China has emerged from its lockdown slumber and into a stabilisation phase, inching back to normality one week at a time; China’s experience can give us a glimpse into the future how shoppers will react once the curtain slowly starts to lift.

That being said, China is a very different place to the UK’s in many ways. For example, can you imagine the UK government releasing an app that assigns us covid health codes that dictate whether we can go to work, enter cafes or shopping malls? Look at the resistance to the NHS contact tracing app here in the UK!

However, we can draw macro-level insight from how people are behaving. For example, a focus on cleanliness and hygiene within retail environments, across the globe, will be a long lasting effect of C-19 on the shopper experience – sanitiser stations in retail will be part of the new normal.

But what else can we garner from China’s recovery? A recent pulse report by Havas highlighted how the Chinese are discovering and shaping their “New Normal” and I have summarised the key findings here below:

  • 5 weeks after lockdown was relaxed 77% of stores had experienced +50% traffic – every week sees footfall increase.
  • Outdoor outlets showing the highest increase in footfall, driven by younger demographic.
  • Restaurant sector is recovering slowly, good deals/discounts are the core driver for tempting the consumers back into F&B establishments.
  • 58% are cooking at home, part of the adjustments made during lockdown and will remain as part of the new normal.
  • People are focused more on practical needs when shopping, rather than shopping for pleasure.
  • 65% Chinese actively prefer national brands and will continue to source Chinese products first.
  • Live streaming sales have been very effective, using influencers to support local producers badly affected by the crisis to help sell their produce.
  • Consumers will be more restrained on spending, particularly the 45-60yrs demographic with younger consumers more likely to “revenge spend” post lockdown.
  • Local convenience stores have seen a 15% upswing, as consumers still feel nervous about proximity to others.
  • Bank Holidays will play key part in the rebound, 800m Chinese planned to travel on the over the Labour Day holiday period, although mostly staying relatively local.

Source: HAVAS China Market Pulse Vol.5 2020

How translatable this insight will be into our post-lockdown lives, only time will tell, but this insight is the closest thing to a crystal ball that we currently have (toilet-roll hoarding certainly broke through international boundaries didn’t it!)

I agree that the rebound will be led by products/services that add enjoyment to daily life. We can all relate to this, we are desperate to get back outside and indulge in the small things we have missed – the marketing messages that promote positivity will win.

With my brand loyalty tinted glasses on, China’s experience shows how important promotions/brand activations/loyalty based promotions will be in helping brands to recover lost revenue. Just before we transition into recovery, brands have a perfect window of opportunity to reach out to their customers via digital marketing (whilst we are all spending more time online) to push out promotions to your customer base, ready for re-opening. For those likely to be most impacted, F&B/Hotels etc, the O2O channel is your life raft – please book in some time with me if you need help offering digital rewards/promotions to your customer base.

A word of warning for marketeers, avoid epidemic related marketing, I think we have all heard enough!

If you are interested or have an opinion on this, please drop me an email (rob@whitelabel-loyalty.com) to be part of my next article/research piece. We’re bringing together leading voices across brands and agencies to gain your thoughts on what the post-lockdown shopper marketing experience will look like.