Five trends shaping grocery retail in Asia in 2021

Date : 08 January 2021

Nick Miles

Head of Insight - Asia Pacific

One of the most common questions I get asked by businesses, is how will my market develop over the next few years. While there remains uncertainty over what the next 12 months will look like, there is a strong sense of optimism that 2021 will be a year to rebuild, but also capitalise on the opportunities that have arisen in the ‘new normal’ across Asia. With this in mind, we have identified five new themes that we expect to shape the Asian market and influence retail strategy in 2021 and beyond...

1. Accessible retailing

The global pandemic has made businesses come up with new solutions to make their operations, products and services more accessible. These new solutions have provided new growth opportunities for retailers and therefore we expect this trend to continue, with an acceleration post-pandemic.

A great example of this is retailers teaming up with third party delivery providers. Over the past year we have seen loads of retailers partner with foodservice delivery businesses to make their offers more accessible and offer a new solution for 'impulse ecommerce'. Foodpanda has recently added 2,500 7-Eleven stores to its app across Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines. An average of 1,000 SKUs will be shoppable with delivery times averaging 20 minutes. The agreement follows a six-month trial which saw orders via the Foodpanda app grow 50% month-on-month.

Source: Foodpanda

2. Fast-tracking online grocery

We saw a surge in demand for online grocery retailing in 2020 across Asia, with more people than ever both shopping online and the channel growing in importance. Retailers with existing operations have rapidly developed their services, while many retailers who were previously not online have launched services in the space of just a few months. 

We expect online grocery retailing to remain elevated post-pandemic, with retailers expanding their services, strengthening their capabilities, and boosting capacity. For example, FairPrice in Singapore has upskilled its in-store pickers, plus is offering two hour delivery, via its Shop Fast, Shop Fresh service. Delivery is free on orders over SGD79 and prices are exactly the same as you would get in-store.

                                                                  Source: NTUC FairPrice, YouTube

3. Elevation of health wellness and hygiene

Health and wellness has been a growing trend for a number of years, however the importance of a healthy diet, personal well-being and hygiene, have become even more important in 2020. This provides a great opportunity for retailers and suppliers to differentiate themselves and supercharge relevancy of their offers. The most advanced businesses will elevate their attention on this going forward, providing affordable choice, new solutions and advice for shoppers.

4. Digitisation of the path to purchase

The perfect storm of mobile first internet access, a young tech savvy population, highly advance social platforms, plus high social media penetration, means Asia is world leading in the digitisation of the path to purchase. Smartphones are playing an increasing role in the shopping experience with digital communication and solutions that deliver new levels of personalisation.

Retailers and suppliers will continue to enhance their capabilities and using new techniques to influence purchasing behaviours both in-store and online. Dairy Farm in Hong Kong has brought its 10 brands and 2,000+ shops together under its new digital first rewards club, yuu. With daily content, personalised offers and lots of other features, it was the most downloaded free app in Hong Kong in 2020, 2.8m downloads in just four months.

                                                                  Source: yuu Rewards Club, YouTube

5. Omnichannel evolution of stores

Even with the growth of ecommerce over the coming years, stores will remain vitally important, but they will need to evolve to survive. Stores have a vital role to play in supporting the growth of ecommerce, while ecommerce can also help support store operations. Shoppers will increasingly not differentiate between the two channels and therefore the challenge for retailers and suppliers is to provide a seamless experience across both. China is leading the way, while across Asia we expect more retailers to adapt and flex stores to achieve seamless 020 operations.

Retail Analysis subscribers...

Read our in-depth report, Asia retail outlook 2021, for more detail on each of these trends, along with further retail examples that bring them to life.