Vietnam’s eCommerce market is growing quickly and will see the biggest growth after Indonesia until 2025.
A young urbanizing population, increased appetite for foreign products, along with digitization has resulted in exporting opportunities for foreign companies.
Vietnam has signed Free Trade Agreements with numerous countries which will inevitably boost growth, imports, and exports.
In this article, we focus on how you can sell online in Vietnam and review the following topics:
- Vietnam Free Trade Agreements
- Which products are in demand in Vietnam?
- Top eCommerce Platforms
- Trade Fairs for Exporters
- Shipping & Logistics
Vietnam Free Trade Agreements
First, let’s have a look at some of the main Free Trade Agreements that Vietnam and ASEAN have signed recently and in the past years.
- ASEAN – (AFTA)
- ASEAN-Australia-New-Zealand (AANZFTA)
- ASEAN-China (ACFTA)
- Vietnam-EU (EVFTA)
- The US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA)
Which products are in demand in Vietnam?
In this article, we focus on products that are in demand among consumers (B2C) and primarily the eCommerce sector. Sure, Vietnam is currently one of the fastest-growing countries in the world and with increasingly more manufacturing activities.
Looking at the imports of electrical machinery and equipment, for example, the total imported value was USD 77.8 billion in 2019 (equal to 29.5% of total imports). The top exporting countries are, in chronological order:
- China: 33%
- South Korea: 31%
- Japan: 7.99%
- The US: 6.52%
With that said, the top imported products in the eCommerce sector were as follows in 2019:
- Electronics and Media
- Toys, Hobby, and DIY
- Furniture and Appliances
- Food and Personal Care
Electronics and Media
Electronics & media is currently the most popular product category with a total imported value of USD 685 million in 2019.
Examples of popular products include tablets, speakers, phones, washing machines, ACs, cameras, and more. If you visit Lazada.vn, you can see that Electronic Devices, Electronic Accessories, and TV & Home Appliances are listed at the top.
The key benefit is that buyers can enjoy discounted prices with deliveries that take a few days. If you want to check the product before ordering, you can simply visit an electronics store to try it out.
If you want to read about the most popular products being sold on Lazada in different Southeast Asian countries, I recommend you checking my separate article.
Fashion products such as clothes are also in high demand in Vietnam.
In late 2019, Uniqlo set up its first 3,000 square meter store in the central parts of Ho Chi Minh. These companies see the potential in Vietnam’s market thanks to its young demographic, growing incomes, and big population.
According to research done by Niesel, Vietnam ranked 3rd in the world in people fond of branded goods in 2018. The country was only behind India and China.
Vietnamese truly loves fast fashion, a reason why brands like H&M and Zara have seen great success here. For example, Zara’s revenues grew by 100% to around USD 73 million in 2018.
At the same time, H&M saw revenues of almost USD 33 million, four times higher than in 2017 (!).
Furniture and Appliances
IKEA is not yet available in Vietnam and most people rely on local vendors and buy products online. As you might know, it has a large furniture manufacturing industry, a reason why furniture is easily accessible.
The market reached USD 478 million in 2019 and is the third-biggest, just behind fashion and electronics.
In cities like Ho Chi Minh, you can also find outdoor furniture markets that are highly popular among locals.
Food and Personal Care
Food and personal care products are in high demand and sold on all major eCommerce websites in Vietnam. Even if Vietnam produces a variety of food products like coffee, nuts, seasoning, and fruit, we see increasingly more imports of foreign products.
This is a trend we have seen in China in previous years and milk formula, alcohol, meat, cheese, sweets, and wine are in particularly high demand.
Personal care products such as hair dye, hair wax, skincare, and soap are in high demand.
Toys, Hobby, and DIY
Toys, hobby, and DIY products are some of the most popular products and can include everything from collectibles, games & puzzles, helicopters, toy drones, and action figures.
The value of the market reached USD 438 million in 2019 and is the fourth biggest product category.
Top eCommerce Platforms
The eCommerce market grows at a rapid pace in Vietnam. The growth is mainly driving by digitization, urbanization, a young workforce, and increasing wages.
There are currently 3 eCommerce websites that capture most of the attention among eCommerce shoppers.
Lazada was launched in 2012 and is currently the biggest eCommerce platform in Southeast Asia. Owned by the Chinese conglomerate Alibaba, Lazada is currently available in 6 ASEAN markets:
- Vietnam (Lazada.vn)
- Singapore (Lazada.sg)
- Malaysia (Lazada.com.my)
- Thailand (Lazada.co.th)
- Philippines (Lazada.com.ph)
- Indonesia (Lazada.co.id)
What makes Lazada unique is that it dominates the cross-border eCommerce market with an international layout and interface.
Besides, it’s purely B2C and encourages sellers to use its fulfillment services, Fulfilled By Lazada (FBL), and shipping services, Lazada Global Shipping (LGS).
