eTail Asia 2021

18 - 20 May, 2021

Online (SGT)

Here’s Why You Should be Looking Towards Asia for B2B Ecommerce Growth


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The Asian B2B ecommerce sector is on the rise. Recent research by Forrester has identified a predicted growth of 12.1% per annum, and a promising future for the market as we move through 2018. China stands head and shoulders above the competition, outperforming the US by nearly double.

Competitive pricing is at the forefront of this phenomenon, with great value Asian-made products being shipped out en masse to every corner of the globe. And, while China’s overall share of global merchandise imports has slipped slightly over the last couple of years, it’s only losing ground to smaller and cheaper countries within the Asian market, meaning the business, and the money, is staying in the region.


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In the 20th century it was America leading the way in innovating the manufacturing business, but now, in the 21st, it’s Asia’s turn. How then can western solution providers make the most of the opportunities presented by this exciting trend?

Focus Your Attention in the Right Places

Despite recent downturns, China is still the place which first springs to mind when the topic of Asian business comes up. And, while the country certainly presents a huge market opportunity for B2B ecommerce, it’s also one of the most difficult to break into.

However, the countries which make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, and Singapore, can present a far more accessible marketplace than China. These countries have a combined GDP of US$2.55 trillion, with estimates predicting it to rise, from the sixth, to the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050 – outgrowing the European Union.

Therefore, while China is certainly not a write-off, in terms of B2B opportunities, savvy investors would be wise to look to some of the regions smaller countries for their ecommerce business.

Keep Up with Demand

While the Asian market has risen to prominence thanks mostly to the west’s desire for great value consumer products, B2B ecommerce is a two-way street.

For example, when businesses within ASEAN are looking to source products and services for themselves, the United Kingdom is held in high regard. The UK is famous for its finance and banking industries, but the country has a lot more to offer than just money management. Consultancy firms, software developers, and business suppliers, are all providing products and services which are sought after the world over.

With the ASEAN region growing so rapidly, the desire for these world-renowned services is only going to increase. UK industries would benefit, therefore, from making sure they are marketing themselves directly to companies in the ASEAN network.

Which brings us nicely to the next point.

Understand the Country

One mistake western businesses make when trying to penetrate overseas markets is to assume they can simply copy and paste their marketing over to the country in question.

Take the case of KFC. When the American fried chicken brand opened its doors in China, it thought it could simply run its famous tagline, “finger-lickin’ good,” through a translator, and slap it on all its Chinese marketing. However, the Chinese words used actually translated to the, far less appetizing, “eat your fingers off.” Pepsi had a similar problem when it turned out the translation used for, “Pepsi brings you back to life,” meant the deeply unsettling, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.”


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The problem doesn’t end with dodgy translations either, as misjudged cultural considerations can also lead to embarrassment and bad press. Such as the time UK supermarket Tesco ran a promotion for Ramadan, which included Pringles smoky bacon flavored snacks (pork being forbidden in the Islamic faith). While it’s incredibly unlikely Tesco placed the flavor on the stand to deliberately cause offence, it goes to show the damage not considering your marketing carefully can lead to.

These are just a few examples on a long list of serious international marketing blunders which could have been avoided by the companies involved taking the time to consider the demographics they were trying to market to.

It pays to do your research when looking to market to Asia. Look into culture and traditions, the region’s religions, and watch out for factors which may be offensive. And it can’t hurt to run your translations by a native speaker either.

Final Thoughts

Asia is presenting exciting B2B ecommerce opportunities to the rest of the world, and those with the drive, flexibility, and local knowledge to take advantage of them will be able to develop strong, mutually beneficial, partnerships, which will last for years to come.


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