Despite Covid-19, Vietnam sees no online shopping surge

By Vien Thong   March 22, 2020 | 06:23 pm PT
Despite Covid-19, Vietnam sees no online shopping surge
A person shops online using a laptop. Photo by Shutterstock/LDprod.
Vietnam’s e-commerce sector has not yet reaped reverse gains of the Covid-19 pandemic, with industry insiders saying business has actually dropped.

Tran Tuan Anh, managing director of Vietnam's Shopee e-commerce site, said that they have not discerned any pandemic-driven surge in online shopping.

Industry leaders had earlier forecast a boom with consumers practicing social distancing and limiting outside travel and human contact.

Web visits of e-commerce sites in Vietnam, including Shopee, Tiki, Lazada and Sendo, have in fact recorded a 14 percent year-on-year drop in the first two months, according to analytics website Similarweb.

After decreasing by 30-50 percent compared to early January, the demand for many products is yet to show signs of recovery. Fashion and goods directly related to tourism (travel vouchers, luggage, swimwear and others) have been negatively affected, while that of electronics and cosmetics showed no growth, the iPrice representative noted.

Nguyen Ngoc Dung, vice president of Vietnam E-commerce Association (VECOM), said that while online shopping can be popular among consumers during the epidemic, shoppers were likely to focus on purchasing essential items instead of driving growth for the whole industry.

In general, the economy's overall purchasing power is declining, resulting in decreasing sales of many groups of products as consumers tighten their belts.

Late Tuesday morning, a Tiki representative confirmed that among the most sought items on the site were face masks, wet wipes and air purifiers. The site recorded 4,000-5,000 customer orders per minute for products in this group. Tiki recorded a 15 percent surge in online demand for such items compared to the last two months of 2019.

According to iPrice, online demand for certain consumer staples and medical supplies soared. Demand for face masks and hand sanitizer increased 600 and 100 times, respectively.

Nguyen Tran Bich Ngoc, founder and CEO of EComEasy (ECE), a company specializing in providing services to sellers on e-commerce platforms, said: "At least two people in each household will go online to read more about the outbreak before searching to buy face mask with a reasonable price. Therefore, e-commerce sites are focusing on promoting these items to attract these new customers."

Vietnam’s e-commerce market is projected to grow to VND399.5 trillion ($17.3 billion) in 2023 from VND218.3 trillion ($9.4 billion) last year, according to GlobalData.

Nearly 30 percent of Vietnam’s population shopped online between 2016 and 2020, with yearly sales being around $350 per person.

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