A Thai friend of mine have a small humble shop located in a relatively rural area that sells mostly beauty products. Her main method of promotion is utilizing Line and Facebook to do the posting. She did a lot of her promotion using Line to post to her contacts.
When I asked her if she has considered building a website of her own, her answer was that in Thailand, Facebook, Line and YouTube are more popular. Websites and blogs are not. However, from my observation, her business does not reach the full potential that it could be. While promoting via Line is generating customers, she had to continue doing it all the time and the sales that comes in does not justify the effort that she put in.
Majority of small businesses would focus on using Facebook and Line to promote their business. Those that wish to go further would invest in equipment to shoot YouTube videos.
Now I realize why whenever I wish to find out more about a company in Thailand, it would not be surprising that the company does not have an official website. But they would provide a Line id or Facebook page which they considered as their ‘official site’. Even if they do have an official site on self hosted domain name, it would either be in fully Thai language, and exists to push online sales or it is just a front with very minimal information but links that would point to a more active social media platform.
Even international brands that set up branches in Thailand would not seemed to have web presence in the country. I have seen international brands piggybacking under another official site. For example, Crocs, a popular shoe brand does not have any official site in Thailand. If you search on Crocs in Thailand, the first site that appears is supersports.co.th (non https site) and the website also carry brands of other products. The only active web presence would be their Crocs Thailand Facebook page and Instagram.
The language used in most of these sites are in Thai, often with no accompanying English translations. The posters under photos are available predominantly in Thai language only. It would really make it difficult for foreigners to find their outlets and understand their offers and promotions.
In a previous article, I’ve emphasized why having only a Facebook page is not enough. You are hosting your content on a platform that you have very little say in the structure, arrangements and page recommendation. Old contents get buried by new content. Now suppose you have this awesome ‘evergreen’ product – how would you continue to promote the product when a series of new updates would ended up burying the post? Are you going to bore some segments of your customers by reposting about the product again and again?
With a website structure, you can have your most popular product to appear in a prominent section, never to be buried under new updates. That is the flexibility that a website can offer.
Does social media replace the need for websites and blogs in Thailand?
It looks that social media is the preferred method where it is most active in Thailand. Perhaps if you are targeting the local market, you may want to do what the locals are doing.
If you wish to target an international audience, an official website in English is essential because while it is not a trend in Thailand, web presence is important for overseas customers.
Do consider a one time investment to have a proper site set up in English and Thai language. When you have a proper website, you stand up against all the other businesses’ site that looked the same basically on the Facebook or Instagram platform.
Even if you are not located in a non tourist area, but so long as you have interest to extend to tourists, having even a simple site build with options for good English translation would make a huge difference. It enables your site to be linked in Google Maps and social media accounts of your customers who are recommending your business. Nothing improves credibility and form a good first impression other than having your very own official site.
In the case of my friend who has a frontend store and online business (she sells online via Line and Shopee), if she creates a website and write about the product that she sells in English, she would attract English speaking customers both staying in Thailand and from overseas.
In conclusion, I feel that small businesses in Thailand are limiting themselves through over reliance on social media which has its own set of limitations. Their promotion and content gets easily buried under new updates.
On the other hand, international brands that set up branches and stores in Thailand are following too much into the local trend. With this, they are neglecting a profitable segment of customers….ie foreigners who are travelling or living in Thailand who are trying to search for their outlets or product offerings. It is not easy to find their location.