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Post-Covid trends in China’s consumer sector

by Antoaneta Becker
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How has Covid-19 impacted commerce in China?

The spread of Covid-19 earlier in the year caused lockdowns across China, causing people to turn to e-commerce for purchasing everything from daily necessities to clothes and luxury items. However, even as offline retail has opened back up, the acceleration of China’s digital transformation has not slowed, resulting in lasting changes across consumer behaviour, new trends and interests, and purchasing behaviour. In order to adapt to these changes, brands will need to not only provide online sales channels, but also provide positive digital experiences.

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How have sales in different categories reacted post-Covid-19?

The sales data shows that despite the outbreak, e-commerce has continued to grow steadily. Examples of the top categories that have experienced growth on Tmall and Taobao include:

  • Women’s fashion: Growth rate of 30.7%
  • Men’s fashion: Growth rate of 29.1%
  • Snacks/nuts: Growth rate of 53.8%
  • Beauty/skincare/body care: Growth rate of 24.8%
  • Mother and baby: Growth rate of 36.5%

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What is an important trend that brands need to be aware of when entering the China market?

One of the most significant trends that has arisen over the Covid-19 period and continues to be significant in e-commerce is live streaming. In fact, the number of people using online live streaming related services exceeded 560 million people in March. When it comes to live streaming, there are two main types that brands can utilise:

  • Key Opinion Leader (KOL) live streaming: Brands can collaborate with KOLs who already have a following to promote a product or service during a livestream. These livestreams are hosted by the KOLs and are effective at driving sales.
  • Internal live streaming: Another option is for brands to build up their own internal live streaming teams, training their employees to become the online equivalent of salespeople. An advantage of this option is that the brand has direct control over what is said during the livestream and does not need to pay the KOL fee. However, these internal livestreams also do not come with the pre-established audience that KOLs have.
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When it comes to live streaming, what are some important points that brands should take note of?

  • KOL fame does not always mean sales. Brands should first define what their goals are for the live stream – do they want sales or brand awareness? Many brands have made the mistake of investing huge amounts of money into KOL live streamers that do not fit with their brand image or KPIs.
  • Promote the livestream in advance. In order to boost awareness ahead of time, brands should always promote any planned livestreams through their own social media channels and using paid media. If working with a live streaming host, make sure the host also promotes the live streaming session beforehand.
  • The timing of the live stream is key. Livestream timing can affect the number of viewers – as an example, 7pm or 8pm during the week is usually the best.

Livestream timing can affect the number of viewers, as an example, 7pm or 8pm during the week is usually the best.

In terms of regulations, what do brands need to be aware of?

Since China’s digital and e-commerce landscape is extremely fast-changing, new regulations and platform policies are being constantly updated. As a result, brands need to stay up to date on the situation in China, since it could be very different just six months in the future. Examples include changing cross-border e-commerce and live streaming regulations or changing policies when it comes to platforms allowing direct links to other social or e-commerce platforms.

Read more about the previous sessions below:

Session 1 – Why and how to sell to China

Session 2 – Building Brand Credibility Online in China

Session 3 – How to emotionally engage with Chinese consumers

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