July 24, 2024


World Business Inquiries

PH e-commerce gains during COVID-19 lockdown

3 min read

MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 global pandemic and the resulting lockdowns to contain the disease, including in the Philippines, so far inflicted a “brutal blow” on the growing “sharing economy,” but benefitted the industry of e-commerce in Asean, Malaysian financial giant Maybank said.

“Lockdowns and quarantines have reduced people mobility, with traffic plunging by as much as 80 percent in Malaysia and the Philippines, and 60 percent in Singapore and Vietnam. Lockdowns have increased online consumer activity, similar to the SARS episode in 2003, which was a turning point for China’s e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com,” Maybank Kim Eng analysts Lee Ju Ye and Chua Hak Bin said in an April 20 report titled “Consumer Behavior During a Pandemic.”

Citing Google’s COVID-19 community mobility reports, usage of retail and recreation facilities such as restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas plunged 82 percent in the Philippines from Feb. 29 to April 11, compared to the baseline period covering Jan. 3 to Feb. 6.

Also, Filipinos frequented groceries and pharmacies less often, as mobility dropped to 60 percent during the same period.

Mobility to workplaces declined 67 percent; via transit stations and public transport hubs such as bus and train stations, down 86 percent; and in parks and beaches, 59 percent.

“Based on data compiled by Google’s COVID-19 community mobile reports, the Philippines and Malaysia—among the first countries to impose lockdowns—are showing the steepest declines in people movements,” Maybank said.

Maybank noted that food delivery services had a low penetration rate in Asean—for instance, only 5.5 percent in the Philippines last year, but “with the ban on dine-in services, more food merchants are signing up with delivery platforms such as GrabFood, Foodpanda and Deliveroo.”

The Philippine government had allowed these food delivery services to continue amid the enhanced community quarantine imposed in Luzon and other parts of the country, which started in mid-March and would end by April 30.

The newfound habit of ordering food online or through mobile apps was expected to spill over to a wider array of goods and services offered on the internet, Maybank said.

“Asean’s e-commerce penetration is relatively low, but will likely rise significantly due to COVID-19. Online sales account for 4 percent in Indonesia and the Philippines, 4.4 percent in Thailand, 4.7 percent in Malaysia and 9 percent in Singapore, based on data from Euromonitor. This is well below the 30-percent rate in South Korea and China, and 13 percent in the US,” it said.

On the flip side, Maybank said that “the ‘sharing economy’ tech players, after enjoying several years of generous venture capital funding, will be the worst hit.”

“Bookings on Airbnb have plunged by over 90 percent in some markets, and online searches for ‘Airbnb,’ ‘Booking.com’ and ‘AirAsia’ have fallen to record lows across Asean. Co-working space is another major casualty, as tenants halt payments and break leases. Ride hailing platforms face a plunge in ridership, but drivers are shifting to other types of work such as food delivery and logistics. Grab and Gojek are burning cash to provide financial support to drivers in order to maintain their fleet for the ensuing recovery,” it noted.

On a lighter note, while most Filipinos stayed at home during the ongoing lockdown, consumers mostly searched for food and entertainment as well as details of the government’s social amelioration program on Google.

From March 18 to April 16, the top Google searches in the Philippines included “Dalgona coffee,” “SAC (social amelioration card) form,” “Dalgona Milo,” “Netflix mobile plan,” “Vindale research” (paid surveys at home), “grocery store,” “Goldilocks Bakeshop,” “Minecraft,” and “recipe,” Maybank noted.

Searches for “masks” and “thermometers” also climbed across Asean since the pandemic started during the last week of January.


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