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DELHI : More people in India bought goods of daily use online during this festive season than in the previous year, as consumers warmed up to buying more categories of products on e-commerce platforms, market researcher Nielsen said in a research note.

The penetration of online shoppers who bought fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) products during this festive season sales from 15 October to 13 November stood at 20%, compared with 13.5% in 2019, shows Nielsen’s research based on its e-commerce consumer panel. This indicated that consumers moved beyond electronics and fashion to buy groceries online.

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The value of FMCG bought online was 5% of the total e-commerce sales this festive season, which is similar to last year’s levels. However, in terms of units sold, the FMCG category was at 35% of all purchases made online, compared with 30% in 2019, led by a surge in demand for personal care products, Nielsen said.

“Typically, we used to think that e-commerce big days or festivals sales are akin to non-FMCG categories. However, very quickly e-commerce recreated the offline pattern with consumers and, hence, this led to a lot of stocking of FMCG by consumers during this time," said Kunal Gupta, head, consumer intelligence, Nielsen, South Asia.

Personal care categories led the growth of FMCG this festive season, contributing 54.4% in value of overall FMCG sold online during the period. Nielsen’s e-commerce consumer panel surveyed shopping bills of 160,000 internet users in urban India. This panel found Internet users shopped online for categories such as mobiles, appliances, electronics, fashion, and FMCG.

Staples and snacks saw growth during covid, with 35.3% and 14% value contributions respectively, while personal care significantly gained during the festive period with 54% value contribution.

Sales of personal care products shrank as Indians moved to work from home and instead bought staples and other essential goods online. Festive season sales marked the return of demand for skincare, creams and other personal care goods. “Whether this marks the comeback of personal care versus staples or not, we are yet to see," Gupta said.

A lot of this was also led by new shoppers coming online. “New FMCG shoppers have been enticed to shop online for the first time during the festive period in 2020, and with shopper penetration remaining high at almost 20% in the festive period for the year, an uptick from 14% in 2019, it indicates that more consumers were persuaded to shop online for FMCG," Nielsen said in its research note.

At the peak of India’s lockdown, FMCG shopper penetration as a percentage of total e-commerce shopper base was at its peak of about 40%. The numbers have since shrunk as markets progressed towards normalcy.

The shift and the entry of new shoppers online has been encouraging, according to companies. “The grocery segment (online), which was not as salient earlier, has been the focus of the year from a consumer perspective," said Sunil Kataria, chief executive officer, India and Saarc, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL). E-commerce contributes 4% of the sales of GCPL.

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