More Vietnamese opt to shop online

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Technical, mental barriers still inhibit e-commerce in Vietnam, experts say

A shopper ponders items on an online shopping website. A research by Visa found 98 percent of respondents in Vietnam have browsed online for products and services in the past 12 months.

Her eyes have been glued to the laptop screen for than an hour.

Nguyen Thu Huong, administrative clerk for a cosmetic firm in Hanoi, is trying to buy warm coats for her children.

"I don't have time for direct trade. So, online shopping is often my choice," said 36-year-old Huong. "With just a few clicks on trading websites, I can buy everything, from electric home appliances, to clothes and food."

Huong said online purchasing has become a trend in her company. After their lunch, Huong and some female colleagues often cluster round a laptop for online shopping. Main purchases are clothes, cosmetic products and home appliances.

According to the Visa e-Commerce Consumer Monitor Research 2012 report, Vietnamese are rapidly embracing online shopping. The trend can be attributed both to heavy use of the internet as also growing confidence in online security, it says.

Other surveys have shown that Vietnam's Internet usage is roughly on par with the global average, with 67 percent of users going online daily. This has helped create a suitable environment for e-commerce to grow. Visa's research found 98 percent of respondents in Vietnam have browsed online for products and services in the past 12 months and 71 percent of them actually made online purchases within this period. Some 90 percent of respondents said they will continue to shop online in the future.

Areas that have witnessed a boom in e-commerce include the health and wellness sector, which has seen online payments surge from 4 percent to 11 percent over the past twelve months. Other growth areas include baby care products, fashion and household electronics.

Tran The Hiep, business manager of a company, which trades branded home appliances products like Ikea in Vietnam, said: "Amid the economic slowdown, online trade may be a good business solution for many companies. They can offer customers products at lower costs because they don't have to rent shops and pay electricity bills."

Many companies involved in online trading have boomed over the past few years, he said. According to a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Trade, 60 percent of 3,400 traders in various industries have applied e-commerce transactions.

In fact, recognizing the opportunities of earning money from online trading, many people including students have opened their own websites.

With a capital of VND10 million (US$476), Bui Thanh Xuan opened a fashion shop on the Internet. The shop brings her a profit of VND10-15 million every month.

In her small shop in a zigzag alley in Hanoi, customers cannot see any mannequins or shelves, just an Internet-accessing laptop and a mobile phone that actively serve her business.

Xuan said she recognized that online trade could bring her income after she surfed the Internet once to buy some products. She ended up choosing fashion products for her business. Customers are mainly female staff who are fond of shopping and can frequently access the Internet.

An expert said Vietnam's e-commerce, despite seeing impressive development over the past few years, still faces many barriers, including a less confident business environment. 

"Many customers do not believe much in online shopping. They feel that their rights will not be fully protected or that their personal information could be compromised," said Nguyen Thanh Hung, vice chairman of the Vietnam E-commerce Association.

Although online payment has become easier due to stronger cooperation between websites and banks, they are still not the norm in Vietnam. Most firms collect payment on delivery.

E-commerce will develop more strongly only several existing barriers, technical and mental, are removed, Hung said.

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