Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease and it has been over 4 months since the disease was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province. It has since spread globally, resulting in the ongoing 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting over 210 countries and Myanmar is one of them. Since 2008, the country has grown GDP from 14.808 to 34.058 until 2018 according to Ceicdata. Especially since 2012, the economic growth has jumped 6-8% every year. In our previous articles, we wrote about the growth and opportunities in the “final frontier” country. It is very interesting to see and learn how Myanmar will embrace this crisis and how the market will adjust to survive.
If you wanna check about the country before you read about how the Myanmar market reacts, click the links below.
- Myanmar investment Law
- Myanmar Media Landscape
- The facts Thai entrepreneurs should know about Myanmar Market
- Myanmar’s media transaction and consumers’ insight
How do people respond?
In Myanmar, many of the shops closed and people began to practice social distancing and isolation while the government is trying to contain the situation to not lead an outbreak. In the first week of official announcement about covid-19, people especially in urban areas began to panic buying however the influencers and celebrities use their influences on social media to slow down the panic buying.
How does the market look like now?
Today I would like to share some very interesting things that we have witnessed in Myanmar. This is a very new experience for all the brands but some of the brands respond exceptionally well and adapt quickly. To do that, in April, we interviewed residents in Yangon to know more information about the covid-19 situation and how the businesses are managing the risk and looking for opportunities.
“ In Yangon, the government didn’t announce officially to lock down the city. So, some shops are still opening and some are not. Before the Water Festival ,at first, people got really scared of getting infected and staying at home. After the water festival, the number of people getting infected is rising. Ironically, people began to be less concerned and started to go out. Modern trade, some of the traditional trade and convenient stores are still functioning and most of the restaurants are starting to do home deliveries.”
Thai’s Makro has planned to open their branches in Myanmar since 2019 and they eventually launch their first branch in Yangon. Even though many people predicted this wouldn’t be a success under this situation, it became a very trendy place to be among Yangon people. Even some famous influencers post about their experiences. However, there are also many criticisms for this. To control the risk, Makro suggests customers make the appointment before they shop and allow only 250 people at a time. Not only is this a new way for Myanmar people to shop in the modern trade but also it is one of the very bold moves for a famous modern trade.
The food delivery, online delivery services have grown very fast while FMCG brands are finding ways to sell their products under this circumstance. We found out that many brands are contributing back to the community by donating and also raising awareness. At the same time, some brands are selling their products through survival packs and home delivery.
Cook is one of the brands which is giving home delivery services for both end users and retailers. Myanmar people had faced the problem of jumping prices in the crisis before and many of them are afraid that they will have to face this problem again. Hence, Cook is trying to highlight the fact that they will keep the price to not raise even under this circumstance. At the same time, they are also working together with the “We Love Yangon” foundation to sell their products in the survival packs.
We Love Yangon is a volunteer group that works with retailers and brands to deliver and sell at the lowest price for all in one package. There are 3 types of package: Package-A, B and C with different prices.
It seems like rice and oil are the most important ingredients and all of those packages seem to cover a month for 2 people. Since their target is the people with middle and lower income, we don’t see extravagant products but only essential products. The group also provides home delivery for those living within Yangon. The interesting thing for me is while they are selling those packages, they also manage to donate some of their package to hospitals and places where needed the most.
Under this circumstance, Grab Food and Food Panda Myanmar are spreading their network withrestaurant owners to provide more varieties of food to the consumers. While they are giving many promotions for the customer, they are also looking for more people to deliver the food. The common challenge that both of them are facing right now is not having enough people to deliver people. Some of the food chain restaurants like Cheese O’Tea, Monster Cheese, and others.
Unlike its fellow fast food chains like KFC, Lotteria, Pizza Hut, Burger Kings, PIzza Company surprised everyone with their cute delivery boy. The cute smile of the boy is melting the heart of female fans like cheese on the pizza crust. Under their buy one get one free, many comments are requested to include delivery boy as buy one get one free offer. The covid-19 situation will be a long term battle but Pizza company surely made a bold entrance.
For me, it is making sense for food chains and some FMCG products to do delivery and other services to maintain their regular customers. When the beauty product gives both delivery and customer calls services, my jaw has dropped because it is a very new experience. Then I noticed one thing, most of the brands which are selling online now have already been selling online for a while but just didn’t promote it too much.
Online shopping is a new culture in Myanmar and we can find most of the products sold online have some common traits and policies.
