How Chinese retailers used digital tactics to survive the coronavirus crisis

by Retail Times

This article was initially published in Retail Times.

By Elena Gatti, managing director of Azoya EU

It has now been two months since the coronavirus first surfaced in China and after a nationwide lockdown things are getting back to normal. Restaurants, bars, and retail stores are opening up throughout China and people are going back to work. The vast majority of gyms, movie theatres and other entertainment venues however remain closed. 

During the crisis many offline retailers were facing the end of their business. However, some of them shifted their activities to digital tactics, such as livestreaming and private WeChat groups, to keep their businesses alive. Let’s have a look at how China’s digital ecosystem enabled retailers to survive during this challenging time and what Western retailers and brands can do to learn from them. 

Livestreaming as a lifesaver

Livestreaming has already been a huge trend in 2019 and it doesn’t come as a surprise that several retailers have turned to livestreaming to keep their businesses alive. Since Chinese New Year the demand for livestreaming hosts has more than doubled with recruitment posts growing by 132%. Such livestreaming sessions typically take place on Taobao, China’s eBay-like C2C marketplace platform with >600 million users. 

How does a livestreaming session look like: Normally, a host will introduce the brand, and will oftentimes incorporate a raffle or sweepstakes game to entertain people. Then, he/she moves on to discuss specific products, usually trying them on and showing them off to the viewers through different angles. Users can at any time click a small link to make a purchase, which is enabled through a pop-up order window and Alibaba’s mobile payments platform Alipay. 

Additionally, the video sessions are interactive. Each session resembles a virtual chat room; any participant can type comments and ask the host to try on different products or ask questions about fit, colour, size, etc. Livestreaming allow the viewer to get a better sense of what the product looks and feels like in real life. Conversion rates are generally higher, though there is the added cost of paying livestreaming hosts and influencers. Read More at Retail Times.