IDC: Asian consumers like to e-shop locally

Asian consumers much prefer to buy goods over the internet from locally-based Web sites rather than from global electronic commerce players, especially if the site is delivered in their own language and script, a senior IDC analyst said.

This preference for local over foreign sites will increase over the next few years as more Asian companies implement Web-based e-commerce strategies, according to Pete Hitchen, senior analyst of internet research at market analyst IDC Asia-Pacific.

Speaking at the "E-Business: The Global Challenge" conference here, Hitchen said that Asian users surveyed by IDC indicated that they trust local sites more and expect better distribution service from local companies. Subtle cultural issues can also work against global Web players trying to move into the region, whether for business-to-consumer or the more lucrative business-to-business e-commerce markets.

"Over 70 per cent of Korean and Chinese buyers already shop at Web sites which are local to them rather than those based in a foreign country," he said. "They only shop online with overseas companies when there is no choice because of the relative lack of e-commerce players in their countries."

The preference for local sites is not an Asian phenomenon -- 97 per cent of US users shop at sites within their own country, according to IDC figures. But local e-commerce players can use their language and cultural knowledge to move quickly into offering consumers in their home markets adequate choice and shut out overseas competition, Hitchen said.

"There will be rapid growth in the number of non-English language Web sites over the next few years, and these will be culturally suited to the Asian market," he added.

Already, 47 per cent of internet-connected devices in Asia are installed in largely non-English speaking countries and those with written scripts that require double-byte characters, according to IDC figures. These include most of the fastest-growing internet markets in Asia such as Mainland China and India, along with established e-commerce environments like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

IDC estimates that e-commerce revenues in the Asia-Pacific region (outside Japan) will reach $US1.87 billion ($3 billion) over the course of this year and rise to $US32.59 billion by 2003. There are still major opportunities for e-commerce players in the region, given that only 0.6 per cent of Asia-Pacific's total population has internet access, compared to 32 per cent of people in the US and 17 per cent in Western Europe, Hitchen said.

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