Finding Opportunity During the Coronavirus Outbreak

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Here are this week’s news and highlights for China:

Outbreak: Coronavirus

Coronavirus: Over 70% of Chinese Businesses Will Have Returned to Work by This Week, Survey Shows: A survey by recruitment site found over 70% of businesses had planned to resume operations by now. But 18% of companies in China have adopted a wait-and-see approach to the outbreak and currently have no plans to resume operations. State-owned enterprises and joint ventures accounted for the highest share of businesses who have resumed operations. Firms in Northern China were much more likely to be operating again than those in the south. Those in Ningbo in Zhejiang Province were least likely.

Coronavirus: Zhejiang Adopts Draconian Quarantine Measures to Fight Disease: Zhejiang, the hardest hit province after Wuhan’s Hubei, is issuing each household in the cities of Ningbo, Wenzhou, Hangzhou and Taizhou with a “passport”, usually a piece of paper that carries one’s name, home address and an official stamp. Only one person per household is permitted to leave their home every two days. “Unessential” public venues have been closed and funerals and weddings have been banned. The cities have a combined population of 30 million.

Drones Take to China’s Skies to Fight Coronavirus Outbreak: Drones equipped with loudspeakers are broadcasting some interesting orders to those who fail to follow public-health safety practices such as wearing a mask. Agriculture drone manufacturer XAG is working to deploy a fleet of drones that can spray disinfectant on affected areas such as bus and train stations and other public spaces.

Online: Digital China

Douyin Infographic: User Behaviour: Douyin daily active users grew 60% last year to 400 million. Here’s how they’re using it for arts, lifestyle, food, travel and by age.

WeChat Mini Programs: The Future is Ecommerce: WeChat rolled out a series of updates last month, notably supporting its ambitious plans for mini programs—to build a vast online marketplace for traders and sellers. It is improving its search function, brand protection, logistics integration and customer complaints support for sales on mini programs. WeChat has carried out “the strictest yet” policy to crack down on personal shoppers who mainly use WeChat and other social media. WeChat mini program sales rose 160% in 2019 to ¥800 billion ($114 billion), over half of JD’s sales.

JD Reveals How Chinese are Shopping During the Coronavirus Outbreak: Sales of rice, dairy products and other staple food products have soared 154% year-on-year during this period, with rice and wheat products increasing at 5.4 and 4.7 times respectively. Consumption of cereals surged in late January as much as 15 times compared with the same day on the lunar calendar last year. Sales of instant food products, bottled water, dairy and seafood items all saw similarly dramatic sales increases. Fresh-food sales increased 215%, sales of pork increased tenfold, while sales of beef, mutton, poultry and eggs increased 400% and vegetable sales increased by nearly 450%. Interestingly, JD first started its online business during the SARS outbreak.

Consumers, Chinese Consumers

The Next Wave: Silver Spenders: 23 minute video: China Skinny’s Mark Tanner features on Channel News Asia discussing China’s ballooning ageing population.

How Western Brands Can Succeed in China: A survey of 351 US marketers found 40% apply the same marketing plans in China as in the US, despite the huge differences in platforms, culture and demographics. 69% of respondents were using Bing as part of their search marketing efforts – more than the 59% using Baidu. Investing in your brand is the only way to ensure longevity.

Video & Entertainment

Movies Premiere Online as Coronavirus Shuts Theatres: At least seven Chinese films that were set to hit theatres during the Spring Festival holiday were postponed. Lost in Russia launched for free on ByteDance platforms and had more than 600 million total views as of 27 Jan, while Enter the Fat Dragon accumulated 80 million views on Tencent Video within five days.

Why ‘Star Wars’ Keeps Bombing in China: Despite Disney’s latest Avengers movie taking more than half a billion in China, The Rise of Skywalker barely broke $20 million in China in lieu of an aggressive marketing campaign. Critics claim that the new movies don’t stand alone from historic movies, geopolitics and a distinct lack of the nostalgia that drove viewers in the United States. “Hard” science fiction is more popular in China than the “science fiction soap opera” of “Star Wars.” What doesn’t appear to be noted is the ‘rebels taking on the empire’ theme which is unlikely to connect with many Chinese.

Premium Food & Beverage

How China’s Largest Snack Producer is Fending Off Competition from Mars and Mondelez: Three Squirrels is counting on its understanding of local tastes, work culture and shopping habits to help grow its sales by tenfold to ¥100 billion (US$14.4 billion) in the next decade. Its bestselling titbits include nuts and fruits, duck neck and dried pork slices. The advent of “996” culture, or working from 9am to 9pm six days a week, leaves many workers with less time for long lunch or dinner breaks, with snacks becoming the “replacement meals,” forming the basis for its growth expectations. As 80% of snack purchases happen in stores, Three Squirrels aims to have 1,000 new stores by the end of 2020 – five times more than its current size, and 10,000 stores in five years. China’s snack industry is forecast to grow 36% between 2016 and 2020 to ¥3 trillion (US$432 billion).

Millions of Chickens at Risk Amid China Lockdowns Due to Coronavirus: The shutdowns in several provinces have hit supply chains, with transport restrictions preventing much needed animal feed such as soybean meal from getting delivered to poultry farm.

Overseas Chinese Tourists

History Predicts a Massive Surge in Travel Post-Coronavirus: Ctrip data shows an unmistakeable surge in travel bookings shortly after the SARS epidemic waned.

Schooling and Education

China Requires Colleges, Universities to Offer Online Learning After Semester Postponement: As of 2 Feb, official data showed that 22 online course platforms had opened more than 24,000 free courses covering 12 undergraduate disciplines and 18 majors of technical and vocational education. The Ministry of Education in late January announced the postponement of the 2020 spring semester for schools amid the coronavirus outbreak, but did not specify the opening dates of colleges and universities under the ministry.

Designers and Fashion

China Retail Businesses Forced to Go Online Amid Coronavirus Epidemic: One of the largest fashion retailers in China, Denmark’s Bestseller, has launched a WeChat mini program to help soften the significant fall in sales in its 7,000+ Jack & Jones, Only, Vero Moda and other retail stores in China due the outbreak. Between Feb 1 and 5, WeChat Mini Program sales were ¥18.9 million ($2.7 million) – three times larger than its ¥6.2 million ($900K) sales in physical retail. Although tiny compared to its usual sales, it is establishing another sales and marketing channel during a difficult time and keeping sales staff engaged as they are incentivised to drive online sales. Not to cannibalise traditional retail sales, 75% of products sold on WeChat are only available online.

That’s the Skinny for the week! See previous newsletters here. Contact China Skinny for marketing strategy, research and digital advice and implementation.

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