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Google: Thailand’s digital economy ranks second in Southeast Asia

Google, Temasek and Bain & Company released the 8th edition of the e-Conomy SEA report – Reaching new heights: Navigating the path to profitable growth. The report shows that Thailand’s digital economy is projected to reach $36 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) in 2023, remaining the second-largest in Southeast Asia.

GMV is expected to reach around $50 billion in 2025 and has an opportunity to reach approximately $100-$165 billion in 2030. E-commerce continues a positive growth trajectory and remains the key driver of Thailand’s digital economy. 

Across the Southeast Asia region, the digital economy GMV is growing 11% YoY and is set to hit $218 billion in 2023. The revenue from SEA’ digital economy is poised to hit $100 billion this year, growing 1.7x as fast as the region’s GMV. 

Here are key findings on Thailand’s digital economy from this year’s report.

  1. To attract investment, businesses must show clear pathways to profitability and prove to investors that they offer viable exit pathways

SEA private funding has declined to its lowest level in 6 years after record highs, in line with global shifts towards high cost of capital and issues across the funding lifecycle. This decline trend is typical across all SEA countries and also in Thailand, private funding in H1 2023 returned to more typical levels after a spike in the past few years. To exit this funding winter, SEA digital businesses need to show a clear path to profitable growth. This means demonstrating realistic entry valuations, proven monetization model, and viable exit pathways to investors who are focusing on exits and distributions.

  1. Thailand’s growth is driven by economic pick-up as private consumption increases and international tourism returns
    • Online Travel: Thailand’s Online Travel sector is the second fastest growing in SEA and the main growth driver for the country’s digital economy in 2023, growing 85% YoY. Online Travel is set to reach $5 billion in GMV but has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels – $7 billion in 2019. Inbound travel to Thailand may have been on the rebound but at a slower pace than expected, especially as arrivals from China remain below pre-pandemic levels. New government policies, such as visa waivers for Chinese visitors and other initiatives by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, are paving the way to a full recovery by 2024.
    • E-commerce: The sector continues to be a major driver of Thailand’s digital economy, representing 61% of total GMV in 2023. E-commerce grew 10% YoY to $22 billion in GMV, and the sector’s GMV is projected to reach $30 billion in 2025, growing at 16% CAGR even as e-commerce players have reduced the number of promotions and discounts on offer in view of balancing growth and profitability. e-Commerce GMV will continue to grow and has the potential to reach $60 billion in 2030.
    • Online Media (video-on-demand, music-on-demand, gaming): Thailand has the largest subscription video-on-demand market in Southeast Asia, and the country is expected to be one of the largest Online Media markets overall between 2023-2030. Despite requirements for localized content, Thai consumers are keen to purchase video and music-on-demand subscriptions. The sector’s GMV is projected to reach $5 billion this year, a 12% increase YoY. Online media’s GMV is projected to grow at 16% CAGR to reach $7 billion in 2025, having potential to reach $15 billion in 2030.
    • Transport and Food Delivery: Similar to e-commerce strategies, transport and food delivery players also reduced the number of promotions and incentives to balance growth and profitability. Despite the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions and the resurgence of offline activities, ordering food delivery remains sticky post-pandemic, while commuter demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels. Overall GMV is projected to hit $3 billion in 2023, growing 1% from 2022.
  2. Digital financial services (DFS) sees strong momentum, with Thailand having the fastest growing digital lending in SEA in 2023

    • Digital lending grew the fastest at 65% to reach loan book value of $12 billion in 2023. It is also the fastest in Southeast Asia.
    • Regulators’ focus on supporting underserved communities in Thailand will continue to support further growth in the DFS sector. Meanwhile, the Bank of Thailand (BOT) plans to issue new digital banking licenses in 2024 that are designed to provide better customer experiences and increase the reach of financial services across Thailand. The PromptPay system expansion will support this effort, connecting more Thais to financial infrastructure.
    • Digital wealth is projected to grow the fastest at 39% CAGR to reach assets under management value of $23 billion in 2025. It is projected that Thailand will be the second-largest DFS market in the region in 2030
  1. High-value users continue to drive sustainable unit economics but significant growth headroom for Thailand lies in increasing digital participation
    • Over 70% of digital economy transaction values are made by the top 30% of SEA spenders. In Thailand, these high-value users (HVUs) spend more than 7x the amount non-HVUs spend online, especially in discretionary spending verticals such as gaming, transport and travel. In Thailand, HVUs are forecasted to increase spending by 64% over the next 12 months – highest spending growth across all SEA countries.
    • While engaging HVUs has become critical for businesses to drive profitability, non-HVUs in SEA present a 1.9x growth opportunity of that of HVUs. Removing barriers for non-HVUs to participate in the digital economy is critical for the digital economy to grow sustainably in the long term.
  1. Expanding the depth of digital participation is needed to enable Thailand’s next wave of growth

While digital inclusion has made progress in Thailand over the past years, consumers outside of metro areas are at risk of facing a widening digital economic divide when it comes to digital participation – active involvement in the digital economy through consumption of products or services across sectors. Addressing the gap is the collective responsibility of all digital economy stakeholders. Removing barriers, such as supply and security issues, can improve the participation of non-HVUs and enable the country’s digital economy to reach its growth ambitions. 

“Thailand’s digital economy continues to show incredible resilience and is on the right path to reach around $50 billion in GMV by 2025 despite macroeconomic uncertainty. Keeping the focus on bridging the digital participation gap, especially outside of Bangkok, and resolutely removing barriers to enable more Thais to become active users of digital products and services will help the country unlock further growth in the digital decade. We will continue to deepen our contribution and commitment to the long-term growth of the country’s digital economy through initiatives like “Samart Skills” – exclusive Grow with Google program for Thailand,” said Jackie Wang, Country Director, Google Thailand. 

“It is remarkable that both Southeast Asia’s digital economy GMV and revenue continued their double-digit growth momentum, with revenue breaking the $100B mark in 2023. This shows the resilience of the Southeast Asian digital economy and that the key players are making progress towards more healthy unit economics and sustainable business models. Thailand has seen a steady uptick in its digital participation since the pandemic and the regulatory push in digital banking licenses will create new growth opportunities in digital financial services while further enhancing financial inclusion for Thais,” said  Willy Chang, Partner, Bain & Company.

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