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COVID-19: The Impact of Government’s Initiatives On Online Shopping Behaviours

There was a surge of search on masks and hand sanitizer despite doctors advising there was no need for healthy people to wear masks

Photo by Nauris Pūķis on Unsplash

Singaporeans are highly concerned due to the increasing reported COVID-19 cases. The recent announcement of the city-state raised its risk assessment level to DORSCON Orange has caused the shortage of items such as face mask, hand sanitiser, antiseptic, and toilet paper.

It is also evident as online stores have reported high demand for medical supplies which brought the attention to the government on the supply chain disruptions. 

Observing the situation of government initiatives towards online consumer shopping behaviours in Singapore, our team at iPrice tracked the stocks and prices of face masks by using our own database from hundreds of merchants and online stores.

A Shift of Public Perspective Towards Coronavirus

Data shows that there is a shift of public perspective amid the reported cases. This was evident as there was a surge in demand for hand sanitiser products as compared to face masks in early February. 

Among the many initiatives that most likely led to a better understanding of public awareness was probably due to the advisory guidance from the Ministry of Health to uphold personal hygiene such as washing your hands regularly. 

As Singapore stepped up its surveillance since the first coronavirus case that was announced on January 23rd, there was a surge of search on masks and hand sanitizer despite doctors advising there was no need for healthy people to wear masks. 

While masks are designed to block small particles, COVID-19 travels through droplets during sneezing or coughing. Hence, the switch focus on hand sanitizer showed Singapore’s community & nation are embracing the preparation for any emergency by stocking essential items. 

Online Retail Supporting Rapid Consumption Rate on Face Mask 

Analysing the data, e-commerce seems to be readily supporting the rapid consumption rate of face masks in Singapore. Data shows that there was a positive trend on the stock of face masks on online retail as we saw an increase of 173% on February 4th, indicating the capability of e-commerce to support the growing needs of the situation occurring in the city-state. 

As such this potentially showed that e-commerce offers an alternative for Singaporeans to buy medical supplies online despite the trend of decreasing stocks occurring in January. 

Among the many initiatives that led to the positive trend was the government’s efforts on the major distribution of the face masks to Singapore households in February. The initiative was probably driven by the diversification strategy that was able to protect the supply chain from the surge of demand.

The Price of Reusable Mask Increased S$52.61 within 24 Hours

Observing the situation since the first case was reported, there was an increase in the average selling price of the reusable mask by 276% within 24 hours, indicating high demand for the reusable masks at current circumstances as compared to N95. The average price of S$10.84 (per box) was recorded on January 30th 2020 which then increased to S$63.45 on the next day. Hence, Singaporean households tend to seek reusable masks as compared to the N95 masks. 

A potential reason for the high surge in price was probably due to the rapid consumption rate after a few days of increasing reported cases. However, the recent announcement by the Government which stated that they have been distributing a pack of 4 masks to each household in an effort to anticipate the residents from supply shortages.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) also announced to work closely with the Consumer Association of Singapore (Case) in investigating any unfair and anti-competitive practices to help meet the high demand for face masks for Singaporean households.

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