In the sixth week of the COVID-19 outbreak crisis, over 20 provinces and regions in China recorded no new infections, while the number of the newly infected outside Hubei province has dropped significantly. Businesses are also restarting their operations, ranging from 55% in central China’s provinces to over 70% in the coastal regions.

Number of Chunyun (Chinese New Year) trips drops sharply, coriander becomes a top-selling CNY veggie, discounted apartments are sold online, along with medical consultations

What else can we report is happening across mainland China

Chinese New Year travel drops by over 50% YOY. According to China’s Ministry of Transportation and National Development & Reform Commission, the number of Chinese New Year trips (Chunyun) dropped to 1.48 billion compared to 3 billion in 2019.

Even apartments are now being sold through eCommerce. Real estate company Hengda launched an online campaign in cooperation with shopping platform Suning and offered 25% discount on selected apartments, managing to sell 7,000 units within 6 days.

Cinemas reopen. Starting from 23 Feb, local governments have allowed cinemas to restart business, but it is expected that attendance will be low, with revenues 70% to 80% lower than before the epidemic outbreak.

App downloads surge. In February 2020, mobile app downloads in China exceeded 200 million, representing a +50% growth YOY.

WeChat launches a livestreaming feature, a few weeks after launching a short video format.

8.14 million kg of vegetables sold online during extended Chinese New Year, with coriander, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and carrots being topping consumer choice. With a move towards home cooking to make up for meals usually eaten or prepared elsewhere, growth in fresh produce indicates that people want to ensure their family have top quality food even under challenging circumstances. Unsurprisingly, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu topping the online sales in this period.

Over 800 medical, 300 educational and 100 government WeChat Mini Programs related to the epidemic outbreak have been added.

Consumers are growing restless at home and Nintendo cashes in on it. According to Taobao, there are 10 e-stores that have sold over 1,000 units of Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure (a device to make using fitness games more challenging) and the store topping the list managed to sell 8,500 kits, bringing these retailers and Nintendo over RMB2.35 million in revenues.

Searches for baking goods increased 100-fold and yeast sales went up nearly 40 times, indicating people are taking the opportunity to bake more at home.

Online healthcare consulting services experience sharp user increase. Consumer demand for online diagnoses and counseling have risen sharply, with usage of medical consulting services Dingxiang Doctor and Ali Health growing 198.84% and 62.94% respectively since before Chinese New Year.

Electronics innovator Xiaomi patents a new smart mask that tracks pollution inhalation with a mobile app.

Car hailing service Didi has adopted in-car facial recognition to detect if its drivers are wearing protective masks that are still mandatory in a significant number of regions in China.

What should brands consider for marketing and communications during the COVID-19 crisis?

  • Be sensitive in brand messaging
  • Focus on direct consumer benefits of your product or service
  • Consider the higher media consumption during this time as a potential opportunity
  • Understand the sales conversion challenges with reduced availability and fulfilment
  • Consider giving back to the community

Visit our WeChat to view last week’s advice and detail on the recommendations for managing communications during this period.

Thanks to the PHD China Strategic Insights team for contributing to this article.

We are providing a weekly update on the impact and implications for this current health crisis. If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to email us at:

Mark Bowling – CSO PHD China mark.bowling@phdmedia.com or Vladimir Prostran – Group Director Strategic Insights PHD China vladimir.prostran@phdmedia.com