Why mall-loving Filipinos don't buy much online

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 10 2017 03:57 PM | Updated as of Aug 10 2017 05:07 PM

MANILA - Slow internet and traffic congestion are preventing online shopping from taking off in the Philippines, retailers said Thursday, as they moved to shift consumption to digital from brick-and-mortar stores.

Online retail accounts for only 1 to 2 percent of industry-wide sales, with mall culture still "deeply rooted" among Filipinos, said Philippine Retailers Association president Paul Santos.

Crawling connections discourage consumers from buying online while traffic jams are a constant challenge when delivering goods, Rustans Supercenters CEO Irwin Lee said.

"We have a lot of people (here) with mobile phones, internet speed is quite low. You want to do online shopping but you lose the signal or WiFi does not carry through," Lee told ABS-CBN News.

Shopping malls are the "de facto public" space in the country, especially in urban areas, Santos said.

Physical stores, however, won't disappear soon as developers merge residential and office spaces with retail shops, Santos said.

"Developers are integrating shopping centers even more deeply in your life," he said.

Lee said retailers should upgrade physical stores with technology that will create new retail experiences to bridge the gap between physical and online shopping.

He cited Alibaba's Hema supermarket in China, where shoppers can learn more about products by scanning bar codes with their mobile phones.

"You want to be where the shopper is. If the shopper wants an online experience then we have to go there," Lee said.