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When it comes to Covid-19, China is arguably in the containment stage. As the Chinese reflect on the devastating loss of life and economic uncertainties caused, is this a time for brands to be cautious?

The reality is that the mood is buoyant, at least from an economic perspective. According to a survey of 1,250 Chinese citizens run by Mckinsey, only 6% of participants felt there would be long-lasting economic damage caused by Covid-19. Resourceful brands will be able to position themselves very favourably in this new climate.

No post war generation will have experienced anything as dramatic as the Covid-19 Pandemic. It has created a shift in attitudes and values of Chinese consumers, a shift which will pay dividends for brands that can adjust. Here we label some of the trends we are seeing.

1. Healthy Healthy Healthy

 

healthy food in china

 

The crisis has had a discernible impact on consumer attitudes to the safety of products, the environment and a healthy lifestyle. According to the Mckinsey survey, 70% of participants say they will be strengthening their immune system by exercising more and eating healthily.

Brands will be rewarded for exploring these trends in their consumer engagement strategies and branding.

 

2. Don’t Forget the Oldies

 

older generation in china

 

Younger generations in China have grown up with the internet and are used to purchasing products online on a daily basis. What we are now seeing is a surge of consumers aged 60+ participating in e-commercial activities and buying online food deliveries.

What is fascinating is that more senior customers are participating in online shopping in a very different way from that of their young digital-savvy counterparts. We are seeing community supermarkets providing a simpler online shopping experience; orders can now be taken on WeChat groups a one-click delivery service is often offered. This has really helped those older consumers who were previously frustrated by navigating complex apps. Brands which can work with KOLS that resonate with older generations and the simple user-friendly interface of their website/app suits this consumer segment.

 

3. Feel-good Factor

 

luxury chinese goods

 

In the UK’s last recession of 2007-2008 perhaps counterintuitively, the big winners were the brands that could offer consumers a feel-good factor. These included premium items such as sparkling wine and luxury skincare products. Products that were not necessities but improved people’s morale.

A study provided by Textile and Cosmetics Li Jie identified that sales of international high-end brands grew significantly during International Women’s Day, despite the national coronavirus lockdown at the time. This is the acceleration of a trend which began prior to Covid-19. We also carried out a couple of online Chinese focus groups where we picked up a greater appreciation from participants of the finer things in life (a life is too short mindset). Brands can aim for this feel good experience through creating a story around their brand that can resonate with high end consumers and collaborate with key opinion leaders (KOLs) which align with this market.

 

4. Dining-in Becoming the New Normal

 

Chinese people eating at home

Eating in during the pandemic has naturally increased but we see this as a trend that is likely to continue for the long term. Nielsen carried out a study which clarified that 86% of Chinese mainlander respondents would eat at home more post-pandemic. We followed this up with an online focus group which confirmed the survey’s findings citing food & hygiene safety as the most important concern post pandemic – a requirement that participants felt could only be fulfilled at home.

There would also seem to be a greater preference for buying fresh and healthy food on a more frequent basis with 80% of Nielsen survey respondents saying they would be more willing to buy fresh products online on a more regular basis.

Post Covid-19 there will be an opportunity for food brands to offer healthier, high-end, organic, fresh food products with a greater emphasis on hygiene. Similarly restaurants would do well to prioritise a message of reliable hygiene standards.

 

5. Immersive Online to Offline Experiences

 

 

Chinese consumers are no longer looking to have superficial relationships with their brands, they wish for an immersive relationship with their brand’s content, stories and personality.

Shanghai Fashion Week, which was livestreamed during the quarantine on Tmall in late March, wasn’t just a fashion experience; it was an opportunity to turn inspiration into purchases by allowing consumers to sit front-row and buy what they were seeing. Since the arrival of Covid-19 it has become imperative for brands to create more online-to-offline experience strategies, connect consumers closely to real-time events, and offer seamless inspiration-to-purchase processes.

Successful brands will be those that are able to identify new opportunities and use precise insights to provide specific responses.  These will give Chinese consumers the immersive personal experience they are looking for. In our focus groups we discovered that 50% of participants would not purchase a premium brand in which they felt like they did not have a meaningful relationship with.

 

Wrapping Up

Covid-19 has had a seismic impact on Chinese consumer attitudes and behaviour. We expect a lot of this behaviour to stick long term. Brands that can quickly adapt to this post Covid-19 climate will be the winners.