As of 2nd of March, coronavirus (COVID-19) has now officially penetrated Indonesia. This was confirmed by Indonesia’s President, Jokowi as he announced the first two confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.1 Almost immediately after the President’s announcement on live TV, people flooded their local supermarkets in panic with the urge to stock necessities for days to come. This phenomenon is referred to as ‘panic buying’ and the target products are mostly food and home supplies. Perceiving the uncertainty of public safety in the forthcoming days, people were leaving the supermarket shelves empty for others who could even be in more desperate need to purchase.
As an e-commerce enabler that facilitates many FMCG, hygiene, and wellness brands to sell online, it has also come to our realization that the ‘panic buying’ phenomenon isn’t only happening in the offline market. The online market, including official store websites, marketplaces, and social commerce, is experiencing the same phenomenon. Moreover, this has been happening since before the President’s announcement. It seems that the conditions overseas were causing quite an uproar among Indonesian people. On 30th of January, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC).2 According to our data findings, the following month was experiencing a major increase in purchases of certain healthcare products. These products are hand sanitizers, hand wash, vitamins, and wet wipes.
Figure 1. Products with increased purchases via online stores on January, February, and March (% of purchase increment)
Photo by Neptunestock
Hand sanitizers experienced the highest increase in purchase by 531% followed by its second-highest, hand wash, that experienced a 304% increase. Wet wipes were also among the hunt by online shoppers with an increase of 227%. Aside from these hygiene products, wellness products, vitamins, were also experiencing a significant increase by 210%.
Based on the data we have gathered, we are able to predict the sales increase of the 4 high selling products from February to March by taking into account its expected values and order quantity:
Figure 2. Products predicted with increased purchases via online stores on March (% of purchase increment)
Our predictions indicate that instead of hand sanitizers, wet wipes will experience the highest increase with a 719% raise in sales. Based on recent COVID-19 studies, it’s analyzed that the virus can remain viable up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 72 hours on plastic as well as stainless steel.3 According to Dr Kalisvar Marimuthu, a senior infectious disease consultant at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), wet wipes are more recommended to be used for cleaning environmental surfaces instead of hands.4 Therefore, the raise in sales of wet wipes could be associated with the purpose of cleaning surfaces that people remain in contact with on a daily basis.
Hand sanitizers are predicted to experience the second-highest raise by 640%, followed by hand wash with a 443% raise and finally vitamins with a 308% raise. India has been experiencing a similar demand increase in these hygiene products. In early March, A pharmacy in Janakpuri met demands that had gone up by 400%. 9 out of 10 customers that came into the store would ask for hand sanitizers and hand wash in bulk. This has led companies that sell hygiene products, such as Godrej Consumer Product as well as Hindustan Unilever to double up production in order to match with the country-wide demand and help people take precautionary measures.5 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing persists to be the golden way in reducing the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. However, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is the quickest line of defense when soap and water aren’t available.6
As we are reaching the end of March, the number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia keeps rising with more than 300 subjects.7 In response to the circumstances, on Sunday, March 15th, Jokowi has called on all Indonesians to practice physical distancing with the purpose of slowing the spread of the virus and lessening the possibility of a pandemic. Jokowi is relying on the regional rulers, such as governors, mayors, and so on to participate in monitoring the region and encouraging its people to practice physical distancing by staying at home.8 This obviously sweeps away the traffic of offline stores, leading people to consider the alternative yet best option in purchasing their necessities: online stores. That is why, with the uncertain end of this physical distancing practice, online stores are experiencing a way higher traffic and increase in sales. Evidently, one of the highest selling products from the sanitization category that SIRCLO processes experienced it firsthand. A week following the announcement of the first two cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia, its official stores on various marketplace channels experienced more than 4x traffic growth compared to the week before that.
With this ‘panic buying’ phenomenon that will risk the scarcity of necessities for those in need, players in the e-commerce industry that are providing the access to these products would not let the worst-case scenario happen. SIRCLO’s years in the e-commerce industry are not just about us empowering businesses to sell online, but we also try our best to respond to concerning situations that arise. Therefore, we are putting effort into keeping the effects from reaching an extreme level. Along with other e-commerce platforms, we have rationed the purchase quantity of high-demand products in hopes of making them evenly accessible for shoppers everywhere.9
With the uncertain end of this physical distancing practice, online stores are experiencing higher traffic and increase in sales. One of the highest-selling products from the sanitization category that SIRCLO processes experienced it firsthand. A week following the announcement of the first two cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia, its official stores on various marketplace channels experienced more than 4x traffic growth compared to the week before that.
As we wait for a cure or a vaccine to finally stop the virus from being a pandemic, people will continue to practice physical distancing and resort to working from home. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases’ Director, Nancy Messonnier, reported to the general public that the ongoing outbreak could continue to spread till Spring 2021.10 Similarly, The Guardian cited a secret Public Health England (PHE) document for senior National Health Service (NHS) officials reporting the same prediction.11 That being the case, this means that people will keep relying on online stores to purchase their necessities for a long time, making it inevitable that online presence becomes a more significant business aspect as we move forward. Therefore, businesses across multiple industries should consider reviewing it in order to enhance its reach and infrastructure in accommodating their loyal customers during these concerning times. There are other departments that would also require much attention, such as Customer Service, Marketing, Order Fulfillment, and so on.12 As a one-stop solution for businesses to sell online, SIRCLO caters all of that through our end-to-end e-commerce channel management. Therefore, it is our mission to empower businesses in overwhelming situations and assist them through it. If we can be of any help to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
SIRCLO neither provides regulated advice nor guarantee results. The materials we convey reflect general insight and best practice based on information currently available, and do not contain all of the information needed to determine a future course of action. Such information has not been generated or independently verified by SIRCLO and is inherently uncertain and subject to change. SIRCLO has no obligation to update these materials and makes no representation or warranty and expressly disclaims any liability with respect thereto.