As Vietnam amps up its social distancing mandate to battle the fourth wave of coronavirus transmission, home-bound consumers in the country are frequenting digital shopping channels, including delivery apps, social media, and e-commerce platforms, in order to get their groceries.
Due to several social distancing periods intermittently introduced throughout past year, consumers in Vietnam have gradually moved away from panic buying and have become more accustomed to online shopping for food and other necessities.
The footfall at a grocery store on Tran Nao Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s Thu Duc City has been sparse lately.
Nevertheless, store staffers still work hard to fill orders for delivery drivers, each of whom stops in front of the shop for just a few minutes to pick up bags of groceries for customers.
According to the store’s manager, online and phone orders have tripled since social distancing guideline were reinstated in Ho Chi Minh City on May 31.
Other retailers across the city have also reported an upswing in online orders, mostly for food and other necessities, since early May when the first cases of community infection in Vietnam were detected after weeks without local transmission.
In fact, grocery delivery has been such a boon that several local stores have to suspend their order systems to process a backlog of deliveries.
Tung, a tech-based delivery worker, said the majority of the orders he delivers are placed in the morning, meaning he only needs to work half a day to pay his bills.
“Customers have mostly been ordering spices, bread, veggies, and meat instead of instant noodle like they did during the first lockdown one year ago.”
To handle the soaring demand, all staffers at the retail chain Saigon Co.op have been mobilized to process online orders, a company representative said.
“Our customer care hotlines have been repurposed to take orders and transfer them to the Co.op supermarket closest to the customer’s address. We’ve also shifted the focus to our mobile application for the sale of fresh groceries and essential items.”
Saigon Co.op competitor VinMart has also launched several tech-based shopping options, including apps, websites, hotlines, and shops on various e-commerce platforms.
Through many of these portals, they are able to offer four-hour delivery and cashless payments in order to decrease the risk of virus transmission.
According to a VinMart representative, the company has received twice as many orders from Ho Chi Minh City during the current social distancing compared to its typical figures.
Echoing other retailers, Aeon Vietnam saw online sales in May rise four to six-fold compared to April.
Aeon’s sales continued their upward trajectory during the last week of May, with soaring figures across all channels, including their e-commerce site AeonEshop, shopping application Aeon App, and delivery apps such as Grab and Now.
The growth in demand has also benefited grocery sections on e-commerce platforms such as Lazada and Tiki.
Lazada reported a whopping ten-fold boost in fresh and frozen grocery sales on their system, while Tiki is expanding its inventory by 50 percent in all product categories to meet the swelling demand.
|A delivery worker sends packages for a customer in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Q.Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
The social distancing mandate has not only boosted grocery sales, but also driven demand for the online purchase of home appliances and tech products.
Electronics retailer Dien May Xanh and its sister chain mobile retailer The Gioi Di Dong have witnessed online sales triple during the current social distancing period.
Mobile chain Di Dong Viet also reported that its online customer base has risen 45 percent, with sales across Facebook and YouTube rising by 40 percent.
Meanwhile, delivery orders for mobile retailer Shopdunk increased by 50 percent.
Many retailers have announced a free shipping policy for areas with virus outbreaks, including Ho Chi Minh City, to persuade customers to make purchases from home.
To ensure safety during the pandemic, delivery workers from each company are ordered to limit their travel area and avoid direct contact with sales clerks.
They are also required to uphold stringent measures, including body temperature checks before each shift, social distancing, face mask wearing and hand sanitizing.
Delivery drivers for The Gioi Di Dong and Dien May Xanh have even been told to divide themselves into two team and rotate shifts in order to reduce transmission risks.
Additionally, they must ensure social distancing during deliveries, including when customers are signing for packages.
Delivery company J&T went a step further by adding a label declaring the delivery workers’ health status on packages and thoroughly sanitizing each package before each delivery.
Even with such precautions in place, many delivery services are declining orders from grave outbreak areas around the city, including Go Vap District, particularly considering it has been cordoned off by authorities.
|Delivery workers sit in safe distancing while waiting to collect orders for their customers at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: K.L. / Tuoi Tre|
Delivery workers at risk
In the past few weeks, many customers have complained about mass cancellations of air conditioner orders on e-commerce platforms.
Responding to customers, a seller explained that delivery workers and installation technicians are deemed at high risk of infection and have been put to isolation after entering customers’ houses.
In light of the looming risks, many online sellers have shut down their at-home installation service for furniture and home appliances to ensure safety for their delivery workers.