BY Jirapan Boonnoon
The Nation May 23, 2013 1:00 am
Survey examines evolving demands, implications for business sector
Thailand and other leading Asean economies form a high-potential region for the utilisation of information technology and digital transformation in support of business, according to a survey by Accenture, the global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company.
Nontawat Poomchusri, country managing director of Accenture in Thailand, said the firm had conducted research tracking Southeast Asia’s digital transformation, exploring the digital landscape in Thailand and the five other major economies in the region – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam – with the aim of understanding the evolving demands of consumers and employees, and recognising the implications for business.
The survey involved 6,000 consumers and 400 companies across the “Asean-6″ markets on digital consumer behaviour and trends.
The research found that digital adoption and the encouraging digital landscape in Thailand was growing in line with the country’s economy, which continued to expand by around 4-5 per cent per year.
Other growth drivers are a middle class whose disposable income has risen, enabling increased purchases of increasingly affordable digital devices and data services; evolving demographics, with more than 50 per cent of the population aged below 30; and government initiatives, which promote and support the laying down information infrastructure.
These initiatives include the Information and Communications Technology Ministry’s plan to have 250,000 Wi-Fi spots in Bangkok by 2015 under the Smart Thailand project, and the One Tablet Per Child campaign, under which about 400,000 tablets had already been distributed to primary-school students by August last year.
Nontawat said digital-device sales growth was being spurred on by the Kingdom’s economy, which is the second largest in the region and a key engine in powering Asean towards its projected economic size of US$1.9 trillion (Bt56.65 trillion) by 2020.
Another factor is the next step in Thailand’s digital transformation, that is, the enablement of higher mobile Internet usage through active 2G-3G technology migration, he added.
About 60 per cent of Thai Internet users access the Net via mobile devices, which means the young and the urban middle class will drive digital development in the country. Meanwhile, the number of middle-class households is expected to grow 24 per cent by 2020.
“The factors which encourage the growth of digital adoption in Thailand and Asean are sustained economic growth, improvement in the price/performance ratio of mobile devices, evolving demographics and strong government information and communication technology agendas,” said the country manager.
Social media a key driver
Trent Mayberry, managing director of Accenture’s Technology Growth Platform – Asean, said the Kingdom’s consumer digital adoption was being driven by social media and mobile technology.
There are 8.7 million Facebook users in greater Bangkok, making it one of the cities with the highest concentration of users in the world.
Moreover, mobile-phone penetration in Thailand is over 100 per cent (based on the overall number of devices in relation to the population) and consumers are increasingly upgrading their devices to smart phones, he said, adding that the anticipated compound growth rate for smart-phone sales in Thailand from 2011 through 2016 is 27 per cent.
The Thai business sector is recognising the importance of digital technology as a means of reaching consumers and employees, but there are large opportunities for future advances in this area.
While only 30 per cent of Thai businesses say that digital is at the very heart of their strategy, only 27 per cent perceive there is a positive sales and marketing impact from a customer-facing digital strategy, he said.
As well, only 44 per cent of Thai companies believe they can use customer data collected from their website and mobile platforms effectively, while some 52 per cent are using social media to attract new talent, which is higher than the Asean average.
“Thai companies are leaders in leveraging social media and mobile platforms in their digital strategies, at 65 per cent and 62 per cent, respectively,” said Mayberry.
He added that Southeast Asia had a relatively young population and many of these people – so-called “digital natives” – had grown up with digital technology.
About 48 per cent of the Southeast Asian population will be under 30 by 2020, while between 2010 and 2020 there will be 194 million new Internet users coming online in Asean-6 markets.
Therefore, he said, businesses can consider improving their overall approach to digital trends by a number of means, such as creating a cohesive digital strategy designed to extend to employee engagement; driving innovation; driving value from data; using analytical techniques in an attempt to gain a granular understanding of customers and employees; and embracing Web 2.0 capabilities, including social media applications to support their business.