Some might say it’s been here and active for quite a while—and that would be true—but e-commerce is arguably still in its earlier stages as far as the Philippine market is concerned, especially when you compare it to the e-commerce markets in other countries (the US being a perfect example). That’s not surprising, especially when you consider that the Philippines doesn’t have stellar Internet infrastructure just yet.
Our average Internet speed is just around the 4.5 to 4.8 Mbps range: compare that to nearby Taiwan, with its over 37 Mbps average Net speed. There are even some provinces where Internet access is practically impossible, even with 3G technology.
But things are getting better. Our Internet infrastructure is improving and computer technologies are becoming progressively more accessible to more members of the populace. And as more people get to access the world wide web for themselves, they are also discovering its wonders—online business and shopping included.
There’s still something of a lag, of course: we still don’t shop online nearly as much as people from developed countries do. But that ties into the relative “newness” of the technology here, at the moment. Internet shopping is still something of a novelty in the country, which means some suspicion still remains among Filipinos regarding the reliability of products purchased over the web, without directly relating to a (sales)person. There’s a strong tradition of oral barter, haggling, and interfacing among Filipino shoppers to consider too, besides the fact that shopping (or mall-going, to be precise) is already an established social activity here—one that can involve the entire family and bring together friends with few other interests in common. Online shopping, on the other hand, is largely something done alone, without requiring much social or physical activity, and with a minimum of face-to-face (if any) personal interaction.
That said, the convenience and speed of this type of shopping are steadily becoming more apparent to Filipinos. Where the mall was the standard, we now have online auction and vending sites like Sulit competing with SM. Where coupons used to be found only in magazines and voucher booklets, we now have Groupon, Cash Cash Pinoy and Ensogo. And where there were only brick and mortar loading shops and stalls, we now have sites like Morbie.com, which let anyone send load to any cellphone user in the country.
Times are indeed changing. Only time will tell where Internet shopping here will go in the future, but it is not reasonable to expect it to get more popular as technologies improve and trust in the e-market grows. As more Filipinos venture into e-commerce too, we are seeing more and more recognizable and reliable brands and business names on the web, right next to International brands and vendors. This would undoubtedly have an interesting impact on our local business community—one that is, if things are handled well and Filipino brand names are brought to the world wide web, only to the good.