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May 1, 2011

Boost in Asia's E-commerce Market

Innovative e-commerce sites offering bargains on everything from meals to travel packages are catching on in Asia as companies harness the power of social media to influence consumer behaviour.

International brands and local merchants alike are exploiting the business model, which offers attractive deals with a catch -- they have to be purchased by a minimum number of consumers within a deadline.

The discount sites put advertisements on Facebook and like sites, send out Twitter messages and blast emails to their target market to promote particular deals.

Consumers in turn ask family members and friends to take up an offer -- so that they can eat in a group or relax in a spa together -- and at the end of a successful promotion, discount sites get a cut from the vendors. Basically, social media give power to any business.

The whole viral marketing is enabled through social media. Financial services giant J.P. Morgan forecasts the Asia retail e-commerce market, excluding travel, to more than double from $156 billion in 2010 to $323 billion in 2013.According to the China Internet Network Information Center, there are nearly 20 million group-buying customers in China among the country's 160 million e-commerce consumers.

Global discount coupon giant Groupon is expanding its presence in Asia's E-commerce Market , acquiring sites in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan and has initiated a joint venture in China.

Groupon Singapore, formerly known as Beeconomic, says it has overtaken eBay and Amazon to become Singapore's 17th most visited website with 150,000 hits per day.
"I think this is a very sustainable business," said Groupon Singapore's chief executive Karl Chong, a 29-year-old Australian.

A study by consumer research firm Nielsen, commissioned by PayPal, reported that Singapore's online shopping market was worth Sg$1.1 billion ($889 million) in 2010 and expected to reach Sg$4.4 billion by 2015.

To stay ahead of the game, several coupon sites are extending their online services to mobile phones, providing customers with another way of clinching deals wherever they are, with location-based services linked to shops in the immediate vicinity.

“In the Asia-Pacific region, more and more people are coming online, in places like Vietnam, China and India, so I think this trend will grow in the future," he told AFP.

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