In digital commerce, an “obsession” for the customer remains paramount, according to consultancy firm Bain & Company. 

“The old rules of customer loyalty, customer obsession still prevail. … How you are thinking about how you touch the lives of consumers still pervade,” said Patricia Buenaventura Nichol, a partner at Bain & Company, in a fireside chat on consumer needs at the BusinessWorld Virtual Economic Forum Thursday. 

“I think the digital arena has just exacerbated and provided another channel for doing that… Consumers are demanding the same things [user experience, convenience, pricing] they do in the physical environment.”  

A 2021 study by Bain & Company found that 8 of 10 internet users in Southeast Asia are digital consumers. In the Philippines, the percentage of digital consumers grew from 54% prior to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to around 68% this year.   

More than 70% of the study’s Filipino respondents said e-commerce purchases made their lives easier, with half (or 40-50%) expecting to continue using digital services.  

The Philippines is catching up in terms of infrastructure, added Ms. Nichol. “With the incoming digital banking licenses, enablers and infrastructures are becoming more established,” she said. “You see this dynamic between merchants and consumers and enablers that allow consumers to realize these sorts of behaviors.”   


Digital merchants are also optimistic about the digital economy, Bain & Company found. In the Philippines, 39% of merchants believe that they would not have survived the pandemic had it not been for digital platforms. Moving forward, 93% will either continue to use or increase their use of digital payments.  

It hasn’t been an easy journey for merchants over the past two years, given that they had to navigate the use of new tools such as digital payments and analytics, said Florian Hoppe, Bain & Company’s partner and head of digital practice in Asia Pacific.   

“But we’ve been surprised by their positive perceptions,” he said. “Three-fourths of merchants look at the digital economy positively… engaging with consumers and building personal, friendly communication channels have been a lifeline for these merchants.”  

The big breakthrough in Southeast Asia is mobile-first shopping platforms, Mr. Hoppe added.  

“Putting things onto your device as you transact online and making [the experience] as seamless as possible. That’s really opened up new areas of the economy,” he said.  

The region’s internet economy is expected to reach up to $1 trillion gross market value (GMV) by 2030 given the continuing growth of transport, food, online media, and e-commerce. — Patricia B. Mirasol