Malaysians are becoming more comfortable making purchases online, with airline and hotel bookings leading the way, according to the latest Nielsen Global Survey.

While locals still lag behind their counterparts in the Philippines and Singapore, emerging e-commerce capabilities such as grocery list apps and tolls and discount alert apps are beginning to gain traction, the survey found.

“The categories which rank most favourably for online shopping have shifted substantially in the past two years; in 2012 categories such as a computer and gaming software, mobile phones and clothing and accessories ranked among the most frequently purchased items online,” Nielsen said in a statement today.

Interestingly, the survey found that more than six in 10 Malaysian consumers plan to go online to purchase flight tickets (67% and third highest globally) and make hotel and tour reservation (62% and second highest globally) within the next six months.

The survey also found that 58% of Malaysian consumers would go online to purchase event tickets such as movie, performance and exhibition (third highest globally).

“The results really disperses any misconception that Malaysians are not open to online shopping and in fact, there is great opportunity for all types of companies, across a wide range of sectors and industries to tap onto virtual shopping.” said Jon-Paul Best, financial services head for Nielsen Malaysia.

“Increasingly, having an online shopping functionality is becoming the norm, rather than the exception and it is only going to be more widespread.”

He added that over six in 10 Malaysians says they would often read online review prior to purchasing a product (68%) as well as taking a look at the products online before purchasing them in store (64%).

A regional comparison showed that Filipinos, Vietnamese and Singaporeans are most inclined to purchase items online, compared to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand – where consumers are more likely to go online to browse.

When it comes to devices most frequently used to shop online, although PCs dominate in the majority of Southeast Asia markets, use of mobile phones for online shopping is also growing in popularity across the region, the survey found.

The Philippines (62%), Indonesia (61%), Vietnam (58%) and Thailand (58%) rank in the top 10 markets globally for use of a mobile phone to shop online followed by Singapore (48%) and Malaysia (47%).

“The increasing penetration of smartphones is probably a key contributor to the growth of online shopping, allowing consumers to shop spontaneously as at their own convenience, without the constraint of needing PC access.” said Best.

However, credit card security remains a key concern across the region with five of the six Southeast Asia markets ranking above the global average with respect to their concern around providing credit card information online, he noted.

“Despite online shopping being available for several years, the results also revealed an on-going need for companies to constantly review their security protocols. More importantly, ensure they effectively communicate their site’s reliability and security to consumers.” noted Best.

“These security fears may be one of the key reasons why Malaysian consumers are more prone to conducting product research online and then purchasing them in-store.”

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