Southeast Asia: Digital Life Intensified

Special Reports

In 2020, a year much of the world was in lockdown, Southeast Asia saw a surge in Internet users. The region clocked up a growth of 9.9%, pushing the total number of internet users here to 463 million. 

Southeast Asians appear to be the most hooked to the net compared to other regions. 

The pandemic had us glued to our screens. Internet users here also spend more time online than the global average (6H 54M). The Philippines takes the top spot, spending close to 11 hours a day online; Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand all fall within the top 10.

Our love for the Internet would also explain our need for speed. Thailand (308.34 Mbps) and Singapore (245.31 Mbps) are the top two countries for download speed — compared to the worldwide average of just 96.43 Mbps. 

Online behaviours have been evolving. Over 72% of Internet users in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are researching products online before purchasing. However, search no longer meant typing keywords into a web browser; the use of voice search and voice commands is on the rise. 1 in 2 Indonesians (51.9%) have been using voice interfaces every month. 

Users here are also watching more online TV than traditional TV. 77% of Filipinos watch TV content via streaming services (i.e. Netflix) each month. 

Gaming has since become a social lifeline. Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia came up on top for gaming. Players here are devoting more than an hour a day on a games console. As more and more people flock to games as an entertainment outlet, engagement opportunities, particularly storytelling, will continue to arise for brands to get involved. However, it’s important to note that the culture on gaming platforms is led by the communities that exist there. Engaging carefully and thoughtfully with these communities is key to finding success.

TL;DR: More is more – a significant increase in Internet users, gaming and content consumption, and download speeds spell more opportunities for brands to connect with consumers in new, unexpected, and meaningful ways.

Consumers in Southeast Asia are moving towards being mobile-first. 

Southeast Asia is also leading in mobile connections. There are over 887 million mobile connections in this region – 132% of the total population. 

People here strongly embraced digital technologies. In Indonesia, 1 in 2 uses image recognition tools on mobile devices. Indonesia also has plans to change waste management with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). QR codes are making a comeback as well in this region. Over 70% of Singaporeans and Malaysians have used their mobile to scan a QR code, likely for contact tracing check-ins — trumping the global average by almost 2X. 

TL;DR: Thinking mobile-first is just the initial step – brands that are open to quickly testing and learning new technologies and features in the mobile space will be better positioned to capitalize on this growing consumer base. 

People here are spending more time in virtual spaces than ever before. 

From social channels, 9-5 video calls for work to games on Nintendo Switch, we are keeping busy behind the screens. As a result, we’re also making more lifestyle choices and changes within the digisphere. With people seeking digital-first social experiences, brands will need to build communities and digital brand moments entirely online. 

The purpose of smartphones is also evolving away from simply communicating with one another, and towards a better understanding of the world around us. Southeast Asia has been embracing technology adoption, using voice commands, voice search and image recognition tools.

TL;DR: Brands will have to tap into these shifts to help the Southeast Asia audience better understand, search, and engage the world around them. 

For more Southeastern Asia stats, do check out our complete library of Global Digital Reports.