Westwin, a leading tech-driven cross-border marketing company, was invited to join a webinar recently to share insights about consumer behaviors in the post-COVID-19 world. Produced by BXP & VMSD Magazine, the online event aimed to help global brands quickly adapt to the challenges and uncertainties bought by the pandemic.
Attending the online event as an expert of China’s market, Alain de Maurier, Sales & Marketing Director EMEA of Westwin, offered a snapshot of the current Chinese customer landscape, measures taken by companies in China to shift strategies as well as his insights into the unique business models carved out of China’s internet ecosystem.
Digital Services are here to stay
Consumers embarked on a new shopping journey during citywide lockdowns with new safety concerns prompting brands to accelerate their digital transformations. A survey on customer behavior conducted by Westwin in March shows that about 80% of respondents over 20 years old favored a cloud-based lifestyle with “cloud” gatherings, fitness sessions, and virtual museum visits topped the list due to nationwide shelter-in-place measures.
The sudden spike in the popularity of digital platforms has also lasted into China’s post-COVID-19 era. Data from major Chinese e-commerce platforms shows that the number of deliveries during the May holiday surged by 70% compared to the same period last year. The growth is particularly robust in lower-tier cities where the number of parcels delivered to 5th-tired cities increased by 80%, with a whopping twofold growth in 6th tiered cities.
Prioritize health and safety
“The exponential growth of e-commerce and digital services have sent a strong signal, suggesting consumers are becoming increasingly safety-conscious,” said Alain de Maurier. “Under the current circumstances, the mission of retailers should be focused on creating a shopping experience that puts health and safety above everything else.”
To establish a reassuring shopping environment for customers, safety measures are essential in recovering consumer confidence at brick-and-mortar stores. Many public spaces in China that are usually prone to have high footfall have installed infrared thermal imaging systems for temperature screenings. Disinfection is conducted on an hourly basis, and hand sanitizers are provided at the entrance of every restaurant and shop. Ride-hailing companies have also sought to minimize the risk of infection by putting plastic partitions between drivers and passengers and helping enforce social distancing while maintaining standard operations.
A new retail experience under COVID-19
Benefiting from China’s internet ecosystem model, Chinese companies and brands are shifting their business strategies and embracing e-commerce, social media and live streaming platforms.
With the rise of live streaming, retailers can engage and interact with customers in a more immediate and authentic way. On WeChat, Chinese companies across different industries are all leveraging private group chats to build trust, interactivity, and community into their brand experience. The pandemic has also given rise to cloud-based services such as virtual exhibitions, museums and roadshows, strengthening cross-sector collaboration to offer an out-of-store experience.
“It is a good example of how technology can improve the retail experience for shoppers. The ballooning number of digital services isn’t necessarily detrimental to retail. I think these two can work hand-in-hand, with the right integration of tech solutions further improving the retail experience,” said Alan.
Digital Solutions to help the vulnerable
Many brands have launched compelling campaigns that speak to the reality of the pandemic, from the introduction of new products and services to innovative storytelling. Companies in China are also trying to carve out new ways to support vulnerable communities during the crisis with the help of digital platforms.
A new business solution born from China’s internet ecosystem offers a new way for e-commerce to deliver support to the people in need. With supply chains still recovering from the impact of the pandemic, some e-commerce sites have set up Livestream channels to connect farmers across China with tens of millions of followers. The trend has seen more farmers embracing live streaming services as their new channels to promote farm-fresh produce.
“New business solutions powered by digital tools are set to transform the ways companies connect with individuals. With 5G on the horizon, businesses can ride on this new technological momentum to deliver more values to the world,” said Alain.