That is not the case with many other local eCommerce websites that primarily focus on C2C, but have shifted towards B2C recently.
If you’re serious about selling cross-border in Vietnam and Southeast Asia as a whole, then Lazada should be at the top of your list.
Shopee is another big eCommerce website and was founded in Singapore in 2015.
Compared to Lazada, Shopee isn’t as big for cross-border sales and they don’t entice sellers to use their in-house fulfillment services. Only top brands, key sellers, and distributors can use their fulfillment services, referred to as Fulfilled By Shopee (FBS).
At a start, you have to manage the fulfillment and shipping on your own.
In addition to Vietnam, Shopee is available in multiple Asian countries, including:
- Singapore (Shopee.sg)
- Malaysia (Shopee.com.my)
- Thailand (Shopee.co.th)
- Vietnam (Shopee.vn)
- Indonesia (Shopee.co.id)
- Philippines (Shopee.ph)
- Taiwan (Shopee.tw)
- Korea (Shopee.kr)
Tiki is a local eCommerce platform and one of the fastest-growing online retail company.
The platform has a more “local” interface and is not available in English, compared to Lazada, for example.
Starting as early as 2010, the website started selling books but has evolved into one of the biggest eCommerce platforms in Vietnam with 300,000 products listed.
Trade Fairs for Exporters
Selling in an Asian market can be challenging and you must build up local connections and get familiar with the market. Analyzing market trends and understanding the competition is crucial for success.
A great way of expanding your knowledge and network is to visit one or more local trade fairs. Below I have listed some of the top fairs available.
As it speaks, Vietnam Foodexpo focuses on food products and is one of the biggest of its kind in Vietnam.
The exhibition attracts more than 300 exhibitors from 19 countries worldwide, covering more than 10,000 square meters. It’s held in the Saigon Exhibition & Convention Center (SECC), the biggest modern Exhibition & Convention Center in the South of Vietnam.
The event is held over 3 days in November each year and covers the following product categories:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Tea and Coffee
- Food Ingredients
- Fine Food
- Food Technology
Vietnam International Trade Fair
Vietnam International Trade Fair is one of the biggest fairs held in Ho Chi Minh City in December each year.
With 1,000 booths and an area covering 15,000 sq.m., the event attracts exhibitors from countries and regions such as India, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Russia, the USA, mainland China, Spain, Italy, and Germany.
Almost 1,000 companies from 20 countries exhibit at the event and common products include:
- Electrical appliances
- Processed food
- Kitchen appliances
- Beauty and health care
Shipping & Logistics
We often received questions from companies that want to learn more about shipping and fulfillment options when selling in Asia.
Shipping to Vietnam
If you plan to sell cross-border in Vietnam, the following 3 options should come to mind:
- Direct Shipping
- Hong Kong Fulfillment
- Vietnam Fulfillment
Direct shipping can be used if your country of manufacture is close to Vietnam, like China or Korea, and you can offer short shipping lead times and low logistics costs.
If you sell from Europe or the US, on the other hand, you should look into a more long term solution.
According to Vietaircargo, air freight takes as around 8-10 days from the US to Vietnam, including the time of transportation from the place of purchase to the place of receipt.
Airfreight is generally expensive over long distances, something that you can see below.
- 1 lbs (0.45 kg): USD 14.99
- 2 lbs (0.9 kg): USD 28.99
- 3 lbs (1.35): USD 40.99
Thus, your best option is to opt-in for eCommerce websites in-house fulfillment solutions, such as the ones offered by Lazada and Shopee.
With the demand for short shipping lead times and swift returns, plenty of 3PL companies have popped both locally in Vietnam and overseas.
While Lazada encourages its sellers to use Fulfillment-By-Lazada (FBL), which is managed by Timeslogistics in Hong Kong, there are advantages of using a fulfillment center in Vietnam.
First of all, costs are around one third compared to mainland China. And costs in mainland China are still 50% lower, or more, compared to Hong Kong.
Worth mentioning is also that delivery lead times from Vietnam into Southeast Asia are generally shorter.
Below I have included some commonly asked questions and my replies.
How can I import into Vietnam?
To be import products to Vietnam and sell on local eCommerce websites or retail stores, you first need to set up a local trading company. Besides, you have to receive an Investment Certificate and register with the Department of Planning and Investment (DPI). Additional requirements apply depending on products.
How much does it cost to ship to Vietnam?
Shipping 0.5 kg typically costs USD 15, while it costs around USD 30 to ship a kilogram.
What are Vietnam’s main imports?
- Electrical machinery, equipment: 29.5% of total
- Machinery including computers: 10.2%
- Plastics, plastic articles: 5.5%
- Mineral fuels including oil: 4.2%
- Iron, steel: 4%
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: 3.5%