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Digital Trend in SEA 2020
trend report Tue, Apr 28, 2020
Repro APAC Written by Repro APAC

Digital Trend in SEA 2020

The ASEAN region is a very diverse region inhabited by people who speak different languages, cuisine, and cultures. Their digital behavior, like the people, differs greatly from one country to another. In this article, we are going to look at the differences in digital trends in Malaysian, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand. 

Table of contents




When looking at the population size, no one beats Indonesia with 272.1 million people living there and being the 4th largest country in the world in terms of population. After Indonesia, Thailand follows as a far second with around 69.71 million people, then Malaysia with 32.16 million, and lastly Singapore at 5.83 million people. All four countries have quite a balanced gender ratio.



Despite the huge population in Indonesia, only 55% of the population lives in a city. Thailand's urban population is similar to Indonesia, with half of its population living in a city.

On the other hand, 76% of the population in Malaysia and 100% of the population in Singapore live in an urban area. 

Literacy Rate

Literacy Rate

All four countries have a high literacy rate, with a minimum of 93% literacy rate among all four countries. Singapore has the highest literacy at 97%, follows by both Malaysia and Indonesia at 94%, and lastly, Thailand at 93%. The literacy rate between gender does not differ significantly, with females having slightly lower literacy rates in all four countries. 

Technology and Behavior

Internet Users

Internet User

Among all four countries, Singapore has the highest percentage of internet users, with 88% of the population have access to the internet. This is followed closely by Malaysia at 83%, Thailand at 75%, and Indonesia at 64%. Despite having a low internet user in Indonesia, it is growing extremely fast at 17% annually.

Is it important to note, even at 64%, Indonesia outnumbered the number of internet users in other ASEAN Countries. In numbers, Indonesia has a whopping 171 million users, which far more than the total population of Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore combined. 

Mobile Phone and Personal Computer

Smartphone Ownership

All four countries have relatively high smartphone penetration, with the highest being Malaysia at 97% and the lowest being Thailand at 94%. However, when it comes to personal computers ownership, the number differs widely, with the highest being Singapore at 78%, followed closely by Malaysia at 72%, Indonesia at 66%, and Thailand at 50%.

Therefore, marketers who are planning to conduct desktop advertisements have to be aware of the limit of its' reach in Thailand and Indonesia. On the other hand, mobile advertisement seems to best channel for maximum reach regardless of country. 

Online Content

Online Content Consumption

When it comes to consuming online content, all four countries prefer online video content than any other content. When it comes to Vlogs, Indonesia has the highest consumption rate at 79%, while Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore consumption is at around 50%.

Additionally, Malaysia and Indonesia also seem to have the habit of consuming music streaming content. 

Social Media

Social Media Usage

When comparing to the number of social media users to population, Malaysia has the highest social media users, with 81% of the population being on social media once a month, followed by Singapore at 79%, Thailand at 75%, and Indonesia at 59%. The low number of social media activities in Indonesia can be explained by the lack of internet users or access to the internet, which only penetrated 64% of the population. 

Age Group

When it comes to social media, both Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia have users group concentrated at the age of 18 to 34 while Singapore has its users mostly concentrated at 25 to 44. In addition, social media also seem to be more actively used by the older age groups when compared to the other three countries. 

Social Media

Top Social Media Channels

When it comes to social media channels, all four countries exhibit similar pattern with Youtube and Facebook dominating the social media usage. Instagram is very popular in Thailand, with 94% of the users checking on Instagram once a month, while on the other hand, only 62% of Singaporean check Instagram once a month.

Messenging App

Top Messenging App

Whatsapp is the dominating messenger App for Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Thailand, however, uses LINE more than Whatsapp. Facebook Messenger also seems to be a popular alternative in Thailand, with 76% being used once a month. 


B2C Market Size

B2C E-Commerce Market Size

The B2C market size data in 2019 revealed that Indonesia has the largest market with 11 billion US dollars, followed by Thailand at 5.5 billion, Singapore at 5 billion, and Malaysia at 4 billion. This is where things get interesting. Although Indonesia E-commerce market is almost two to three times when compared to the other three countries, however, when the number of internet users is taken into account, Indonesia has the smallest market among all. 

On the other hand, Singapore, despite being a small country with 5.83 million people, has a bigger market size than Malaysia, which is six times its' population. While also being almost the same size as Thailand. 

Search Behavior

The similarities between all four countries get further apart when we take a closer look at their search behavior. Reports are based on their search queries made in 2019.


Malaysians are on the quest looking for the best, with their search queries often revolved around the word "Best." However, just having the best is not enough for them, as they also demand the best for them. This is revealed when "best" is often combined with other queries like "best laptop for school" or "best laptop for video editing." Proximity also plays an important role in their daily life as the number of "...near me" queries has been increasing significantly. 

Malaysian also has a growing concern for the environment with large volumes searching for "metal straw," "biodegradable plastic," and "hybrid car". Their view of ownership is also changing with an increased search on "second-hand furniture," "used car," "rental car," and "dress rental".


In 2019, Singaporeans seemed to be obsessed with delivery. Based on their search queries, they were looking at all kinds of delivery from food delivery, such as "Durian delivery," "satay delivery" to service delivery like "laundry delivery," "message delivery" and flower delivery." 

Singapore also is shown to have a high fondness for things that are near them instead of big brand names. The query "...near me" is often being paired with many possible ways, such as "bubble tea near me", "cafe near me" and "dentist near me."

Singaporeans also seem to be seeking better wellbeing with many queries on "How to overcome anxiety," "do I have anxiety," and "anxiety attack symptoms." And maybe perhaps due to a high level of stress in the workplace, they are seeking a more sustainable working life as they have the highest search volume for the query "work-life balance."


Indonesia seems to be obsessed with the media with many queries revolving around TV celebrities and television shows. They also seem to have an obsession with high-tech cars, with queries revolving around "keyless", "GPS navigation" and "electric car."

On the other hand, Indonesian like Malaysian also seems to care for owning the best products. However, unlike Malaysians, Indonesians are more into skincare products with many queries on "best Moisturizers," "best foundation," and "best toner." 

A healthy diet also seems to be a trend with many search queries on "Vegan", "Sugar-Free, and "Chia Seed."


Thailand, like Singapore, seems to be searching for delivery services. However, unlike Singapore, where delivery service is used for almost everything, Thais seem to be looking for a good bargain with queries like "Free Delivery" and "Delivery Promo." 

They also seem to have an obsession with things that are near to them with any queries about "Pork BBQ near me", "Hairdresser near me" and "Tourist attractions near me." 

Lastly, cashless payment seems to be on the rise, with many queries on "Credit Card" and "E-wallet."


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