Vietnam’s mobile phone market is dominated by offline distribution channels. However, responding to the changing times, offline channels have been trying to embrace the online mode, with some of them achieving big success.
Hanoi, the country’s capital, opened in late September after the COVID-19 lockdowns, while Ho Chi Minh City (commonly known as Saigon), the country’s largest city, opened a little bit later. While hugely impacting the economy, the lockdowns also pushed online sales to new heights. Retailers like Mobile World Group (MWG), which owns the highest number of offline shops in Vietnam, registered record online sales. According to an August financial release, MWG’s online revenue contributed 17.5% of its total revenue with 17% YoY growth, undoubtedly a big achievement for the offline channel giant. Thegiodidong (TGDD) and Dien May Xanh (DMX), the MWG chains selling mobile phones and consumer electronics, together accounted for 51.5% of the total group revenue.
TGDD, which means “mobile world” in English, built its standing in the market as a chain of stores selling mobile phones and related 3C products.
In July this year, COVID-19 started spreading rapidly in Vietnam. More than 70% of the offline stores and shops in the country had to be closed due to the restrictions. The situation worsened in August and September. In Saigon, the military had to be called in to enforce social distancing. Only essential stores and deliverymen were allowed to function in the key cities.
With offline channels dominating Vietnam’s mobile phone retail, the COVID-19 impact was severely felt by major OEMs like Samsung, OPPO and vivo, which had been mainly focusing on building offline retail in the country. Even Xiaomi, an internet brand, had to rely on national distributors to cover main offline channels. The lockdown surely made an impact on these leading brands’ distribution strategies.
In such a situation, offline retailers like TGDD and DMX, which had been strategically investing in online business for a while, reaped unexpected benefits. TGDD and DMX’s website experience is as good as pure e-commerce players in the mobile phone and consumer electronics domain. Apart from TGDD, there are offline store chains like Viettel and FPTShops which have also been investing in online stores at different levels.
With the easing of social distancing norms in many provinces and cities in Vietnam from the second half of September, retail businesses are expected to recover. However, even after regaining normalcy, the shift towards online will not stop.
Not just Vietnam, the whole of Southeast Asian mobile phone and consumer electronics market is heavily dependent on offline channels. But with the pandemic, the region’s leading e-commerce platforms in consumer electronics, like Lazada, Shopee and Tiki, have been reporting robust numbers. On the other hand, offline retail chains have been facing the most painful challenges. Online and offline channel constructions are totally two different business models, requiring two sets of strategies, teams and finance models. Thanks to the solid financial support it gets, TGDD has been able to develop its online business and hence limit the damage due to the lockdowns. Other store chains in the region, such as Jaymart Thailand and Erajaya Indonesia, are also keen to embrace the e-commerce era and the new normal.
For the market, it is a good sign that the distribution structure is evolving and becoming more diverse.