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Vietnam's booming online society

18/05/2011 - Cimigo has just released NetCitizens, the most comprehensive study about internet usage and behaviour in Vietnam.
It is based on more than 3,300 interviews with internet users from 12 different cities and reveals what Vietnamese people are looking for when they surf the internet. The internet has been a changing force of live all over the world. With a worldwide internet penetration of 29 per cent, about two billion people are currently present in the cyberspace.
In Vietnam the internet is growing fast, much faster than in any other Asian country. Over 26 million Vietnamese have been online in 2010. Vietnam has more internet users as Thailand or Malaysia, countries where the internet has a much longer history. With an internet penetration of 31 per cent, Vietnam is now on the same level as China, Thailand or the Philippines.
There are three activities that Vietnamese people like to do most online - looking for information, entertainment and connecting to other people.
Information gathering has always been the most important online activity. Vietnamese NetCitizens are online nearly every time, reading the news or researching information for work or school. Reading news online is a standard activity across all age groups, however slightly more frequent among older age groups. Most popular websites are Dan Tri, VnExpress, 24h and Tuoi Tre, and it varies by city.
Entertainment is an important part of what Vietnamese people look for in the cyberspace. Entertainment mainly includes listening to and downloading music, watching movies and gaming. 80 per cent of internet users regularly listen to music, and a whopping two in three have downloaded music already. There is a range of Vietnamese websites offering easy access to music, of which the most popular are Zing mp3 and Nhac Cua Tui. These two are also among the top 10 websites accessed in Vietnam. For movies, YouTube is the unchallenged favourite, followed by Zing. All in all. Zing with its various products and services is very much dominating the entertainment space in Vietnam. Only for movies, it is surpassed by YouTube.
All entertainment activities have seen a growth over the past few years, resulting in more and more specialised websites with new entertainment or infotainment related offers and services. Although entertainment is important across age groups, it is clearly more often used by the young.
Social connection is the third area of interest for Vietnamese NetCitizens. Nearly 40 per cent of Vietnamese internet users are a member of a social network and 20 per cent keep their own blog. The main reason for joining a social network is to keep in touch with friends and keep updated about the friend’s lives.
The main providers in this area are Facebook, Yahoo 360 plus and Zing me. Whilst Facebook is the most used social network, blogging is mainly on Yahoo 360 plus. Zing me, the new competitor that opened in 2009, caught up quickly and has already become the second most popular social network after Facebook.
Blogging and social networks are clearly an activity for the young people. Creating one’s own content, such as in blogs or forums, is far more prevalent among the age group 15-24 compared to the older groups. Interestingly, writing blogs is more common among females, while posting in forums is more frequent with males. Forums are more often visited in the north compared to other regions in Vietnam.
Although e-commerce not yet very common in Vietnam, it is clearly the area with the fastest growth and a bright future ahead. Within only three years, the usage of e-commerce sites has nearly doubled. In 2010, every second internet user in Vietnam has already visited sites that offer online shopping, buy and sell activities or auctions. Online shopping activities are mainly common in the north and in big cities, whilst in smaller cities it is not yet frequent. Hanoi is the undisputed leader in e-commerce with 60 per cent of Hanoi NetCitizens using these sites. The most popular e-commerce or shopping websites are, and
A major problem in the area of online shopping is the low confidence in online payment systems. Although Vietnamese would agree that there are a lot of products to buy online, many don’t actually do any online shopping because they do not trust the security in paying online. Only 13 per cent think it is safe to buy products online, while 60 per cent would disagree with this.
In general the Vietnamese people think very positively about the internet. The internet has become one of the major sources for news and information. It is an important tool to connect with friends. It is used as a medium to find out about new products and services and the information on the internet is generally trusted. Potential negative areas, such as social isolation or bad influence of the internet on young people, are not very common in Vietnam. All in all, the internet has changed the lives of the Vietnamese in a positive direction
The marketing professionals of Vietnam need to take note that the communication landscape in Vietnam has totally changed. There are a couple of insights from the Vietnam NetCitizens study that will help to leverage the internet as a new marketing medium.
More and more people are online and in Vietnam they spend a massive amount of time on the internet. The time spent online is time they do not spend using other media, such as TV or print newspapers. The media consumption is changing very fast, and marketers have to adapt to these changing patterns quickly. 
There is a huge, targetable population of consumers online. In Vietnam, 26 million people can be reached on the internet, with a strong growth every year. And these are not just the teenagers, but more and more also their parents and in general the household decision makers, an interesting target audience for marketing activities.
The internet is not just used in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The NetCitizens study shows that also in secondary city, internet penetration lies at around 50 per cent. In urban Vietnam overall, more people are online.
Internet users are hungry for information, entertainment and social connections. They are also increasingly comfortable with making purchases online. People are eager to use the new medium to the full extent, and are ready to spend a lot of time online.
The question to ask ourselves is: Is the business community of Vietnam ready to take advantage of these new opportunities?

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