Lessons for brands adjusting to new retail realities in China

A Reuter Communications report details four Chinese consumer themes that brands should take note of.

Some shopping malls in China have resumed business
Some shopping malls in China have resumed business

When China was in lockdown the last couple of months, new priorities and perspectives were formed, and these have shaped consumer behavior along the way. Now that recovery is slowly taking shape, brands need to be prepared to tap into newfound needs and preferences. Here are four themes luxury communications consultant Reuter Communications found.

Accelerated digital migration

Live-streaming—already a phenomenon in Chinacontinued to rise in the last couple of months with more people tuned in from home and events moving to virtual platforms. Reuter predicts that this could signal a new way brands engage with consumers.

For instance, Agora.io and New Oriental Education launched the "New Oriental Cloud Classroom" which saw millions of students use its cloud-based classrooms. For Nike's Air Max Day 2020, the brand live-streamed the launch of its new product via Taobao Live to over 2.78 million viewers. And real estate platform Anjuke saw a three-fold increase in views and engagement when it launched its VR and live-streaming services in early March.

In late March, the world tuned in to Shanghai Fashion Week, the first-ever fully digital fashion week complete with live-streamed runway shows and behind-the-scenes content. Platforms such as Douyin, RED and JD.com have upgraded their live-streaming capabilities as a result of this 'boom'.

Self-sufficiency

Being in lockdown means executing a minimal extent of self-sufficiency, whether that means cooking or honing an arts & crafts hobby. As people find and revisit hobbies and interests, brands are beginning to take note.

Flower and lifestyle store The Beast live-streamed numerous flower arrangement tutorials, topping 65K views per episode, while many hotel brands including InterContinental and Shangri-La offered online cooking classes. Meanwhile, Pizza Hut promoted DIY candle-lit dinners at home by offering to deliver raw steak.

Japanese cocktail brand Horoyoi posted a series of four DIY cocktail, which garnered an accumulative 2.14 million views on Weibo.

Heightened health consciousness

There's undoubtedly been an increased focus on health, wellness, and personal and environmental hygiene. And brands are stepping up to offer aid, advise, and services. Take, for instance, Hilton Hotels which released a series of at-home fitness videos performed by staff.

Reuter also predicts that a focus on health could escalate to increased priorities around sustainability in a broader sense. Local designers are getting in on this such as Frank Chou's sterilizing lamp and 'time-changing' hand sanitiser products. And designer Meng Yueming's jacket released in February came with enhanced protective features.

Retail goes 'creative'

The badly hit retail sector is finding new ways to pick up customer engagement where they might have left off before the outbreak. Puma, for instance, released its new limited-edition model with 200 pairs at selected offline stores in late March.

Saint Laurent gave sales associates exclusive WeChat Mini-Program links to encourage them to drive traffic. Plus, when access to influencers were tricky during the lockdown, many brands including Estee Lauder and Cle de Peau used in-store staff for live-streaming products. Might this bring about a new 'wave' of authenticity? We'll have to wait and see. 


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