Coronavirus is threatening the world health and economy, and the impact on domestic and international sales is not yet clear. What is certain is that it will lead to a profound change in consumer habits.

In China, the virus has led to a sharp shift in sales from offline to online, and a boom in the use of live stream platforms.

China is the largest e-commerce market in the world, with a value of $ 1.94 trillion in sales.

This month (March) we are witnessing a clear recovery in sales with an extraordinary performance by Alibaba during the shopping festival on March 8th. For the first time since the pandemic broke out, sales are not just about daily consumer goods, but also about leisure.


In any case, it cannot be said that the epidemic has blocked the e-commerce sales sector in the past months. In fact, the fashion industry suffered the greatest impact, by recording lower sales in February 2020 than last year.

Anyway, fashion was an exception and several e-commerce platforms and e-stores did not drop in sales during the first quarter of 2020.

A striking example is that of cosmetics, as evidenced by the sales of the Perfect Diary e-shop, or by international brands such as Lancôme which have recorded good results during the crisis. In particular, Lancôme sales in January and February 2020 were equal to or higher than those of the previous months in 2019.

The same is valid for the F&B sector. Liáng Chānglín 梁昌霖, founder and CEO of the Dingdong Fresh e-commerce platform, said his home delivery service saw a 300% increase in demand compared to just before the Chinese New Year.

During this period of instability, home delivery platforms in China provided a lifeline for its F&B sector. From January 26 to March 10, over 200,000 entrepreneurs have opened new accounts on Ele.me (an application similar to Just Eat).

JD.com (JD), the second most used e-commerce platform in China after Tmall, also performed a positive quarter. More importantly, the company has also inspired investor confidence by providing indications of revenue growth of at least 10%, despite a slowdown in the Chinese economy during the difficult crisis generated by COVID-19.

The Chinese e-commerce ecosystem not only has not slowed down its performance during the coronavirus crisis, but has even improved them. This trend is easy to understand: if consumers are locked up in their house, the choice is to go online.

Consequently, several companies, which traditionally have always operated offline, have decided to open online stores, among the most famous we find IKEA which has opened its flagship store on Tmall. In just 5 days, the store has already reached 874k Tmall followers and the 15 best-selling products have generated 408,000 RMB in sales.

This mass transition from offline to online has generated important consequences on the marketing strategies to be put in place, with a boom in live streaming.

During the international women’s day on March 8, over 1,000 brands organized live broadcasts on their WeChat Mini Program.

The HanGuang department store sold products worth RMB 20 million during live streaming; Luolai, a homeware store, sold RMB 10 million of merchandise in 6 hours, with over 1.4 million views.

Taobao Live, Alibaba Group’s live-stream platform, witnessed a rise in activity in the platform during the month of February when merchants slowly resumed their activities and sought a more effective way to reach consumers.

During the first half of February, according to Taobao Live, the live stream sessions on the platform increased by 110% compared to the same period of the previous year. This shows an attempt by companies that have online stores to maintain sales and engagement with consumers, while their physical stores have remained closed.

For merchants in different industries, live streaming has become an important tool not only to compensate for the decline in offline business but also to encourage creativity in marketing and developing customer relationships.

What can be done in live streaming?

The only limit is your imagination. Here are some examples of live streaming:

  • Broadcast cooking tutorials in restaurant kitchens,
  • Offer virtual tours of apartments,
  • Do concerts online,
  • Show the work in the fields of a farm,
  • Explain how to assemble furniture …

Automotive brands such as BMW are leveraging live streaming to present consumers with new car models, interiors and test drive experience.

Another example is Forest Cabin, a cosmetic brand that suffered a 90% loss in turnover during the Chinese New Year due to the closure of its physical stores. The brand launched a turnaround strategy, focusing on online sales supported by live streaming promotion, and in just 15 days, sales outperformed the same period by 45% the previous year.

Obviously, it is still early to celebrate, the Chinese market will still have to go a long way before talking about an effective recovery.

In the meantime, understanding the trends, moving online and giving consumers more interactive experiences, seem to be strategies that open up new possibilities for sales

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