Coronavirus pandemic got HK to embrace e-commerce, and ‘trend looks likely to stay’

21-Jan-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong finally jumped on the e-commerce bandwagon over the past year as social-distancing measures related to the Covid-19 pandemic kept residents at home, with industry leaders saying they expect the changes to stick even in a post-coronavirus world.

Speaking on Tuesday at the latest edition of the “Redefining Hong Kong Debate Series”, an online forum organised by the South China Morning Post, those in the sector said disruptions to brick-and-mortar businesses appeared to have pushed Hongkongers once among the world’s most reluctant online shoppers to increasingly buy items with the click of a button.

Bill Lee, director of new verticals for Hong Kong at online food delivery platform Foodpanda, said the city had been catching up with its Singaporean counterparts, driven by the necessity to adopt e-commerce amid the pandemic.

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“I think attitudes towards embracing e-commerce and online sales have changed,” Lee said. “We see investments going in more heavily; we also see things like delivery times go faster, and that’s all in line with what we expect.”

One of Foodpanda’s latest investments sought to tap into a segment called “quick commerce”, with groceries ordered through the app delivered in just 15 minutes, Lee said.

Average takeaway delivery times, he added, had also been reduced from nearly 50 minutes in 2018 to just around 20 minutes at present.

Reeve Kwan, co-founder of GoGoX, the app-based logistics platform, said he was delighted to see strong growth in his industry as the Covid-19 pandemic propelled sales to move online. GoGoX, formerly GoGoVan, is a home-grown delivery and van-hailing start-up that first launched in 2013.

“Compared to before Covid-19, I think our actual business had 300 to 500 per cent growth throughout the whole year,” Kwan said, adding that businesses had been motivated to streamline their door-to-door delivery systems through technology during the health crisis.

Kwan said online logistics providers had made it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as individual sellers, that operate on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to fulfil deliveries.

“They don’t have to step out of their door or their office, and they can actually complete the delivery service,” Kwan said.

Even in a post-pandemic world, Kwan said he was optimistic e-commerce would continue to boom as customers had adopted online shopping as a new way of life. The multitude of e-commerce platforms, ranging from local outlet HKTVmall to Southeast Asia-based Shopee, also gave suppliers and brands more distribution channels to reach potential new customers, he added.

Ken Lo, head of e-commerce for Hong Kong and Macau at SF DHL Supply Chain China, agreed that the city’s fast-growing acceptance of online shopping would not be reversed, even after the pandemic, noting that Hong Kong companies were quick to take advantage of e-commerce opportunities.

But as the sector grows rapidly in Hong Kong and across the world, retaining customers through engaging content would be vital to securing long-term growth in the competitive space, according to Flora Hu, head of e-commerce for Asia at Carlsberg Group.

Hu said brands should have a constant flow of high-quality digital content to keep customers engaged on social media, which would, in turn, inspire people to buy their products.

“To retain them, you need to constantly provide that fun element to your shopping experience,” Hu said, adding that multiple brands in Asia had added elements of so-called gamification or aspects of game design to their online interface.

Hu added that at the start of the pandemic, when some business were ordered to close, Carlsberg had to think of ways to create new drinking occasions to replace barhopping and social gatherings, such as live-streamed events and online beer tastings.


Category: Hong Kong

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