The COVID-19 pandemic has made ecommerce an even more entrenched part of how we shop, buy and access products for daily needs. This effect is felt most in fast-growing ecommerce markets that were already experiencing large-scale shifts in consumer behaviors. Companies that understand how consumer behaviors and expectations have changed will be best positioned to drive growth and capture market share.
How COVID-19 Has Impacted the 10 Fastest-Growing eCommerce Markets and What Your Business Should Do About It
Before the pandemic, Mexico accounted for almost 30% of all retail ecommerce sales in Latin America, according to eMarketer. Data for April 2020 shows year-on-year growth of more than 40% in online orders(1).
- Almost 40% of Mexicans have no bank account(2) and a shift to ecommerce may see cash give way to digital payments, to suit unbanked consumers. Companies that meet this need will capture market share and loyalty.
- Mexico could also benefit from near-shoring supply chains to counter fears of supply disruptions from another global pandemic(3). If manufacturing happens near end markets, Mexico could produce more for the US, driving class mobility and ecommerce growth.
- In Mexico, businesses need to explore local payment methods that allow customers without bank accounts to make digital payments for online purchases, while also offering cash voucher payment methods to meet near-term consumer preferences.
Currently, online shopping represents a sliver of retail sales in India, but J.P.Morgan believes the nation’s ecommerce market could hold great promise for cross-border merchants(4).
- Digital revenue for home and leisure has risen by 200% since January this year across websites and apps for brands that mainly trade in physical stores.(1)
- In the same period, pure-play ecommerce players have seen revenue for home and leisure drop by 55%, suggesting that in the short term, consumers prefer stores they have visited physically beforehand.(1):
- Direct-to-consumer and pure-play ecommerce businesses need to localize every aspect of the shopping experience and develop familiarity with the Indian audience to compete with known and trusted brands.
eCommerce is growing in the Philippines thanks to an emerging middle class, a tech-savvy young population, and high consumer spending. Lazada, Shoppee, eBay and Kimstore have all carved out market share in the country.
- Shoppers in the Philippines make more purchases in November, December, March, April and May, the common months for employees to get bonuses(5). April’s sales data suggests this trend has survived the impacts of the pandemic.
- Revenue and orders for pure-play ecommerce grew by 37% and 20% respectively, when April 2019 and April 2020 are compared(1).
- Q3 is when many shoppers will feel the impact of reduced cash flow, meaning businesses may need to offer discounting and promotional campaigns to earn the business of households with vastly tightened budgets.
In China, retail ecommerce was sluggish in 2019, with a forecasted 3.5% growth in sales to $5.9 trillion(6). COVID-19 has applied a handbrake to this growth in the short term. But dominant players such as Alibaba and JD.com put the Chinese ecommerce market in a good place to dust itself off once the economy picks up.
- Initial COVID-19 Commerce Insight data shows a 68% year-on-year drop in pure ecommerce revenues between April 2019 and April 2020(1).
- Companies in China may need an omnichannel strategy, to digitize sales to consumers. China’s popular domestic makeup producer, Perfect Diary, used thousands of WeChat groups to help offline makeup experts move their knowledge online(7).
Malaysia has a GDP of $355 billion and it’s a competitive Asian market, with burgeoning industries in science, medical tourism, and commerce.
- According to US government estimates, Malaysia has 16.5 million online shoppers (50% of the population), with 62% of mobile owners using devices to shop online(8).
- A survey from ecommerce shipping company Janio has revealed that Malaysians have cut household expenditure and focused on purchasing essentials since the government announced a movement control order in response to COVID-19(9).
- With Malaysia’s ecommerce market reliant on Chinese products, merchants may need to explore new supply chain options to ensure they can make the most of ecommerce’s place as an ‘essential service’ before and beyond the pandemic.
Canada’s ecommerce market has evolved in recent years after a slow start, to more closely resemble the United States.
- Retail ecommerce accounted for a tenth of all retail sales in Canada in 2019, amounting to almost $50 billion(10), driven by direct-to-consumer companies swiftly attempting to whittle away Amazon’s dominance among local online shoppers.
- Direct-to-consumer companies in Canada must ramp up efforts to compete with entrenched players like Amazon through better user experiences and frictionless payments.
Indonesia’s ecommerce industry has been thriving in recent years, with local wholesalers such as Zalora, Tokopedia, and Blibli popular in the island nation of more than 260 million people. Almost half of Indonesia’s population is under 30 and, unsurprisingly, mcommerce accounts for more than half of the eCommerce market’s value of $13.6 billion.
- In 2019, travel accounted for almost 60% of the region’s ecommerce value, with fashion and clothing accounting for close to 15%(11).
- Early COVID-19 Commerce Insight data suggests Indonesians have cut spending on fashion and clothing by 37% year-on-year between April 2019 and April 2020(1).
- However, AppsFlyer data showed downloads of food and beverage delivery apps, like GrabMart and GoJek, rose 23% from January to early March. These services may need to recruit additional drivers if demand continues to rise.
Data from the Argentine Chamber of Electronic Commerce (CACE) showed a 76% growth in eCommerce turnover in the South American nation in 2019(12).
- eCommerce billings were more than $400 million that year and almost 80% of those sales were made through a credit card.
- A Kantar survey carried out in March 2020 shows Argentinian shoppers changed habits quickly, with 87% planning to buy more household cleaning and personal hygiene items, and 44% planning to buy more items online to prevent store visits during the pandemic(13).
- Retailers should offer buy-now, pay-later payment methods, which can expect to see an uptick in transactions for consumers who need to access essentials and who have seen their paychecks and income streams disrupted.
Russia’s retail ecommerce sales have grown by 20% or more annually for almost a decade, according to market research company yStats.com(14).
- Russian Association of Internet Trade Companies data shows foreign ecommerce websites accounted for 36% of all online purchases by Russians in 2017(15). Both Amazon and Alibaba are active in the country.
- Since COVID-19 emerged globally, local Russian ecommerce giants like Ozon have reported panic buying of fridges, home essentials, crafts and hobbies, and pharmaceutical goods like painkillers(16).
- Brick and mortar stores in Russia will need to diversify alternative payment methods after the country’s consumer watchdog urged people to avoid cash payments.
10. South Korea
As a developed country and one of Asia’s powerhouse economies, South Korea has a mature ecommerce industry. It is driven by high internet penetration rates and South Koreans’ preference for arranging travel online and purchasing electronics and fashion.
- South Korea has the highest ecommerce penetration across the APAC region, with 72% of the population shopping online(17).
- Early COVID-19 Commerce Insight data points to a severe dip in digital revenue for both pure-play eCommerce platforms (down 37%) and traditional retailers (down 61%) (1).
- Yet Coupang, the country’s largest online retailer, reported a climb in daily deliveries to three million in February, from a daily two million in late 2019(18). eCommerce companies in South Korea will need to manage logistics and delivery costs, as shoppers move common purchases online.
How to act on eCommerce Payment Trends
Consumers’ payment preferences are changing during the pandemic too, with an anticipated increase in cashless purchasing in stores and online, according to analysis from Research and Markets(19).
Globally, the coronavirus’s short-term impact on ecommerce has been profound. Pure-play ecommerce platforms and traditional retail players are seeing a rebalancing of the market, in which those with the most sophisticated purchasing, shipping, payments and logistics capabilities are reaping the benefits.
For merchants, growth and survival rely on the ability to meet consumers’ transforming purchasing and paying preferences. As consumers flock to online ways of running their lives, a clear omnichannel presence will help businesses navigate the flight from in-store visits.
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15- Russian Association of Internet Trade Companies