Global brands such as L’Oréal, Xiaomi, Unilever and Watsons have opened web stores on Shopee, which operates online malls aimed at consumers in seven countries.

Consumers in Southeast Asia spend more time on their smartphones—more than three-and-a-half hours each day—than their peers in any other region, according to a recent report by Google and Singapore-based investment firm Temasek Holdings. And Shopee is rapidly emerging as a major shopping destination by targeting smartphone shoppers in seven Southeast Asian nations.

Shopee says sales on its seven online marketplaces totaled $4.1 billion in 2017, more than triple its $1.2 billion in sales in 2016. The number of orders grew at a similar rate, to 244.8 million in 2017 from 73.8 million a year earlier, according to Sea Ltd., the Singapore-based parent company of Shopee.

Shopee operates online marketplaces designed for shopping on smartphones in seven countries: Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia.

“We launched Shopee less than three years ago in June 2015,” founder Forrest Li said at a recent news conference. “At Shopee, growth remains our No. 1 priority. Shopee’s success is a testament of our mobile marketplace strategy. It is also driven by our focus on female and long-tail categories, such as fashion, health and beauty products.”

Shopee’s strategy includes a focus on social media, as its sites allow consumers to see friends’ shopping posts and recommendations.


Among the foreign brands selling on Shopee sites are French cosmetics brand L’Oréal S.A. (No. 276 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000 ranking of North America’s leading online retailers and No. 88 in the 2017 Europe 500), Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. (No. 2  in Internet Retailer’s 2017 Asia 500 ranking), Anglo-Dutch consumer goods conglomerate Unilever and Hong Kong-based personal care products retailer A.S. Watson Group. Unilever is No. 179 in the North America Top 1000 by virtue of its 2016 acquisition of online retailer Dollar Shave Club.

Li says Shopee plans to attract more brands by expanding its services in such areas as logistics, payment and online advertising.

The company recently expanded its selection by offering online consumers in Southeast Asia access to more than 1 million products from Chinese companies.

Shopee projects sales on its online shopping malls will increase about 90% in 2018 to $7.8 billion. “Southeast Asia is in a thriving market,” Li says. “While the current market for internet and smartphone penetration is still relatively low compared to that of the U.S. and China, we are bullish on the market here for huge business opportunities.”


Internet penetration is only 58% in Southeast Asia, versus 88% in North America and 90% in Western Europe, according to a study by social media marketing firm HootSuite. A 2017 report estimated there were 751 million internet users in China, which would be about 54% of the current population of $1.379 billion.