The prolonged pandemic led to changes in consumers’ demands, characteristics, and spending habits. The synergy of online and offline channels has also grown more prominent under the pressure brought by COVID-19.
More people are expecting drastic development of e-commerce after the pandemic. When everything is ended, people will spend more money on e-commerce platforms due to their habits that will have been formed during the quarantine.
LI Jiaqi, an online influencer, promoting products in live streams
Recently, people in most places of China went back to work, so they are becoming less pessimistic about the impact of the virus and more eager to spend those money that they weren’t able to spend in the past few months.
To help brands know better about the users and detect business opportunities with more precision, W-axis Technology summarized the pandemic into 3 phases to introduce the fresh business models that brands built during the pandemic.
Taking care of consumers’ feelings
The coronavirus outbreak locked people in their home during the Spring Festival. As people stay indoors for days after days, they became sentimental and upset about the future.
During the lockdown, most consumers killed time with games, which gave a strong leg-up to that industry. The Daily Active Users of Honor of Kings skyrocketed from 65 million to 100 million during the festival. Tencent’s Q1 earnings report showed a 31% year-on-year rise in its online-gaming business.
Tencent’s earnings report of Q1, 2020
In addition to games, consumers also paid more attention to the health of themselves and their families, which presented a growth opportunity to sports gears.
The virus shut many gyms down, but fitness brands like Supermonkey, lululemon didn’t stop their growth. Instead, they put on fitness classes on live-streaming platforms, which were urgently needed by consumers at home. Nike changed its slogan to “Just Don’t Quit”, to which many consumers during this crisis could relate.
12 online classes given by lululemon
Brands handled sensitive topics like the pandemic with particular care. They also tried to find out about how their business could fit what consumers needed and cared the most, while providing valuable content to them.
Instead of pushing discount information on its official account, Uniqlo kept sending posts about the pandemic to win Chinese consumers’ heart. Through its daily digital operation, Uniqlo has been getting closer to its consumers by telling its stories, promoting its design philosophies, and holding interactive activities. The brand believes that social responsibilities and caring for its consumers are integral parts of a brand’s sustainable development.
Uniqlo’s official account
Indeed, brands need to build their relationships with customers on a basis of sincerity, for brands and KOLs play a significant role in promulgating information and soothing consumers’ heart. Otherwise brands may be abandoned by their patrons for lack of trust, like Baidu was.
Less passive emotions, faster online explorations
Physical stores have been seldomly visited during the pandemic due to governmental lockdowns and consumers’ fear of getting infected. However, online channels have sped up their development, and the trend has been led by the younger generations and the high-income demographic.
After the pandemic showed signs of containment, online channels like e-commerce platforms, Mini Programs and online communities became even better tools to do operations. Among them, Mini Programs were especially eye-catching. Official numbers showed that by February 12, Mini Programs that sold fruits and vegetables were visited 168% more times than last year, those that sold daily supplies among neighborhoods also saw an 83% rise in the times they were visited.
WeMall, a Mini Program store co-released by Bestseller and the retail department of Tencent Cloud, was crucial for the brand’s development during the pandemic.
WeMall is called the “online second floor” by Bestseller: the shopping assistants in physical stores form the offline communities and diversify the scenarios with WeMall. The shopping assistants do costumer management and provide services to the buyers on WeChat.
Thanks to the brand’s digital operations and its efforts spent on Mini Programs, while the retail industry was under the cloud of the pandemic for the whole February, the turnover of WeMall in that month was 13 times more than a year ago. Its peak-day turnover was also way more than that in the Double-11 and Double 12 shopping festivals last year.
WeMall Mini Program by Bestseller
In the first two months of this year, the number of users of medical Mini Programs surged 347% year-on-year, and that of educational Mini Programs went up by 40%. The pandemic also brought more users to Mini Programs related with groceries, entertainment, and games. In addition, restaurants fared much better with the WeChat communities and Mini Programs they built.
XiBei Noodles added over 300,000 patrons to their WeChat Work and informed them of news about the brand by using Moments and messages sent in batch.
Meanwhile the brand put links to its Mini Program store and take-out Mini Program on the marketers’ profile pages, so that buyers can easily find the entry and make purchase online.
XiBei’s take-out Mini Program during the pandemic
As more companies make the attempt to go online, retail tools made by Tencent like WeChat Mini Programs, WeChat Pay, Moments and group chats play a more important role to connect companies and consumers and facilitate companies’ self-help and recovery.
mature digital and omni-channel operations
Since May, the rebound in China’s retailing market has boosted the confidence of luxury brands. After the first few months of smothered consumption, brands are working especially hard on supplies and digitalization, which puts China in the prospect of making up for the losses in the first two quarters and even growing by several percentage points.
Many brands quickly equipped themselves with omni-channel operations. Traditional luxury brands are gradually moving toward online channels. Chanel released its Cruise 2020/21 collection on an online runway; Galeries Lafayette and Gucci rolled out their online personal shopping assistant services; Dior opened its channel on Tik-Tok; luxury brands collaborated with online influencers to promote their products; sales on e-commerce platforms have been breaking records on a daily basis: they are all proof that the whole industry is getting more and more digitalized.
Presentation of Chanel’s Cruise 2020/21 collection
The digital and omni-channel landscape that formed during the pandemic will become the new normal when the crisis is ended. Celebrity entrepreneurs like LUO Yonghao and DONG Mingzhu have stepped into the spotlight to create business opportunities in live streams. The maturing of live streams, short videos and social media e-commerce means that consumers will access products through more diverse channels.
The 6.18 shopping festival came at an opportune time, because companies needed it to enhance their sales and consumers needed it to vent their desire to spend money. The shopping spree indeed created a win-win situation.
Juhuasuan.com collaborated with other platforms within the Taobao ecosystem and held the 5.5 shopping festival, which was the first bomb dropped in China’s e-commerce battleground in the rebound era.
Pivoted by the computing power that Alibaba Cloud provided, Juhuasuan.com distributed the product recommendations in a more precise manner. It would choose the most appropriate target audience and help vendors to promote their products, so that every bit of traffic was well utilized.
In the post-pandemic era, companies scramble to start their diverse cloud-marketing model. Some choose to promote sales and their brand image on live-streaming platforms, while some are turning launch events into exciting reality shows.
COVID-19 posed great challenge to all industries. Currently, the amount of money people spend at home is increasing non-stop. At this phase, consumers are more reliant on scenario experience and online services to make buying decisions, which pushes companies to innovate even harder. Only those companies who make timely adjustments can stand in an advantageous position in the future.