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While COVID-19 pandemic has been badly affecting most industries, it is boosting online business. Buyer’s behaviour has been switching dramatically from “offline” to “online”.

A team of experts from PowerSell has compiled and analyzed data from market research sources (iPrice, SimilarWeb, Investor Report ..) along with sales trend of more than 18,000 PowerSell sellers to get a general overview of the SEA e-commerce market in this period.

Ecommerce overview in Q1-2020


By the end of the first quarter in 2020, there were about 2.1 million orders on average per day. The industry, therefore, decreased by 11% compared to the peak season at the end of 2019. However, at the same time, it’s 66% higher compared to the same period last year, which is way over the projected increase of 35% by Google and Temasek.

Effects of COVID-19 break out


Online business in SEA slightly decreased at the end of March when social distancing had not been applied yet, people reduced spending but could still shop offline. Mega campaigns on marketplaces increased by only 2.5 times compared to normal days (lower than 5x-6x growth during mega campaigns of Q4 2019).

However, e-commerce orders increased steadily again in early April when social distancing was forced to be fully implemented. That pushed an average early March growth rate to 5.7%, exceeding the offline retail industry which dropped a whopping 30-40% during the same time.

In the meantime, Indonesia e-commerce was still growing strongly while the Philippines’ online business lost 80% (all non-essential goods) due to a government regulation that prohibited shipping companies to operate.

Staying at home has also changed a lot in buyer’s online behaviour. Consumers tend to place more orders in the afternoon and place fewer orders after 10pm.


Therefore, sellers should pay attention to the afternoon period, especially to prompt chat replies.

There is a distinct shift in demand for goods between before and during COVID-19. It is seen that demand for fashion, traditional luxury restaurants/bars which used to satisfy the needs at the top of Maslow’s need hierarchy (social needs, respect and self-expression) has sharply declined.


Illustration of Maslow’s need hierarchy

Now, people’s needs are shifted to more basic levels like safety and physiology.

Below are Interesting statistics from iPrice / Brandsvietnam:

Items serving physiological needs such as condoms, kitchen appliances, etc. increased from 50% to 80% compared to regular days.

Health care items that support safety needs such as vitamin C supplements, home-gym tools, etc. doubled in demand.

In addition to the significant impact of “social distancing”, electronic devices now also support working from home and are in huge demand. Sales of computers, keyboards, webcams, etc., increased from 200% to more than 600%.

The data above demonstrates that although we are not able to choose how problems will occur, we always have the opportunity to choose how we react to it. For eCommerce in COVID time we can have a more optimistic, stronger and knowledgeable approach. In the battle against Coronavirus, e-commerce’s is becoming more and more important to ensure social safety.

We do hope ecommerce sellers can take advantage of this information to wisely adapt, overcome and grow in this difficult period!



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