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E-commerce picking up in Asia

If the latest statistics are anything to go by, more Asians are shopping on the Internet.

Online retailers have something to smile about.

Statistics from Visa Asia-Pacific showed that between July and September last year, over 3.6 million Visa-enabled online transactions were recorded, a jump of 94 percent over the 1.9 million registered in the same period in 2004.

For the same period, online spending by cardholders with e-commerce merchants outside their home countries exceeded US$377 million, a Visa spokesperson noted in an e-mail to ZDNet Asia. The figure represents a 71-percent growth over 2004.

"The rise in online shopping throughout the Asia-Pacific region is part of a wider global trend that has seen online sales increase dramatically over the past few years," said the Visa spokesperson. "The figures demonstrate that the online environment makes it extremely easy for consumers to purchase goods and services while traveling, or to shop overseas without leaving their homes."

According to Visa, online merchants in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand also had plenty to smile about during the third quarter of 2005; they experienced a 100 percent growth in revenues over the same period in 2004. Over half, or 58 percent, of online spending in the Asia-Pacific region come from cardholders in five foreign markets--Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Spenders in these five countries forked out US$220 million between July and September 2005 for purchases made from the region, the Visa spokesperson said.

Statistics from e-commerce site eBay Hong Kong also indicate a growing community of Web shoppers. eBay Hong Kong's member base has grown "at an incredible rate", said its public relations manager Susanna Muk. Almost 80 percent of the members joined in the last two years, she noted.

According to a fact sheet Muk provided, a mobile phone, camera or video game is sold every minute on eBay Hong Kong, while bridal tiaras and Tamagotchi pets are snapped up by the hour. The fastest-selling items are clothes--one article of clothing is purchased every 30 seconds.

To encourage greater e-commerce adoption by small and midsize businesses in the country, the e-commerce giant launched eBay Stores in Hong Kong last month, partnering PCCW Directories to provide a custom e-shop for businesses that cannot afford to utilize their existing resources for the Web.

Over in India, the India Online 2005 study by New Delhi-based JuxtConsult indicated that up to 45 percent of Indian Net users have shopped at least once online, according to a company spokesperson. The research agency estimates that one in every four Internet users purchases online regularly. Over 30,000 Internet users were surveyed for JuxtConsult's first-ever study of Internet trends in the country.

According to the spokesperson, JuxtConsult will update these findings when it releases the results of its 2006 survey in the next few weeks. The company will provide a comparison of how user Net trends have changed in the past year.

In Singapore, online spending appears to hold steady after a hike from 2003. The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore's 2005 survey on infocomm usage by individuals and households showed the proportion of Internet users that have made online purchases was unchanged from 2004, at 27 percent. Average spending on the Web has also remained fairly constant, from 2004's S$539 (US$338.44) over six months to S$1,068 (US$670.60) over 12 months in 2005. In contrast, online shoppers in Singapore spent an average of S$336 (US$210.97) over six months in 2003.

One Singapore-based hotel chain, however, has reported an increase in revenues from the Internet channel. Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts saw more than a 50-percent year-on-year increase in revenues from online transactions for five of its properties in 2005.