, Singapore

Singapore's e-commerce in the time of Corona

Online platforms revealed how they have coped with and responded to the pandemic.

Following weaker retail sales in 2019, which recorded the first annual contraction since the post-Global Financial Crisis, Singapore’s retailers suddenly had to face the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic. As less tourists arrived in the city due to border lockdowns across the globe, sales of discretionary items crashed. This caused retail sales to drop further by 8.6% in February, according to data from the city’s Department of Statistics.

Not all retailers in the city were sent reeling by this, however. In particular, the social distancing measures have compelled buyers to turn to online shopping instead, and some stores have grabbed the opportunity to sell their products on the web to sail through the current headwinds.

Retail Asia reached out to e-commerce platforms Deliveroo and Shopee to discuss how their operations and their merchants have been getting by, as well as the initiatives they have rolled out to clinch more customers, support partners stores, and protect the safety of their staff.

Exclusive statement from a spokesperson:

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your company’s operations and what has been the immediate effect on your business from a revenue and cost standpoint?
In February, March and April, Deliveroo saw an average of 20% increase in orders compared to the weeks before. However, as there are other ongoing marketing campaigns, the COVID-19 situation may not be the sole factor contributing to the increase in orders.

We have seen over 700 new restaurants join the platform since late January, allowing more restaurants to be able to extend their sales through delivery. Since 1 March, there has been a 50% jump in the number of restaurant sign-ups, compared to the previous month.

What changes have you had to make with regards to staffing numbers and working arrangements?
Deliveroo saw an 80% increase in rider applications in the past month (w/c is 16 March) compared to a normal week. We are always prepared for delivery demands thanks to our rider supply team. The team uses data analytics to match supply and demand, ensuring that we have the right number of riders on the road in the right place at any one time.

Many private firms, including restaurants, have also increased measures like registration and requiring temperature-taking of all visitors and delivery personnel to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Riders are also able to make orders contact-less by letting customers know through the app before they arrive. If a rider does feel an area is high risk, and they wish to not to deliver, they can request to cancel any booked deliveries without penalty. We’ve also recommended them to not complete deliveries should they feel unwell.

Could you share with us your future plans amidst this pandemic?
We’re using our delivery-only expertise to help guide restaurants as they make the transition from dine-in to delivery-only outlets. We have developed bespoke online marketing tools for restaurants to let customers know they have delivery services, established teams of people across the business to onboard and support restaurants who want to be able to deliver and developed our app to introduce ‘contact-free delivery’.

Shopee: Junjie Zhou, chief commercial officer

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your company’s operations? What changes have you had to make with regards to staffing numbers and working arrangements?
The safety and well-being of our employees is our utmost priority. Shopee has taken—and will continue to take—all necessary precautionary measures, following the advice of public health officials. We have implemented work-from-home measures in accordance with government regulations, and we are committed to supporting our employees during this critical period.

What measures have you implemented to help your customers amidst these trying times?
Shopee remains fully operational in the majority of our markets, and our various customer service channels (hotline, email, live chat) are accessible to all our users. We are also committed to ensuring that health-related products and essential household items remain available and accessible for our shoppers, and are taking the appropriate measures to manage that.

In all of our markets, we have rolled out Shopee Shop From Home campaigns, which reminds users to make use of e-commerce and makes it easy for them to find and order daily essentials on our platform. We want to support social distancing measures, as well as other governmental efforts and the work-from-home policies that have been rolled out by various companies. In some markets like here in Singapore, we have taken an additional step to ensure our buyers have fair access to essential supplies, by limiting the number of key and essential items, such as masks, that each consumer can buy via Shopee Mart.

What has been the immediate effect on your business from a revenue and cost standpoint?
Generally, traffic and transaction volumes remain robust during this period and we have also seen greater demand for products related to health and personal hygiene, as well as other essential household items. We have been, and will continue, working closely with our partners and sellers to manage demand and ensure these items remain available and accessible to buyers.

Could you share with us your future plans amidst this pandemic?
Shopee will continue to prioritise the safety and well-being of our employees, partners, sellers and users and will be complying with all applicable regulatory measures during this period. We will continue to monitor the situation and adhere to government guidelines, as well as implementing additional support measures where necessary.

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