Trust remains the stumbling block for Thai internet shoppers


Trust remains the stumbling block for Thai internet shoppers

The government will run what it calls the Thailand Online Mega Sale 2013 from 26 November to 3 December with the aim of generating sales of more than 500 million baht from online shoppers.

If the sale is successful, it is hoped this will help push online shopping to around the 90 billion baht for 2013.

This first-ever online discount marketing campaign has brought together more than 500 websites who will be offering discounts of as much as 80 percent for some online products and services.

Deputy Commerce Minister Nattawut Saikuar is hoping not only will the week-long mega sale be successful but that it will also draw more consumers to embrace the e-commerce model of shopping and doing business.

The minister noted that of Thailand’s 25 million internet users, only 10 percent were actively engaged in purchasing products and services online. The biggest single issue to widening this percentage is trust. Consumer protection is sometimes haphazard at best even with point-to-point sales outlets, so the internet, given a greater propensity for fraud, remains a place where many consumers lack confidence in what protections may, in theory, be in place.

The Thai E-Commerce Association says the country has seen online shopping grow by 20 percent year on year in recent times, but there is still massive room for growth as long businesses are prepared to engage in online marketing and sales campaigns.

Chaichana Mitrpant, the executive director of the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, said the unit is looking to build up the trust element within online shopping. The Agency is determined to enforce international standards and safety with online transactions to protect consumers.

As part of this trust buildup, the Agency is hoping to set up an online consumer protection centre.

The need for such a centre is clear following a survey undertaken by the Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten. Of 2,000 online shoppers in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Taiwan surveyed by Rakuten recently, a whopping 78 percent said they were unhappy with some of their online purchases over the last 12 months. This indicated a need for better product quality, greater information and detail, and general consumer protection.

In Thailand, seller reliability was the main issue cited by consumers for them not going ahead with potential online purchases. The biggest four criteria cited by online shoppers in the Rakuten survey were the quality of the product being offered for sale, the lack of detailed photos, clear pricing, and good return policies.

Given the generally poor attitude to returning or exchanging goods in all but the leading storefront retailers, it could be some time before what might be called ‘good return/refund policies’ are in place for online shopping in Thailand.