E-commerce shake-up in India

OTCINACTION

India has been one of the major drivers of global OTC growth, with sales up 8.8% in the MAT Q3 2018 period, but there is now uncertainty over the country’s e-commerce sector after the government moved ahead with new rules that took effect last Friday (1st February 2019). The rules prohibit online retailers from selling products via companies or distributors in which they have an equity stake, so e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart (owned by Walmart) have been most affected.

Amazon has now pulled various products from its Indian website, including some of its Amazon Basics line, while Walmart said it was “disappointed” at the government’s haste in implementing the new rules, which will create “significant work” for the company in overhauling its supply chains and systems. Political commentators see Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to stand firm as a move intended to appease smaller Indian retailers ahead of a general election expected in May.

battle-between-e-commerce-giants-amazon-india-vs-flipkart.jpg

Amazon saw its shares dip 4% on the day the rules were implemented and it has lowered its sales guidance for India in Q1 2019. Walmart shares also fell, down 2.4%. In the short-term, there will be huge disruption to supply chains and increasing compliance costs, which will inevitably affect the availability and price of products online, while also giving a boost to bricks & mortar retailers. Long-term, however, Amazon and Flipkart have invested huge sums in India’s e-commerce market and will no doubt recover share.

In the meantime, more disruption to the e-commerce sector might be on its way. India issued draft regulations on the sale of medicines by e-pharmacies in September 2018, including a requirement to register for a licence with the country’s pharma regulator, CDSCO, which should be renewed every 3 years. However, the move has drawn protests and petitions from pharmacists, and opposing views in different regions of India, making the future implementation of these regulations highly uncertain.

The latest edition of our bestselling annual OTC Yearbook 2019 is available to pre-order! Scheduled for publication this April, this report will include reviews of major OTC categories, leading companies and brands, Medical Devices, Switch and much more. Pre-order your copy before 31 March to take advantage of our pre-publication rate! To find out more, or to reserve your copy, please contact Melissa.Lee@NicholasHall.com.

Advertisements

Bangladesh: Amazon eyeing 2020 entry

OTCINACTION

As today’s OTC DASHBOARD hot topic report shows, the e-commerce market in Asia-Pacific is undergoing rapid change, with China passing new e-commerce laws that will take effect in January 2019, while India has also just released draft rules for the online sale of medicines. Amazon also last week unveiled a new Hindi version of its website.

Yet all this upheaval is not isolated to the major markets of India and China. Amazon announced over the weekend that it is planning to begin operations in Bangladesh within the next couple of years, to compete with its arch e-commerce rival Alibaba, which is already present in the country via Daraz. With a population of just over 166mn, Bangladesh is an attractive and fast-developing market.

Amazon

According to local reports, however, resistance from local e-commerce players in Bangladesh is likely to be strong. Many are opposed to the government’s new Digital Commerce Policy, which allows foreign companies to have 100% shares in local e-commerce ventures (previously it was capped at 49%).

Key areas of sensitivity will be pricing and investment in the local economy. The e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-Cab) is in favour of protection for local e-commerce companies and is reportedly working on a list of policy recommendations, including foreign firms having to host their websites locally, as well as ensuring 90% of staff are locals and that companies have a logistical presence in the country.

Explore the digital landscape at Nicholas Hall’s upcoming OTC.NewDirections Executive Conference. Other topics on the agenda include Medical Device Regulations, Medical Cannabis, Switch and Smart Probiotics. This will be an inspiring day on 12 September in London, focusing on Where Innovation Meets Regulation. For details of the full agenda or to reserve your place contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com

Alibaba buys in to “digital silk road” vision

OTCINACTION

According to a report in the FT over the weekend, Chinese e-commerce retailer Alibaba is close to agreeing a deal with Russian internet company, Mail.ru, and sovereign wealth fund, Russian Direct Investment Fund, to form a joint-venture e-commerce company.

