Published June 2021
Flight to Digital:
6 months on
Digital habits borne out of the pandemic persist
In the 2020 e-Conomy SEA report, we found that 40M new users came online in 2020—compared to 100M in the previous five. In addition to new online users, COVID-19 led to an acceleration of digital consumption, as users tried new digital services for the first time. More than 1 in every 3 digital service consumers started using the service during the pandemic, and 94% of new users said they would continue their habits post-pandemic.1
6 months since we published the report, we partnered with Milieu Insight2 to check in on whether these habits have indeed persisted.
Across SEA, more than 9 in 10 are still using at least one digital service adopted in 20203
Countries in SEA are entering a second year of mobility restrictions, whether government-mandated or self-imposed. We’ve become seasoned in pandemic protocols, which have enabled us to cautiously resume some activities following the initial wave of lockdowns.
New research shows that a clear majority of consumers who formed new digital habits in 2020 as the reality of the pandemic set in, have since fully integrated them into their daily routines:
New users who adopted any digital service in 20203
% of new users who remain active users⁴
95% of consumers who were frequent users of digital services in 2020 are using those services as often today5
The increased dependence on digital services has not wavered, with frequent users mostly keeping up their usage in 2021.
Across online grocery, online food delivery, and e-commerce, we see slight drops (within the margin of error) in the proportion of users using digital services at least once a week in 2021 compared to 2020.
% of users who are frequent users5
The use of online financial services has been especially sticky. This can be seen both in terms of new users continuing to be active on these services, as well as the percentage of frequent users actually rising in 2021 (albeit a very slight increase).
Among all verticals, online financial services meet the needs of users the best relative to in-person or offline alternatives.
% of users who find their needs are better met online compared to in-person or offline alternatives6
As users get comfortable with digital, 2020 will have a lasting impact on digital consumption.
By improving user experience today, internet businesses in SEA have the opportunity to turn newly-acquired users into long-term customers.
1 Kantar e-Conomy SEA 2020 primary research commissioned by Google. Research was conducted in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Fieldwork ran from Aug 18 - Sep 2, 2020 via a 25-minute Computer Assisted Web Interviewing online survey with a total of 4,712 respondents interviewed.
2 Milieu Insight research commissioned by Google. Fieldwork ran from May 14-17, 2021 in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, with a total n=6,000 interviews. Results are representative of the national online population according to age, gender and region for each country, and the margin of error is +/- 3% with a 95% confidence level.
3 “New users” are those who started using at least one new digital service during the pandemic in 2020. “Lapsed users” are those who have not used the service within the past two months. “Active users” are those who used the service within the past two months. “Frequent users” are those who use the service at least once a week. Aggregated across ID (n=435), MY (n=553), PH (n=602), SG (n=408), TH (n=387), VN (n=378).
4 “Online groceries” refer to shopping for everyday products online, such as food items, home supplies, and personal care (n=1,167). “Online financial services” include internet banking, remittance, loans, insurance, and investments (n=744). “Paid entertainment streaming” refers to the use of subscription video or music streaming services (n=767). “Online food delivery” refers to the use of online services to have ready-to-eat meals delivered ( (n=1,116). “E-commerce” categories include electronics, beauty, and apparel (n=991).
5 Aggregated across all categories: existing users of online grocery (n=2,680), new users of online grocery (n=1,140), existing users of online financial services (n=3,458), new users of online financial services (n=769), existing users of online food delivery (n=2,812), new users of food delivery (n=1,137), existing users of e-commerce (n=3,302), new users of e-commerce (n=1,008). “Existing users” are those who started using the respective digital service prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
6 Aggregated across ID (n=969), MY (n=980), PH (n=983), SG (n=979), TH (n=976), VN (n=960).