- Most of them are flexible with cash on delivery
- No free delivery
- They are not only relying on online shopping but also do delivery on their own too via page
The cost of delivery could cost you from 1000-4000 kyat ( ~22 to 100THB) based on the states and area of the customer. Surely, at first, customers are not really happy with the delivery price but slowly they are getting used to the benefits over the price. Moreover, the discounts, buy one get one deals and other promotions are one of the main factors for customers to start trying online shopping. In the first week of March until April, I saw many food chain restaurants, cosmetics, FMCGs products sell online with great promotion which turned out to be a very well-investment for brand awareness and building customer relationships now.
If you look at another market like the medical and pharmaceutical market, you will also see those folks trying to put online consultation as one their business model and a tool to maintain the customer. Especially for the hospitals from Thailand that are trying their best to maintain their Burmese customers, one of the most common ways is doing video call consultation. In that way, the patients with regular check up needs and cares would be able to keep in touch with and get the medicines and reports from the doctors. It is actually a very smart and innovative way to not only maintain old customers but also expand new customers. Since the hospitals are providing free online consultation and partial discounts to attract the customers, the business seems running very smoothly in the first phase. Usually, humans like free stuff but we prefer free stuff with high quality and Thai hospitals seem to reach people’s hearts through their new marketing program.
Where do things get tricky right now?
It would be unfair to leave out the tricky things right now in the Myanmar market after talking about all the good and sunny parts. Well, the most tricky part for FMCGs is when their customer can’t find the products on shelf and jump to a similar one suggested by the shopkeepers. Even though urban cities have shopping malls to provide a variety of products, even urban people can’t find some of the products they like easily right now due to the inbound transportation restriction. This is the current challenge for many FMCG products especially for products from overseas. Plus, the distributors in Myanmar could have different working schedules with you right now. I found some brands promote their products really well on Facebook but when it comes to “Where can I buy it now?” question, most of them have no specific solution. This could be very troublesome for the long term since there might not be a release of travelling restriction anytime soon. For hospitals, the tricky part lies in the part to do operations or personal tests. This will be very interesting to see and learn very soon in the future.
Especially in the crisis situation, marketers are thinking really hard to find the best way to reach the people’s heart by making customers’ lives easier. Many of the brands doing online awareness contents which is good partly but for the long term, we need to find more approaches to get more impact on our sales for sure. A lot of brands have moved from offline sale to online quickly however, Myanmar has not prepared this well yet. Currently in Myanmar, Here are some of the well-known online shopping websites that they have moved to.
When brands are trying to convince consumers with their new way of providing service through online shopping is easier, more benefits and less time consuming. For this reason, I asked one of my friends in Myanmar about their new feeling toward this new trend. “ Now it is easier for me to get things I want. Last week I bought a sofa and cloth hanger from Shop.com.mm. I am expecting those to receive this week. It is somehow a new kind of experience to see how I can get anything I want through a mobile screen.”
In general, I would like to point out that there are 2 main things that win people’s hearts these days.
- Must be easy and convenient
- Must have good quality and giving promotion is a plus.
As long as you can fulfill these 2 aspects above, you are on the bright side. However, you might complain, “ Come on, this is what I knew for a very long time and this is cliche.” For sure, it is cliche for a reason because it is working. I was highlighting those factors because last year, your major concern would be the competitors’ brands next to yours on the shelf. Right now, when your customers can find many varieties of the same products with different brands under one category, you will have to start thinking about what makes your products become top sellers on the website.
However, if you can provide home delivery by your own logistic solution and promote your product mainly on your page that would be even better.
- First,You won’t have to worry about the margin you have to pay for services,
- Second, you are in full control of distribution
- Lastly, you might have more chances to have less competitors.
Before diving into it, let me offer you a road map of Myanmar E-Commerce below the link.
The next quest of expanding and penetrating your brands in the Myanmar market with e-commerce tools should appear on your radar now and it is a kind of first come first serve deal. You might ask yourself these 2 questions now.
- How will you want to build your business through this crisis and leave your brand mark in people’s heart?
- How big is the opportunity laying in this?
My simple and honest answer is you won’t know if you haven’t expanded your business into an ecommerce business of Myanmar but I can guarantee you that having new spaces for your market to blossom will never be a bad decision.
If you have made your decision to take the gain from this painful situation, our door is opening for you to give you the best consultation regarding marketing strategy and penetrating the e-commerce market in Myanmar. With 10 years plus experiences, we can offer you the exclusive insights and grow your business.