Describes how widely e-Commerce is used, the primary sectors that sell through e-commerce, and how much product/service in each sector is sold through e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar retail. Includes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and , reputable, prominent B2B websites.
Last Published: 7/17/2017

The e-commerce market in Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing and most promising with its projection to grow to $11 billion in 2025.  According to the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, the forecast is that the total e-commerce market in Thailand in 2017 will be worth approximately $741 million or growing 12.4% compared to the previous year.  The driving factors come from increased Internet and mobile phone use as well as improved logistics and e-payment systems.  This creates heightened convenience and consumer confidence to shop online.  In addition, the quality and reliability of online shopping services have been improved significantly, and the acceptance of e-commerce has increased in the country.
Further, the Thai government focuses on its “Thailand 4.0” policy, which includes allocating a budget for the specific purpose of constructing a broadband network for all villages across the country.  Having a nationwide broadband network will help bridge the digital divide and promote modern economic development through the e-commerce channel.  Moreover, the government has a vision of creating the next generation of digital application platforms to accommodate and promote online activities including e-marketplace, e-payments, and e-government. Eventually, the goal is for villagers to start doing e-commerce businesses for their local products and services.

Current Market Trends and Domestic eCommerce (B2C)
E-commerce platforms in Thailand are divided into three categories; business-to-business transactions, business-to-consumer transactions, and business-to-government transactions.  Among the three groups of transactions, business-to-business transactions are the largest share and account for 55 percent, followed by business-to-consumer transactions at 29 percent and business-to-government transactions at 16 percent respectively.
According to the global marketing research firm Nielsen, forecasts are that Thailand’s online retail e-commerce market, excluding online travel, will reach $3 billion by 2020, increasing from $1 billion in 2015.

Cross-Border eCommerce
The e-commerce market in Thailand is currently second largest in Southeast Asia and expected to grow 22% annually till 2020. With support from the Thai government, a “Digital Thailand” initiative started in 2016 has brought about a wave of opportunities for businesses across different industries to digitize their operations and services, especially for SMEs seeking to undergo digital transformation. As a result, cross-border market opportunities offer growth rates of approximately 25%, well above those found in most traditional retail markets. Cross-border B2C eCommerce is estimated to grow to $1 trillion in 2020.
B2B eCommerce
B2B eCommerce in Thailand is also growing rapidly due to Internet development and mobile transformation.  According to the Electronic Transaction Development Agency, the sectors using e-commerce platforms to increase their productivity include the food and service sector with 31%, followed by manufacturing at 16%, and retail and wholesale at 15%, respectively.  Interestingly, demand for e-commerce services is coming not only from Bangkok but also from the other provinces, such as Nonthaburi and Chonburi.

eCommerce Services
Thailand’s online retail commerce is driven by several factors including increased smart phone penetration and intense competition among e-commerce operators. The government’s PromptPay service, which falls under the national e-payment scheme, is the key driver to stimulate e-commerce activities.

Over the last couple of years, many courier service companies started launching their e-commerce platform in Thailand, bringing domestic end-to-end delivery to the market. Consequently, delivery costs for e-commerce products have sharply declined from $1.3 per piece in 2015 to $0.5 per piece in 2016 due to the fierce competition among logistics service providers.

eCommerce Intellectual Property Rights
Apart from other specific laws and regulations that require compliance by e-commerce businesses, intellectual property protection is another concern that business owners should be aware of.  Trademark registration in Thailand is determined on a first-to-file, first-in-right basis, so you should consider how to obtain trademark protection before introducing your products or services to the Thai market.

For a company seeking patent registration of their business method in the e-commerce market, please note that the Thai Patent Act currently does not grant patents to any computer programs nor to any type of business method.  However, under certain conditions, computer programs, including technologies that are used to protect the company’s information from unauthorized access or reproduction, are able to be protected automatically under the Thai copyright protection system.  In addition, a company’s trade secrets, such as processes, strategies, instruments or databases, could be protected by the Trade Secret Act B.E.2545 (2002).  Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Thai intellectual property law.

Besides protecting intellectual property rights, companies must run their business in compliance with the Computer Crime Act B.E. 2550 (Amended 2016).  The law prohibits input of forged or false computer data orcontent that is likely to cause damage to others or to the public, including sending data or email that  disturbs the recipient without a means to opt out.  Service providers such as social media platforms and access providers will also be required to delete or otherwise prevent the availability of such content following government notification, or they will also be subject to punishment for that content.  At the request of relevant authorities, a court is able to order service providers to block or takedown a website that contains illegal content or content which is considered to be against public order or the good morals of the people.

In addition, the law requires service providers to store traffic data for a period of not less than 90 days from the date on which the data is input into a computer system and up to 2 years in special cases.

Popular eCommerce Sites
Thailand’s mix of international and local eCommerce stores is indicative that Thai consumers want variety when it comes to online shopping.  Global players such as Amazon, ebay and Agoda continue to remain popular while WeLoveShopping and Pantipmarket, local C2C marketplaces and online communities, prove strong contenders that cater to local tastes.

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Online Payment
Thailand’s online and mobile banking market could reach maturity within six years from now, largely driven by the national e-payment system and significant growth in mobile broadband penetration.  By 2021, over 85% of the population will go online via mobile phone, up from 31% currently.
Online payments are making headway.  As of 2014, Thailand was still a cash-dependent society as cash transactions accounted for 98.6% of all transactions.  However, the PromptPay service under the national e-payment scheme is expected to stimulate the country’s online retail payment transaction.  Of the total transactions in Thailand in 2016, cash continued to account for 75%, but almost 25% were paid through credit cards, e-wallets, Internet banking, and ATM machines.
Mobile eCommerce
Mobile commerce will continue to see strong growth in coming years, especially among millennials who are comfortable using their smartphones to shop.  Some 50% of all online purchases are done via mobile devices.  In addition, the growth of mobile commerce is likely to push social commerce along.  According to the Thailand Marketing Research Society, 71% of smartphone users in Thailand shop online an average of twice a month, while 90% intend to shop online in the future.  Thailand’s smartphone penetration increased from 43% in 2013 to 61% in 2015.  The rate is expected to reach 80% in 2017.

Digital Marketing and Social Media
Social commerce is highly influential among digital consumers, with more than 80% of digital consumers using social media options to search for products or connections with sellers.  Thailand also lead the world in social commerce, according to the survey findings from PwC in 2016.  In addition, 92% of online shoppers in Thailand used Facebook to find and research new products before making purchases.

In addition, the national e-payment system will have a huge impact on social media commerce in Thailand.  Thai shoppers are already high on the list of consumers who purchase directly through social media, according to the same PwC survey, which foundthat 51% of online consumers in Thailand have purchased via social media.

According to the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, Thailand currently has around 41 million Internet users, 41 million Facebook users, 33 million LINE users, 7.8 million Instagram users, and 5.3 million Twitter users.
Thailand’s online retail market is expected to reach $10-15 billion by 2020, up from less than $2 billion in 2015.  As for major holiday shopping, Thai people mainly shop online at the end of the year.

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