Online Grocery: Lessons from Asia's Response to Covid-19

June 2020

With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, online grocery became a vital element of people's lives. However, e-commerce infrastructure is very different across markets, leading to large variations in out-of-stocks as demand surged. This briefing uses case studies from the world's most developed countries in e-commerce - China and South Korea - to showcase best practices during crisis-buying scenarios.

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Key findings

Online grocery shines in Asia Pacific under COVID-19

Asia Pacific takes more than half of the world’s e-commerce industry. Especially, South Korea and China show exceptionally high value per capita sales and growth, which means consumers are quite familiar with placing orders via e-commerce and using home delivery service. This online-friendly environment for grocery shopping played a big role during the COVID-19 outbreak in Asia Pacific.

A well-established e-commerce infrastructure made out-of-stocks very rare during COVID-19 in Asia

As online orders surged during the COVID-19 outbreak, the prevalence of out-of-stocks helps showcase countries that have well-developed infrastructures for e-commerce. In Asia, local e-commerce players focused on making consumers less likely to panic buy by promoting the capabilities of local e-commerce players.

SSG.COM in South Korea is a role model that responded well to the initial situation of panic buying

The online grocery shopping mall secured logistics for essentials such as fresh food, packaged food and drinks. The fully-automated facility was helpful in reducing the rate of delivery mistakes, which provided credibility and trust among customers. Guarantees of food freshness also proved popular among customers.

Livestreaming via e-commerce channels in China was welcomed by consumers during lockdown

By fully utilising well-developed local e-commerce channels, Chinese pet care players could also expand delivery coverage of their brands to better compete with well-known global brands. Livestreaming by pet shops received positive response from viewers while most stores were shut down during the COVID-19 outbreak, which could be linked to commercial activities.

Online grocery shopping will impact global e-commerce market from developed Asia Pacific

Sales of e-commerce are expected to increase faster over the forecast period than over the historic period. Having experienced the COVID-19 outbreak, consumers will better appreciate the role of e-commerce in grocery shopping, which will strongly impact the global e-commerce market as well.



Key findings


Asia Pacific comprises 50% of total global e-commerce
E-commerce is already a significant part of life for many in the region
South Korea as the clear global leader in food and drink e-commerce
South Korea and China are also clear global leaders in pet food
Robust e-commerce channels were key in response to COVID-19

The Strength of E-Commerce in Asia Pacific

Surging demand from COVID-19 disabled e-commerce around the globe
China and South Korea maintained almost no out-of-stocks in fresh food
Two countries show almost no panic buying in fresh food
South Korea and China responded well to strong demand for Noodle……
…… and other staple food as well
South Korea saw no out-of-stocks in pet food while others struggled
Online shopping habits are deeply penetrated in China and South Korea
E-commerce players in APAC succeed by meeting customers’ exact needs
Leading players in South Korea attract consumers with new benefits
Players in China cater to consumers’ online lifestyles

Case Studies from South Korea and China

SSG.COM creates a revolution in online grocery delivery in South Korea
Accurate delivery on the same day is possible by SSG.COM from NE.O
SSG.COM responded with agility to the COVID-19 outbreak
Xuzhou Suchong Pet Products: online investment pays off with COVID-19
Livestreaming helps stabilise Chinese pet care market under COVID-19
E-commerce became the gateway to success in Asian local brands

The Impact of E-Commerce Power

Food categories struggling in e-commerce turn in good performance
Local brands will create synergies with local e-commerce channels


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