Most in China think that the worst is behind them. Yet that sentiment remains tempered by concerns about the spread of the virus in the rest of the world, in addition to asymptomatic cases and a second wave of COVID-19 infections driven by imported cases. Although 90% of China’s imported cases can be attributed to returning Chinese passport holders, with more than one third of the world’s population now in lockdown, Chinese are clearly worried about the spread of the virus overseas.
These concerns have seen China close its borders for foreigners, greatly reduce flights into Chinese airports, and again close indoor tourist attractions and the 600 cinemas that had recently reopened. That aside, the trajectory of China remains one of the most promising right now with just 6% of consumers pessimistic, on the back of the promise of stronger macro policies from Beijing. China’s manufacturing activity expanded in March, defying expectations of a contraction and people are starting to book more holidays, albeit mostly in their province.
As we’ve noted over the past couple of months, the pandemic has fundamentally changed Chinese consumer behaviour: how they are researching brands and products, what they are buying, and where they are buying it. Many of these drastic changes are unlikely to be short-lived and companies should be thinking about altering their go-to-market strategies to accommodate these changes. But before even starting this, businesses should ensure that they are keeping their customers and partners in China up to date with regular communications.
There is lot of news in China – some of it fake – about the rest of the world melting down. If your business is exporting to China, there may be some Chinese customers and partners concerned about whether your product supply is stable and will reach them during these times of uncertainty. In addition to doing everything you can to ensure that your products can still get to your customers, you should also be keeping them in the loop about your situation.
One of the best performing businesses during the height of the outbreak in China was Hema supermarkets. Part of this success can be put down to three promises that the retailer made as soon as the crisis began. They pledged to customers that they 1. Wouldn’t shut; 2. Wouldn’t raise prices; and 3. Would do their best to ensure that they’d have enough supplies. Hema acted fast with some clever initiatives to help keep those promises. These included using unemployed restaurant staff to assist with the spike in grocery delivery, negotiating favourable supply terms with suppliers, devising contactless delivery solutions and even using the city bus in Wuhan to deliver groceries. As a result, Hema has been rewarded with more loyalty than ever before.
Foreign brands would be wise to make similar pledges to their Chinese customers – both B2B and B2C – if they can fulfil them. In communicating with people in China, brands shouldn’t fret about not being able to meet Chinese partners and customers face to face – it’s unlikely they’ll want to meet in person for a while given the risk of imported cases. Video calling has become an accepted way of communicating, so make the most of it to stay present with your connections in China. Act fast, communicate clearly, and communicate regularly. Then focus on the strategic work – China Skinny can assist with that.
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