A digitalised lifestyle has quickly become the new normal, as people throughout the world adapt to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its continued blight on daily life. Things once thought impossible without being in person are gradually seeing innovation and shifts onto digital platforms. From online education and business conferences to fitness classes and music festivals, the world has learnt to function as a society within the confines of their homes. As many businesses and organisations look to online platforms as a means to stay relevant and keep themselves afloat, others are already reaping the benefits of being early adopters and having a digital strategy. One industry in particular that has seen a surge in its online presence is the grocery market.
Groceries are a necessity in every household, no matter the circumstance. Everyone needs to be able to secure their daily necessities such as food, soap, and as we saw last year, toilet paper. At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, countries like Singapore saw citizens rushing to supermarkets and panic buying groceries fearing food and goods shortages with borders closing and supply chains being disrupted. A few months into the pandemic, most retail companies experienced a drop in sales as countries went into lockdown, causing shopping malls to shutter and buyers to stay at home. However, this was not the case for the online grocery market. In Singapore, the grocery market has seen a steady rise in its value, and is predicted to hit SGD$9.9 billion by 2023, almost a 15% increase from its 2018 value. This rapid growth has been facilitated by a robust digitalisation strategy.
The Growth of Online Grocery Shopping
Before the pandemic, most shoppers preferred to purchase their groceries in person, with a handful of stores offering an online option that was used primarily by a minority of their patrons. With the implementation of lockdowns all over the world, online grocery shopping has quickly gone from a convenient option to a necessity and has since become the norm. In the United States, online grocery shopping in 2020 alone was valued at nearly USD$38 billion, seeing a jump of 40% from 2019. Additionally, online grocery sales rose to 4.3% of total grocery sales in 2020, and is expected to hit over 13% by 2025.
In Singapore, the jump in online grocery shopping has been significantly greater. Online grocery store Redmart, a subsidiary of Alibaba-owned Lazada, saw a fourfold increase in sales in 2020. Meanwhile ride-sharing company Grab has expanded their work on GrabMart, their online supermarket equivalent, as they saw an increase in orders by almost 10 times.
Other local Singaporean grocers like Giant, Cold Storage and Fairprice have quickly adapted and expanded their online store websites as well. Moreover, during Singapore’s circuit breaker, Fairprice used their various offline stores as fulfillment centres for their online orders, ensuring delivery efficiency for their customers. By having an innovative digital strategy that leveraged their existing online and offline assets, Fairprice managed to grow their market share in the online grocery market from 18% in 2018 to 25% in 2020.
This trend is not exclusive to Singapore either. A study by Technavio forecasts that the global online grocery market will grow by USD$630 billion between 2020 - 2024, 55% of which is to be contributed by the Asia Pacific region. As such, many grocery companies are moving to improve their online offerings in order to keep up with the times and take a bite out of the rapidly growing market of online grocery shopping.
The Rise of Grocery Marketplaces
On top of just traditional online supermarkets, a new trend that has recently seen growth is online grocery marketplaces. These grocery marketplaces function in the same way as other popular online marketplaces, such as Amazon, Etsy or Lazada: different vendors list and deliver purchases to customers, all facilitated via the marketplace platform.
An example of this is Ohio-based Kroger, who launched their marketplace platform, Kroger Ship, in 2018, and have since extended it to allow external 3rd party vendors to list non-perishable grocery items on it for customers to buy in 2020. Boosted by Covid-19, Kroger’s marketplace sales saw an increase by 92% in just the first quarter of 2020 alone.
Similarly in Singapore, supermarket giant Fairprice has launched the Fairprice Marketplace platform in September 2020, under the YummySG! Initiative. Working with Enterprise Singapore, Fairprice’s Marketplace platform provides a digital outlet for local food manufacturers to list their products, in an attempt to help improve their market visibility while providing a wider variety of choices for customers.
Online grocery shopping is, without a doubt, one of the many forms of e-commerce that is sure to see growth in the years to come. Although part of its rapid rise is due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the onset of grocery shopping digitalisation actually started many years ago. And upon examining the market even further, recent trends are starting to show a gradual shift from single seller online shops to multi-vendor marketplaces. This fact then begs the question: Will the grocery market be the next industry to take advantage of marketplace platform technology to further empower their businesses?
Needless to say, it is clear that marketplace platforms are gaining more popularity as the ecommerce solution, even in industries such as the grocery market.