Market Extension has performed several digital business development assignments for start ups on the Thai market and we are charmed by the Thai culture, food and nature. Thailand has an advanced age old culture, its own difficult language, and unfortunately it does not seem easy for foreign companies to enter the Thai market. Underneath are some facts and considerations for companies in BtoB and BtoC that want to enter the market through digital first marketing channels.
Internet penetration, key players and issues
Thailand’s Internet penetration has grown very rapidly because of the introduction of the smartphone, mainly the cheaper ones of Chinese origin (Xiomi and Coolpad). Currently about 43 million people have access to the internet, about two third of the population, the majority in cities.
In BtoB environments the Internet is very widely adopted, and of course much more through desktop computers than smartphones. “Digital transformation” as we know in the Western world will take a few more years for many Thai companies to think about.
After Facebook and Youtube, the Japanese app Line is the 3rd largest social media network. Sort of similar to Whatsapp and Chinese WeChat. Line was originally an emergency solution after the 2011 Japanese earthquake. Line has over 33 mln Thai users and many companies have a Line homepage and can share news and offers with their Line followers. Line offers a broad range of own services, like ordering a taxi, payment and food. Line’s worldwide future growth is limited, because it is not available in China and not linked to another large player like Google or Facebook. Thai love the Line stickers and emoticons, which have become a new economic and marketing sector, worth to learn more about. There are even full time sticker artists in Thailand.
For search, like in the West, Google is extremely dominant with about 99% market share compared to the rest of search companies. So Google SEO and SEA are good roads to reach potential Thai clients and partners.
For what it is worth: Wednesday is top e-commerce day in Thailand. Although most Thai people do not have a credit card, 90% of transactions are credit card transactions. Adyen and Stripe offer several payment services for the Thai market. People can pay their online acquisitions through ATM transfers and over the counter payment in the hugely popular 7-Eleven chain.
Thailand still offers limited direct e-Commerce possibilities for European companies in BtoC . Local players like Lazada lead the sector and understanding the needs and emotions of the Thai end consumer is difficult for European marketeers, as is the delivery aspect. Possibilities exist for technology providers to the online industries and digital start ups. The Internet can be very useful to find partners and clients for BtoB services and products, by setting up a lead generating system in the Thai language.
We are happy to help developing a successful business in Thailand, using the possibilities the digital world have to offer. This includes doing market research and setting up a local Thai website or microsite of your corporate website. We can also help to set up an online customer service unit and develop online marketing strategy for BtoB companies. This can result in a leadflow of potential partners and clients and the first steps to successful business in Thailand. We can also help BtoC companies finding local partners to resell their products. We work with the best local partners for translations, SEO and digital marketing implementation and local knowledge. We do the same in Myanmar, Malaysia, India/ Sri Lanka, Singapore and Japan. Please contact us to learn more.
More relevant information about doing business in Thailand
Population: 69 million inhabitants
The most visited city (Bangkok) and country in the world
95% of population is Buddist
It is the only country in South East Asia that has not been colonized
Please don’t criticize the monarchy, it is illegal
Fast growing economy (3-4%) with low inflation
Very export dependent
Per capita income 6.000 US$
Pervasive government corruption
Financial sector opened up and regulators become more efficient to make it easier to do business.
Do’s and don’ts in Thailand
- In the business and tourism world English is often spoken, outside of these areas it is Thai. Marketing is done in Thai, sometimes also in English.
- Conflicts and confrontations are to be avoided. Don’t criticize. Be patient. Be polite and not rude. “Yes” means: “Yes I understand what you say”. Not “Yes I agree with what you said”.
- Don’t touch your Thai counterpart. Men do shake hands with foreigners. Women use the Wai (hands together in front of their face) , if that happens nod and smile.
- Thai society is very hierarchical. Respect the older people. A subordinate waits for orders from his boss, is not very proactive and does not critizise his boss.
- Give a small present to show respect to your counterpart. Don’t open a present that is given to you on the spot.
- Have business cards available. A person without a business card cannot be a good business partner, according to Thai people.