Southeast Asia is seeing a fast-paced growth and digital penetration in its e-commerce market, and Malaysia steadily proves to be one of its key players. Though the national language of the country is Malay, Malaysians predominantly speak English as an active second language, and more of its residents are becoming proficient with the use of digital technologies and social media platforms. Brands and businesses are looking for ways to grow via the internet and the trends foresee that digital channels are set to create the biggest performance-based impact.

Quick Facts

Malaysia is urbanised and currently has one of the highest internet penetration rates in the region. A Malaysian on average spends nearly 8 hours on the internet and 3 hours on social media. Currently, it has one of the highest levels of mobile online shopping penetration among the ASEAN countries with a 58% penetration rate. Four-fifths of Malaysia’s 32.16 million population is now online, where 78% are active social media users. This ranks Malaysia 27th globally with a 79% Internet penetration rate, one of the highest in Southeast Asia.1

Future of Digital Malaysia

Malaysia has a promising future for the e-commerce market with a total value of B2C consumption worth an estimated US$4 billion. The country contributes 67% towards online shopping, which is one of the key factors behind Malaysia’s thriving retail e-commerce market, allowing the country to stand just behind Singapore. There is a 100% growth in e-commerce every year, which boasts 15.3 million shoppers. Each category in e-commerce has seen significant growth year by year. On average, 18% growth is observed in beauty and fashion, 13% shopping hikes in electronics, and nearly 29% increase in food and personal care sectors. The online shoppers are actively engaged on these sites and therefore good clickthrough rates (CTR) are experienced on display ads, banner ads, and campaigns present on such e-commerce platforms.2

Despite the advancement of the retail e-commerce sector in the country, digital marketing is still relatively new in Malaysia. However, the country is gradually aware of the significance that digital marketing holds. If these two aspects are blended, then the gap is finally bridged. The lifestyle and income level of the country increases, creating good opportunities and attracting more business appetites. 

Digital Behaviour in Malaysia

Next to e-commerce, the banking sector also has a wide digital penetration in the Malaysian market. 45% of transactions are bank transfers: 25% on credit cards, 6% using e-wallets, 12% via cash, and 9% through other means.3 Hence, having banner ads on financial apps increases the online visibility of businesses and spreads awareness. Apart from the e-commerce and banking sector, 97% of Malaysians use social media and chat apps for leisure and entertainment. 98% of Malaysians enjoy watching videos online, which indicates plenty of video content consumption. Amongst the total population, 55% watch vlogs, 70% listen to online music services, 56% listen to radio stations, and 35% watch podcasts.4

Social Media Occupancy

With 93% of Malaysians watching videos, Malaysia has a video-dominant economy and sees YouTube taking first place in the Malaysian digital market. WhatsApp takes the 2nd place as 91% of the users are continuously engaged with posts, templates, GIFs, and consume video content too. Out of 23 million active social media users, 22 million use Facebook and 12 million use Instagram.5 Ad campaigns, pay-per-click (PPC), and video promotions have a wider reach as Malaysians usually browse on apps and have a higher chance of viewing those advertisements. Facebook plays a similar role to LinkedIn in building active business networks, following competitors, and also sourcing for potential candidates to fill job vacancies. Instagram is the 3rd most used social media channel in Malaysia. There are 12 million users in Malaysia that can be reached with advertisements on Instagram. 49% of those are users aged 13 and above. 53% of the users are females while 47% are males.6

The uniqueness of the social media users in Malaysia is that each user on average uses 4 social media apps to browse, compare, and access data. Hence, cross-linking is an essential digital marketing strategy to reach and gain a larger following. Social media users are predominantly from the age group of 25 to 34 year-olds, followed by 18 to 24 year-olds, and 35 to 44 year-olds. It is also important to note that 96% of Malaysian adults use mobile phones.7 In addition, mobile phones are used significantly more to visit social media sites compared to using computers. This has allowed Malaysia to emerge as the 4th country with the highest mobile social media penetration globally and the first in Southeast Asia. Therefore, marketers must ensure that mobile-friendly strategies are developed. 

In the Malaysian market, adults use social media platforms to gain information pertaining to brands, companies, products, or services. Social media advertising has taken up more than 30% of the total Internet advertising revenue in Malaysia. Also, 58% of consumers purchase goods or services after watching branded social videos from their mobile phones.

The usage of apps has accumulated a 68% penetration rate with approximately 21 million users.8 The most used chat apps are Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Line. WhatsApp takes the spot as the most popular messaging app worldwide followed by Facebook Messenger and Viber.

Other Online Spaces

Content marketing is an exciting digital opportunity for all marketers as an estimated one-third of the total media budgets in Malaysia goes to digital advertising. This means that social media platforms would be a highly important avenue to maximise this opportunity. In line with this, digital marketing strategies should revolve around creating brand awareness. Currently, 83% of Malaysians connect to the Internet every single day. This suggests that as connectivity in Malaysia steadily expands, so will the opportunity for consumers to browse digital content.

The most used search engine to buy any product or service is Google or Yahoo which holds 98.39% and 0.78% usability, respectively.9 Therefore, marketing on these search engines to run PPC ads, banner or display ads not only gives good CTRs and potential leads but also helps to spread brand awareness with greater ease.

Competitive Digital Marketing Practices

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI helps to read user behaviour and app usage. This enables us to understand the know-how of the customer, his or her digital likes, dislikes, etc. Therefore, mobile marketing is one of the most focused digital marketing practices as healthy marketing strategies that draw buyers’ attention through AI can be developed. This is apparent in how the country is shifting towards a more AI-centered approach to marketing. There are 61% of Malaysians who believe that new technologies offer more opportunities than risks and 60% prefer to complete tasks digitally whenever possible.10 In line with these statistics, delving into the world of AI will be a smart move for marketing companies to further penetrate the country’s digital market.

Voice Search

Marketers must learn to weave and implement the latest technological advancements into their marketing strategies. For instance, incorporating voice search in marketing campaigns may give advertisers the boost that they need to open up more opportunities today and for the subsequent years ahead. Adapting to this trend as soon as possible could mean engaging new consumers as well as existing ones.

The future of the competitive digital Malaysian market is occupied with online videos and YouTube streaming, followed by Whatsapp, Facebook, and Instagram. The latest listening tools and competitive strategies must be developed to stay at the top and survive in the Malaysian market. Creative and exclusive content are read and shared. Additionally, display ads on most used search engines like Google and Yahoo are accessed and extensive CTRs are obtained in the country. Besides these, chatbots, AI, Voice Searches, etc. are trendy digital assets and help in catering insightful data.


  1. Simon Kemp (18 February 2020). Digital 2020: Malaysia. Retrieved from
  2. Simon Kemp (18 February 2020). Digital 2020: Malaysia. Retrieved from
  3. Simon Kemp (18 February 2020). Digital 2020: Malaysia. Retrieved from
  4. Simon Kemp (18 February 2020). Digital 2020: Malaysia. Retrieved from
  5. Simon Kemp (18 February 2020). Digital 2020: Malaysia. Retrieved from
  6. The Marketing Samurai (8 May 2019): Digital Marketing in Malaysia 2019. Retrieved from
  7. The Marketing Samurai (8 May 2019): Digital Marketing in Malaysia 2019. Retrieved from
  8. The Marketing Samurai (8 May 2019): Digital Marketing in Malaysia 2019. Retrieved from
  9. (2020). Malaysia Digital Marketing Statistics 2020. Retrieved from
  10. The Marketing Samurai (8 May 2019): Digital Marketing in Malaysia 2019. Retrieved from