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Exporting to Vietnam: your in-depth guide

Quang Luu
Quang Luu
7 min read
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Since the mid-1980s – when an economic reform program was set in motion – Vietnam has experienced an unbroken run of economic growth. In fact, it was one of the few countries to experience double-digit sales growth in 2020, despite the global pandemic1.

The country’s rising middle class combined with a rapidly developing e-commerce market is presenting lucrative opportunities for online businesses. All you need is an international shipping partner and some local insights and you’ll be in a great position to cash in! Read on as we explore the market trends and customs knowledge you should know to export to Vietnam.

99.1 million people

Nearly 100 million people call Vietnam home(2), and half are below the age of 32 years(3). These digitally-savvy consumers are driving the country’s move towards e-commerce.

Southeast Asia’s one to watch

Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing internet economies within the region(4). An expanding middle class – set to reach 17 million households by 2030(5) – and widespread smartphone adoption is creating ripe conditions for robust e-commerce growth.

25% market growth

In 2022, e-commerce revenue in Vietnam grew by 20% Year-Over-Year; this is expected to reach 25% in 2023(6). Vietnamese consumers are largely motivated to shop online by promotions and lower prices than in store(7).

DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM: CONSUMER TRENDS

Where do consumers in Vietnam shop online?

Online marketplaces are a helpful gateway for foreign businesses wishing to enter a new market for the first time. Shopee, which has a huge presence in Southeast Asia, allows cross-border sellers to list and sell products directly to customers in countries where it operates.

Most popular e-commerce sites in Vietnam in 2022, based on average monthly visits(8)

What are they buying?

Products from these categories will get your business noticed by Vietnamese consumers – providing you can be competitive with your pricing. 

Most popular product categories for online purchases in Vietnam in 2022(9)

The good news for your business? Many of these purchases would have been from foreign brands – in fact, 38% of all e-commerce transactions in Vietnam are cross-border10

 

How do Vietnamese consumers like to pay for their online purchases?

Research shows that online consumers are more likely to abandon their carts if their preferred payment method is not an option at checkout11. Offering local buyers' favored payment method(s) also helps cross-border brands establish trust with shoppers. 

Most popular payment methods for online shopping in Vietnam in 202212

(% of respondents who had paid via that method over a specific time period)

Vietnam’s major shopping events and holidays

Vietnam has several shopping events and holidays throughout the year:

Tết

The biggest event in Vietnam is Tet Nguyen Dan (Vietnamese Lunar New Year). It marks the longest public holiday in the country with up to 10 consecutive work-free days. Tết is usually celebrated in January or February, and is the busiest shopping period in Vietnam. People prepare to buy gifts for their loved ones, and shopping takes place in the weeks before. 

9/9 

A shopping event that takes place on September 9th. It is gaining popularity in Vietnam. 

Singles’ Day, 11th November

Originated in China but has evolved to become the biggest shopping event in the world. 

Online Friday 

A 24-hour discount event in December. 

Vietnam’s customs and import regulations

Customs procedures

Vietnam’s government has recently implemented new processes intended to tighten up tax and import regulations and ensure all liable taxes are being paid, in particular for online purchases.  

Overseas B2B and B2C vendors are now required to pay taxes on sales via the General Department of Taxation (GDT) of Vietnam’s online tax portal

Restricted and prohibited items  

Vietnam has specific regulations regarding the importation of certain goods, such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electronics and agricultural products.  

The list of prohibited imports can be found here: Appendix I Decree No. 69/2018/ND-CP

The Vietnam Government may carry out inspections based on quality, health, culture, quarantine, and food safety prior to Customs clearance. Items subject to these inspections include smart cards, bank tokens, medicines, and cosmetics.  

Import taxes

Vietnam has a complex tax system with various tax types, including import duties, Value-added tax (VAT) and Special consumption tax (SCT). The tax rates and exemptions vary depending on the type of goods, their origin, and other factors.  

Imported duty rates are at 0%, 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, and 25% based on the commodities type of HS code. The majority are 5%.

It is advisable to work with a local legal expert to help you navigate the intricacies of importing into Vietnam. 

Product Description Labels 

Imported goods must have a label or supplementary label detailing key information, such as Name, Origin, Entity responsible for goods, and Expiry date. 

Do I need to clear customs myself? 

The customs process will depend on whether the buyer in Vietnam is an individual or a business account customer. 

For individual buyers, official advice is provided to help guide the buyer through the process of customs clearance services.  

For business account customers, DHL offers customs clearance services. As such, merchants can also introduce the advantages of DHL customs clearance to their customers on their own websites/selling platforms. 

Exporting to Vietnam: Official websites and useful links

For advice on exporting to Vietnam, businesses can visit the official trade service provided by the government of their country or Vietnam-based organizations. Some examples include: 

  • The WTO Center & International Trade: a prominent organization under the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI). Its mission is to provide valuable insights, analysis, and resources related to international trade, World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, and trade policies. Its website offers businesses a wealth of information on trade regulations, market opportunities, trade disputes, and other trade-related topics. Website: https://wtocenter.vn 
  • The Ministry of Industry & Trade (MOIT): a key governmental agency responsible for the development and regulation of Vietnam's industry and trade sectors. It plays a vital role in shaping trade policies, promoting trade facilitation, and fostering a favorable business environment. The MOIT's website offers comprehensive information on trade laws, investment regulations, market research, and trade promotion initiatives, serving as a valuable resource for businesses seeking to engage in trade activities in Vietnam. Website: https://moit.gov.vn/en 
  • Vietnam Customs: the government agency responsible for managing customs procedures and regulations in Vietnam. It oversees the import and export activities, collect customs duties, and ensure compliance with trade-related laws and regulations. The Vietnam Customs website provides essential information on customs procedures, tariff classifications, trade statistics, and other customs-related matters. It serves as a vital resource for businesses seeking to navigate the complexities of customs clearance and import/export requirements in Vietnam. Website: https://www.customs.gov.vn/index.jsp?ngon_ngu=en 
  • Websites of Government Agencies: agencies which control and manage specialized inspections of imported-exported goods (Group 2 commodities): 

Vietnam’s import regulations 

Certain items need approval from the Vietnam Government, for example: 

Goods subject to import tariff quotas

(Source: Article 11 of Circular 12/2018/TT-BCT)

DHL’s expert tips for exporting to Vietnam

  • Price rises are changing the way people shop: Rapidly rising prices in Vietnam are putting pressure on consumer spending habits. Demand for luxury goods, travel, and electronics are likely to fall as a result. 
  • The rise of sustainable and eco-friendly products: There is a growing awareness of environmental issues. Consumers are looking for products that have minimal impact on the environment, such as organic, recyclable, or reusable items. For vendors, this also presents an opportunity to compensate for the increase in costs and decrease in profit margin. 
  • Data privacy concerns: Vietnamese consumers are increasingly concerned about personal information security. This is driven by a fear of fraud and data theft, especially when interacting with digital platforms and social networks. Be clear about your data policy on your e-commerce website to build trust. 
  • Social media shopping: Social media platforms play a crucial role in influencing consumer buying behavior in Vietnam. Facebook is the market leader in Vietnam, followed by Zalo, Instagram, and TikTok. Many businesses leverage these platforms to showcase products, run targeted advertising campaigns, and enable direct purchasing through integrated features like Facebook Shops or Instagram Shopping.

Thinking of exporting to Vietnam?

You’re in the right place! We know that the above guidelines may seem a little overwhelming, but that’s where partnering with DHL will pay off. As international shipping experts, we’ll support you through all customs procedures so that your shipment avoids delays. Sell to the world with DHL!

Start your journey here