore, if you decide to go with dropshipping, be sure to find a dependable supplier.

Set Up an Ecommerce Store

Create a Plan for Pricing 

Before you create your eCommerce store with Zaapi, you need to decide the pricing for the products. You can take help from market research to determine a rough price for each item. Then, you can further run the numbers to come up with a sales price for your particular products.

Visit Zaapi

By now, you should be so close to start selling that you can almost taste the profits!

That’s right; it’s time for action.

Visit Zaapi to build a store in a matter of minutes. All you have to do is provide details about your business, add inventory, and… that’s it! 

The platform lets you organize the products into categories, making it easier for your customers to find what they need. Besides, once the customers place an order, you can use Zaapi to provide customers updates on their order status using the automated Line and SMS alerts. 

Additionally, Zaapi also provides a marketing solution. You can use the store builder to share store links and product links to different platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Line, among others. 

You can also keep track of how the customers interact with the store. Zaapi provides insights that you can consider to increase your customer base and your sales. 

Wrapping Up

A successful eCommerce business is only as good as the research it's built on. So, before you dive into this venture, take the time to study the market trends, your target customers, and your competition to create a strategy for sourcing products and marketing them 

Once all the planning is done, head over to Zaapi to build your eCommerce store in a matter of minutes and get unbridled convenience and functionality alike.

Ian Haynes
Proud Brooklynite, avid reader, writing enthusiast, and a digital marketing specialist.
Zaapi makes it easier to close your sales in chats.