Online shopping has become the fastest growing channel in Taiwan, with about 45% of all purchases from the average consumer being web based.

The main factors contributing to this trend are the convenience of shopping from home, and the ever-decreasing shipping fees. Most websites now offer free 24 hour shipping for in-stock items if a purchase is over TWD 99 dollars (US $3.00), on top of competitive web-only promotions to attract casual buyers.

The proliferation of online shopping has not gone unnoticed by more traditional retailers. Major retail chains from hypermarkets to convenient stores have developed their own online platforms and actively promote these channels with web-only sales to attract shoppers.

The convenience of online shopping and fast delivery times has given rise to a buying pattern of spending less, yet often. According to Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute the average customer spends no more than TWD 1,000 (about US $34.00) per purchase and makes 2.5 to 3 purchases per month, totalling TWD 30,000 (US $1,000.00) per annum.

The most popular items purchased online are electronics, appliances and gift cards, however, it’s the food and beverage (F&B) category that has enjoyed the largest growth in online sales over the past 3 years.

This is a major shift in purchasing behaviour for the channel. Traditionally Taiwanese have shown a preference for being able to touch and feel their grocery items before they purchase. Now they are content to rely product shots and reviews from other shoppers to help them make purchasing decisions.

As a result, many manufacturers have employed teams of bloggers and online celebrities to lead product opinions and discussions in popular online forums. For manufacturers, the online platforms represent the latest opportunity to get connected directly with the consumers.

Although the F&B section of the online platform is currently dominated by local products, the demand for import food items has increased significantly. From snacks, desserts and non-perishables to sauces, alcohol, and food ingredients, more shoppers are willing to look online rather than visit their local store.

Another online phenomena that has been rising in popularity is group-purchasing sites, where individual shoppers join forces online to buy the same item in a large quantity in order to get the best available discounts. These group-purchase sites are mostly frequented by students and young professionals who can browse for everything from popular food items to gift cards for leisure activities such as spas, hotels, travel packages and restaurant promotions.

For F&B products targeting a younger demographic, this type of online platform provides one of the quickest and most efficient way of reaching the target audience. In essence, the online shopping channel has become a significant part of the retail environment in Taiwan, with the potential to one day overtake storefront sales. It is a channel worth exploring for any F&B manufacturer interested in exporting to Taiwan.