International Personal Shoppers: Connecting Filipino Diasporas
Updated: Jan 18
By Kyra Dalizon
A good number of Filipinos live in different parts of the world. From Asia to Europe, you would encounter Filipino migrants who have decided to settle down in another host country. This can be for work or family reasons, but wherever they may be, you would be able to tell them apart from others. This is because they are so vocal in showing their appreciation for all things Filipino.
However, in the Philippines, the case is quite different. People who have family members living abroad would know that they often receive packages from their migrant worker relatives. These packages will always be full of all things imported. From the most basic essentials such as locally-available skincare products, to others like exclusive cereals distributed to one store in Los Angeles.
Shipping overseas is quite expensive, especially when shopping for small orders. However, the Phillippines has a solution for that!
Overseas Filipino Workers and “Balikbayan” Boxes
The Filipino word Balikbayan comes from the two words balik and bayan. The former means “to return”, while the latter means “town”. Literally put, it means to go back to one’s hometown. As mentioned in my last post, The Future of FinTech in the Philippines, many Filipinos have crossed international waters to start anew in another country. Some have already established their lives there for good, while some are on visa status. Nevertheless, this means that the global diaspora has a strong influence on fellow Filipinos living in the home country. With this, imported products recommended by those overseas are then sent to their loved ones in the country.
Word then spreads about this product, leading to the creation of a new market in the Philippines. Before the digital and internet age, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) would be mailed a wishlist. Then, together with other products, everything would be placed in a large cardboard box to be dispatched to the Philippines. Once this box arrives, everyone at home will gather to pick up their stuff.
Nowadays, with all the booming eCommerce market, it is easier to get a hold of products available abroad that one wants to purchase. However, the shipping fee that comes with purchasing these from international online stores is more than Php 1000. Sometimes, shipping is even more expensive than the item one wishes to buy.
What solution have the ever-resourceful Filipinos come up with for this situation? Right, it’s PasaBuy!
In recent years, “Pasabuy” or Personal Shopper Services have become popular in the Philippines. It comes from the Filipino word “pasa”, meaning to pass, and the English word “buy”. In this form of online trade, popular products from abroad, such as items found in Ikea or Target, that are not present in the Philippines, are being sold by Filipino migrants online. They will collect orders from Filipinos and once one whole box is filled, they ship it to one Philippine address. There, the person who received the package takes care of the local shipping.
This will obviously be cheaper as many orders are being combined into one. Hence, there’s more incentive to purchase from any website abroad, ship it to the seller’s address, and wait for one of their trusted couriers to deliver it.
How do these various collections of items packaged in one box, for different people, reach the buyers? Simple. There is a middleman taking care of everything that will happen locally, from picking up the box or getting it delivered to their homes. Luggage spaces, interestingly, are being sold as well.
Someone from abroad posts on the dedicated Facebook groups that they have extra luggage space. These spaces, in turn, will be room for the items bought by Filipinos at home. This is popular for online purchases, as the buyers can use the seller’s international address where the items will be sent over.
The Business Model: Quality is a Must!
This model shows that big opportunities await international products. Businesses can use this Filipino model that is based on getting an item that is exclusively available in one country. The shipping of these seemingly appealing items is also a part of a larger trend. It proves that Filipinos really like to spend on things that they know would give them value for their money at a lower price point.
Filipinos have always liked buying products that are sourced internationally, as this comes with the notion that it is of higher quality. Nowadays, local products have improved and can function really well, as time and technology have allowed for innovation. This, however, does not change the fact that there are items that are still unavailable locally. This sums up the reason why Filipinos have embraced the idea of a personal shopper.
Why Enter the Market?
My product is already available via personal shoppers/PasaBuy. Why should I enter the Philippine market? The answer is simple. The people who have access to these services are those who are active online. Basically, people who are from middle to upper-class families. Since these services are only available via social networking sites or eCommerce, they are not necessarily available to all Filipinos.
If a business is interested in the country, they must know two important things to appeal to Filipinos. First, products or services should be relatively inexpensive or if they aren’t, they should have superior quality over other brands. Secondly, it should tell a story. What do I mean by this? A gift from your relatives who you have not seen in years would be very meaningful for you. With this, I say that if your product has been purchased by an OFW to be sent to their loved ones in the Philippines, then it would be a good storyline to start with. Filipinos appreciate their families the most.
Aside from familial memories, social media also plays a big role in this success. As influencers would promote items, their fans or people who felt interested in the product would then look for it online. This mostly happens for beauty and home essentials.
With a local market that’s very welcoming to products from abroad, the Philippines is definitely a go-to for new entries and openings. The country’s fascination for imported items is greatly influenced by the many Filipinos living abroad, as their opinions and recommendations really matter to their families and friends. Aside from a booming FinTech industry, eCommerce and Social Media are also booming in the Philippines, and there are great new ways to pursue digital marketing. With this, any product can then be transported to the Philippines in the hopes of opening up a new way of intercultural relations.
Kyra Dalizon is an intern at M74 from the Philippines. She studies Management and Politics at Ateneo de Manila University. Her interests include marketing, financial technology, and Southeast Asia’s socioeconomic development.
The views expressed above are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the M74 Group, which remains neutral on all matters. Publishers assume no liability for content.