While Vietnamese retailers can compete with giant retail groups from Thailand, the Republic of Korea (RoK) and Japan in modern retail, they are inferior in the online retail market because of limited financial capability and technology platforms.
A report found that the Vietnamese e-commerce market was valued at US$0.4 billion in 2015. The figure soared to US$4 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach US$7.5 billion by 2025. Vietnam, with a high growth rate of 35%, is an attractive market for investors.
The three biggest Chinese players, Alibaba, Tencent and JD.com, all are present in Vietnam.
The ‘earliest bird’ was Shopee, which joined the market in August 2016.
In June 2017, Alibaba, the conglomerate owned by Jack Ma, spent US$1 billion to raise its ownership ratio in Lazada, the holding company of Lazada Vietnam, to 83%. With the move, it officially set foot in Southeast Asian online retail markets, including Vietnam.
Most recently, JD.com poured US$44 million into Vietnam’s Tiki, an online retailer.
According to iPrice Group, the online searching engine, Lazada is nearly dominant in Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian online retail markets. In Vietnam, Lazada attracts 19% of visitors, while Thegioididong.com and Sendo get 15% and 11%, respectively. Tiki ranks fourth with 8%.
The retailers have been spending big money on sale promotions, and offering price discounts in a bid to scramble for market share.
An e-commerce expert in HCM City said in the immediate time, consumers can get big benefits from sale promotions, but in the long term, Vietnamese manufacturers will face difficulties.
“With the presence of big Chinese online retailers, Chinese goods will have better opportunities to penetrate the Vietnamese market. Once Chinese goods flood the market, the room for Vietnamese goods in online retail channels will shrink,” the expert said.
Some large Vietnamese businesses such as FPT and The Gioi Di Dong have joined the market and shown determination to compete with Chinese giants. Sendo.vn, 123mua.vn, Adayroi and vuivui.com, Vietnamese websites, have had a relatively high number of transactions and visitors.
However, analysts said it was still too early to predict the success of Vietnamese businesses, because the ‘e-commerce game’ requires huge long-term capital.
According to the Vietnam E-commerce Association, in 2018, Vietnamese companies will spend more money on ad and media campaigns to attract more buyers. The budget for the campaigns is expected to increase by 60% compared with 2016.