As highlighted in our earlier blog on Chinese investment in Africa, there is a clear vision from China and Chinese companies to invest in the physical infrastructure for a new silk road (Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative) connecting Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and this latest news on a China-Russia e-commerce tie-up underlines the appetite for a digital silk road too.

Alibaba-mail.ru.jpg

In October 2017, the Russian Government approved a Ministry of Health bill to allow the online purchase and home delivery of OTCs, which came into force in January 2018. As a result, Mail.ru announced the launch of its online pharmacy in April 2018. At present, established western e-commerce giants like Amazon are largely absent from Russia, giving Alibaba the freedom to chart new territory in a market of 147mn consumers at an opportune time.

As the FT article points out, Alibaba is also fighting back against Amazon in certain markets, like Indonesia, where the US retail giant has stolen a march. For example, Alibaba has invested heavily in two e-commerce companies, Tokopedia and Lazada, both of which market goods, including healthcare products, across southeast Asia.

Explore the digital landscape at Nicholas Hall’s upcoming OTC.NewDirections Executive Conference. Other topics on the agenda include Medical Device Regulations, Medical Cannabis, Switch and Smart Probiotics. This will be an inspiring day on 12 September in London, focusing on Where Innovation Meets Regulation. For details of the full agenda or to reserve your place contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com

Barcelona Conference Report

In this week’s blog, we report back from Nicholas Hall’s OTC INSIGHT 29th Conference & OTC Training Academy Workshop in Barcelona, the first to ever see Nicholas Hall’s keynote address livestreamed to an audience across the globe via YouTube.

Nicholas’ opening address to delegates explored the 4 elements of PACE, which all marketers need to adopt in order to increase their pace and move faster:

P = Pharmacy and retail, the bedrock of the OTC market = 80% of revenue outside US (70% if inc US)

A = Adjacency, reaching beyond the 6 core categories of OTC and seeing where we can branch out (i.e. diabetes, Alzheimer’s, hearing screeners, etc)

C = Consumer (Nicholas was joined on stage by Luca Pagano of BeMyEye who explored how social changes have impacted how and when people buy, and the power of crowdsourced insights to transform in-store execution)

E = Engaging with the consumer and e-commerce (as Nicholas said, the topic of e-commerce would be deserving of a whole conference of its own)

PACE.png

Nicholas Hall encourages OTC marketers to pick up the PACE

On Day 2, another packed schedule of speakers was rounded off with David Blair, Google’s Head of Industry Heath. His presentation to delegates explored three major trends which are impacting everything we do: chip, cloud computing and AI / machine learning.

Today we practically live online, and the smartphone is now the consumer’s main device – through which nearly all traffic passes – a fact that is having a massive impact on the health industry. Blair said that voice search is going to become the next key driver and could have implications for healthcare marketing (see our recent blog on this topic), as we move from Point of Care, where we expect the consumer to wait for appointments, visit the doctor and then the pharmacist, to a space where we can have care anywhere.

In 2017, there were 160bn searches for healthcare globally via Google, with 2bn alone just for the allergy category! Almost two-thirds of these searches were conducted via a mobile device. There was also an increase for searches for “best non-drowsy allergy medicine”, “best cold & flu medicine” and so forth. Last year, Google also saw a 60x increase in searches for “near me”, highlighting the shift towards immediacy.

David Blair collage.jpeg

Google’s David Blair closes out proceedings

For more updates on consumer healthcare trends, and a full round-up of Day 1 and Day 2 proceedings, be sure to follow Nicholas Hall on Linkedin

Voice search: How will OTC adapt?

A recent Wall Street Journal video, exploring how the advent of voice-activated online shopping is forcing consumer goods companies to adapt their marketing models, has caused a lot of discussion internally here at Nicholas Hall & Company. In this week’s blog, we provide some context on this growing trend – a phenomenon some are calling “v-commerce”, with the “v” standing for voice – and look at the implications for the consumer healthcare industry.

