The market for price comparison sites is just beginning to take shape in Asia, as compared to the UK and many parts of Europe, where such online portals have been prominent for a long time. Back in 2012, sites that allow users to compare prices across several e-commerce sites started gaining popularity in many parts of Asia. There have been travel aggregators that carved a special niche among consumers who are constantly looking for information on the best flight and accommodation deals.
More recently, comparison sites for financial products like loans, insurance, credit cards, and even broadband and mobile plans have started to take the region by storm, offering customers a wider range of choices and better opportunities to save by comparing financial products based on pricing, interest rates, and other differentiating factors.
There is high potential in the comparison site business in Asia and this is upported by the increasing number of players in the market. Internet giants like Rocket Internet and Alibaba are definitely participating with Pricepanda and eTao, respectively. There has definitely been a growth in Asian demand for price comparison sites in recent years. This phenomenon can be attributed to a growing middle class, members of which seek the best value for their money.
Rising Internet Usage in the Region
Another reason why price comparison sites keep growing bigger in Asia is a high internet penetration rate. Retailers and service providers are aware of this, which is why they display greater willingness to partner with comparison sites in providing users with product information and pricing, as well as discounts and special offers to come out on top amongst competitors.
There is obviously great demand for comparison sites since users are much more engaged online nowadays. The sense of urgency to get information when shopping for products is more present than ever. When people are holding their smartphones or browsing the web, they search for things they need immediately. For instance, people are looking for the cheapest finds in the mall. What people tend to do is to look for it on the internet and look for reviews.
About 50% of internet users in the world are in Asia, according to June 2012 statistics. About 18 countries in the region had over 100% mobile penetration and two—Hong Kong and Macau—register penetration levels of above 200%, mainly due to the presence of more than one mobil device in households. India and China together make up 60% of the mobile market share. By mid-2012, overall regional penetration has reached 76%. Although there are some countries that could face challenges in terms of getting online access, it clearly shows that Asia is in the frontier of internet usage and telecommunications.
With hundreds of e-commerce sites online, aggregators are making it more convenient for online shoppers to find products they are looking for and get bigger savings in the process. Trends show there are likely to be more comparison portals emerging in Asia in the coming months.
Asia’s Financial Comparison Sites
People today have a better understanding and value of money, thanks to the accessibility of internet. Thus, financial comparison sites are slowly becoming more of a need than a want to Asian users. Granted, conservative cultures in the region might be preventing some people to buy insurance or apply for loans online, and a lot would rely on the people overcoming their hesitations.
An important player in the financial comparison industry is Compare Asia Group, which has launched financial comparison websites in a few Southeast Asian market and in Hong Kong where they built Money Hero.
The Future of Asian Financial Comparison Sites
Will financial comparison sites become as popular in Asia as they are in the West? There is the undisputable fact that Asian online users are getting more Internet savvy. In fact, they rely more than ever on the Internet as a trusted source of information – even for anything related to financial products. For now, a rosy future is ahead for financial comparison websites in the region.
With a very well-connected Asian population, price comparison sites are not only bound to succeed, but can even possibly become a habit-forming tool for consumers—as is already the norm in other countries. Startup founders and venture capitalists are definitely seeing this potential.
The question is how would one comparison site set itself apart from others? Or perhaps, a bigger question would be: would the market be huge enough for several comparison sites?
If these compare sites want to win the market, they definitely need to first focus on providing users with accurate data and increase the number of providers or merchants represented in their database. It is also essential that they pay attention to the user-experience they provide on their websites.
The article is contributed by MoneyHero, a financial comparison website in Hong Kong.
(Image by Alex Masters)