2018 in Retrospect : Digital Trends and Insights in Southeast Asia

A summary of key digital trends and insights in Southeast Asia in 2018, including the shift from mobile first to mobile only, e-commerce, online travel etc.

Digital Trend #1: 

Southeast Asia’s internet economy hit $72B in 2018 (though still dominated by online travel)


The Southeast Asian internet economy hit $72B in gross merchandise value (GMV) by the end of 2018 and is forecasted to reach $240B by 2025, $40B more than previously estimated.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia ($27B) has the largest internet economy in 2018, followed by Thailand ($12B), Singapore ($10B), Vietnam ($9B), Malaysia ($8B) and Philippines ($5B). 

$30B Online Travel

  • Online travel is still the largest sector of the internet economy, albeit not for too long. E-commerce is on track to be the largest sector by 2025.
  • 41% of travel bookings are completed online.

$23B E-commerce

  • E-commerce in Southeast Asia recorded a massive growth from $5B in 2015 to $23B in 2018.
  • The three largest Southeast Asian e-Commerce players are Lazada, Shopee, and Tokopedia.

$11B Online Media

  • Online media comprises of online advertising, gaming, subscription music and video on demand.
  • It is the second-fastest growing sector after E-commerce.

$8B Ride-hailing

  • Online transport made up 74% of ride-hailing while online food delivery contributed the rest.
  • Daily rides in Southeast Asia increased from 1.5M in 2015 to 8M in 2018.

Source: Think with Google

Digital Trend #2: 

From mobile first to mobile only


Many in Southeast Asia have bypassed the fixed-lines and personal computers for mobile phones. Mobile penetration is on the rise and smartphone adoption is expected to reach 67% in Indonesia, 71% in the Philippines and 73% in Myanmar by 2020.

Understanding this, it is important for organizations not to overlook their mobile strategy when targeting consumers in Southeast Asia. However, mobile sites in Southeast Asia are lagging behind those of China in mobile site speed, taking almost twice the time to load. This is detrimental for conversion as it is found that 40% of users will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load and 64% of users who are dissatisfied with their site visit will consider alternative sites. Refer to our services here on tips to optimize your websites for speed. 


Mobile site speed

Data Source: Think with Google 

Digital Trend #3: 

The anomaly in Google Search Trend 2018


Top 5 trending searches globally in 2018: World Cup, Avicii, Mac Miller, Stan Lee, Black Panther

Top 5 trending searches globally in 2017: Hurricane Irma, iPhone 8, iPhone X, Matt Lauer, Meghan Markle

While events and celebrity news continue to dominate Google’s trending searches, for the first time since 2015, iPhone has slipped out of the top trending searches globally. Another trend worth noting is Yanxi Palace, the most googled show globally in 2018, which is even featured in BBC. It is also the most googled show in Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore and Malaysia – a market usually dominated by Korean dramas.