According to an Accenture survey conducted in late 2017, ownership of voice-activated devices, or “smart speakers”, is rising sharply in many countries, up from 7% to 21% of Americans over the past year, and up from 4% to 14% in China. Whether it’s Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, this rising tide of “digital voice assistants” is expected to achieve penetration of 30-40% in many countries by the end of 2018.

50% of all searches will be done by voice within the next 5 years” – Sébastien Szczepaniak, Head of Sales & E-Business, Nestlé

If indeed half of all search queries are performed on voice-activated technologies by 2023, then this poses some stiff challenges for marketers. For example, at present, Amazon’s Alexa algorithm:

  1. Only provides two brand options in any product category
  2. Favours brands you’ve previously purchased, entrenching your preferences

Compared to retail outlets, where several brands are often on display, and e-commerce, where the brand options are even more extensive, voice search provides a very limited choice for consumers and this in turn could have a chilling effect on the brands and marketers that rank No.3 and below in certain categories.

When I tested Amazon Alexa, at home in the UK this past weekend, I was given two options when requesting a “stomach remedy” – Amazon’s first choice was Gaviscon Double Action (RB), followed by Andrews (GSK). When asking for a specific ingredient (“paracetamol”), Alexa was less reliable, with antacid Rennie (Bayer) offered as the top choice, followed by ibuprofen-based Nurofen Express (RB).

Of course, the technology remains in its infancy, so algorithms will evolve. One saving grace for OTC is that it will remain somewhat immune, compared to other consumer goods industries, given that medicines still require pharmacist intervention in many countries and that often the need to treat is so urgent that many people won’t be able to wait for their medicine to be delivered.

However, marketers of supplements – and other lifestyle and preventive remedies that are required less urgently – will need to start factoring this trend into their business plans immediately. With Amazon now starting to launch its own supplements and consumer healthcare remedies, the competition to be one of those Top 2 picks could get even more intense in the near future for OTC marketers.

Whether you want to find out more about the latest innovations, benchmark the competition or simply keep abreast of new launches, Nicholas Hall’s extensive OTC New Products Tracker is an essential competitive intelligence tool that you simply must trial. Subscribers can also benefit from a newsletter highlighting the key product innovations affecting the industry. Find out more or set up your free trial today by contacting david.redford@NicholasHall.com

OTC e-commerce: China

The rise of e-commerce, especially in key markets like the USA and China, as well as certain European countries such as Germany and the UK, continues to alter the dynamics of the consumer healthcare market and this is a trend we plan to monitor ever more closely here at OTC DASHBOARD over the coming years.

In addition, regulators across the world are still getting to grips with the issue. The China Food & Drug Administration has said that it is welcoming comments until 12th March 2018 on a draft regulation entitled Provisions for Supervision & Administration of Online Drug Sales. This stipulates that online sellers of medicines must be licensed pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers or retailers. Manufacturers and wholesalers must not sell medicines to individual consumers and retailers must not sell Rx or controlled medicines online (legalising the online sale of Rx drugs has previously been considered in China).

CFDA.jpg

The platforms through which online medicines are sold must also adhere to and assist with product recalls where there are safety or quality issues. The regulation also stipulates that the CFDA will develop a national online medicine surveillance system and supply details of violations to provincial authorities, which will investigate and enforce any follow-up action.

Given the popularity of smartphones in China, and the rise of mobile payments and online shopping sites like Tmall (Alibaba) and Taobao and social media platforms like WeChat, it has become ever more difficult for regulators to monitor the online sale of medicines. This also presents a challenge for those trying to gauge the true size of the OTC e-commerce sector in China, but all indications point to this being a fast-growing channel that can no longer be ignored.

Embark on The Evolving Consumer Journey at our 5th Asia-Pacific OTC Conference & OTC Academy Training Workshop! Held in Singapore on 17-18 October 2018, this meeting aims to help guide you through this complex and ever-changing landscape. The half-day workshop will take a look at Inspiring Self-Care. Book before 15 August to take advantage of our early bird rates! Please contact maricar.montero@NicholasHall.com to book your place today or for more information.