Chinese consumers stand on a corner
Bryan Car CEO RooLife Group

Bryan Carr
CEO, RooLife Group

The Rise of the 'Homebody' Economy

Welcome to RooLife’s weekly update. Today, we explore the impacts of COVID-19 on consumer trends. Amidst the chaos of the pandemic, one thing remains constant. That is that new and unforeseen trends will continue to emerge; many of which will have lasting impacts on our daily lives and behaviours.

Some of the less-expected trends gaining a lot of airtime recently include: pet ownership, jigsaw puzzles, and bread-baking. Meanwhile, several ‘impossible-to-foresee’ markets are emerging. In Silicon valley for instance, you can now pay to have wild animals (such as goats and llamas) attend your Zoom meetings.

As new markets develop, many industries are undergoing forced transformations. Amidst global gym-closures, the online health and wellness industry is booming. Similarly, the 79% plunge in China’s automotive sales over February saw a 15x jump in car-sale livestreams. Last week, we even saw Tesla embrace eCommerce to open Tmall flagship store. A simple truth is emerging for many businesses: to support your customers, you need to have a digital strategy.

Silver Linings of a Global Lockdown

On the flip-side, the lack of cars on China’s roads in January-February saw their NO2 levels down a whopping 40%. We’re now seeing similar drops globally, including 60% NO2 reductions in some UK cities. The improved air-quality is providing a variety of environmental and healthcare benefits. Furthermore, with humans confined to their homes, wildlife and natural ecosystems appear to be recovering.

In addition, we’re also encountering a rising global affinity for remote work. As scientists estimate that the pandemic may span up to two years, it is no wonder that a growing number of us are embracing the notion of becoming a homebody.

Emerging Consumer Trends

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Screen Time

Under quarantine, China’s total online hours shot from 5.1 to 6.1 billion from January 14 to February 4.

We’re seeing the same thing taking shape across the rest of the world – particularly amongst Children. In America, 6-12-year olds are consuming at least 50% more screen-hours. The greatest allocation of this time is going to video streaming, then regular TV, then games.

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Education & eLearning

In China, we saw China’s ministry of education (MOE) launching a national e-learning platform. They also launched ‘China Education Television’ on CCTV.

In China, the prevalence of live-streaming tools and ed-tech innovation has eased the transition. However, it is not coming without challenges.

In a recent survey on Chinese women, 82.8% spent more time e-Learning under quarantine. 49.3% also identified that they are more willing to spend money on enhancing their present lifestyle.

China saw a 50% increase in downloads for educational apps under quarantine.

In the absence of a national platform, Australian schools are left to their own devices, for the most part.

With students confined to their homes, cheating has become a lot easier. Paying someone to take a test for you costs as little as ¥3.

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Remote Work

Recent months have seen a 1,446% increase in downloads for office communication platforms like Dingtalk. Meanwhile, use of Microsoft teams surged 1000% over march, as the number of teams utilising video calls jumped from 21% to 43%.

China’s initial demand spike for remote collaboration software has seen strong innovation by all major tech-giants. A temporary ban of Zoom in China crippled their China growth, particularly relative to Alibaba’s Dingtalk and Tencent’s WeChat Work. With the rest of the world now in lockdown, these giants are increasingly releasing ‘global’ software packages.

In Nielson’s recent study, 94% of respondents view home-office positively. They also indicated a belief that they were just as productive as in the office.

In a recent American survey, only 3% of respondents in low-socioeconomic areas indicated that they can/will work from home. The rate rose dramatically with income.

A recent poll from Gartner identifies that 74% of CFO’s expect their employees to adapt to online learning moving forward. There is speculation the trend of remote work will continue post COVID19, as businesses realise the economic advantages. While remote workers can stay at home with their kids, companies benefit from diminished workplace expenses.

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Gaming

China’s lockdown spurred massive growth in online gaming. Of all online activities, mobile gaming specifically achieved the fastest growing user-base: with 20% growth in standalone mobile apps and 38% growth in mini-program apps. In terms of average mobile-gaming time, this jumped 40% from 113 to 159 minutes per day.

Gaming platform Steam has broken several records in recent months; including the 2018 record of 18.5 million daily users. Gaming tournaments are being streamed on Bilibili, meanwhile COVD19 imagery is also emerging in games.

Across the world, educators are turning to games to educate their students. History teachers are using Assassins Creed to teach about Ancient Greece. Meanwhile, while science teachers use Minecraft to demonstrate cellular biology and climate change principles.

Marriage

Shaanxi Province is reporting an ‘unprecedented’ volume of divorce applications. Meanwhile, 32 million people are reading about the ‘Xi’An Divorce Appointment explosion on Weibo.

Wuhan’s local wedding application systems are crashing amidst an influx of applications. Meanwhile, Alipay’s wedding application is experiencing surges 300% above usual.

Evidently, stressful events are notorious for boosting said applications. In the year following earthquakes, Chinese cities typically see divorce and marriage rates leap 6.1% and 1.9%. Similar phenomena can be seen globally.

 

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Shopping in China

Chinese consumers are increasingly buying from C2M businesses. Pinduoduo is set to outperform Taobao by monthly active users in Q1. Since mid-March, they continue to support over 50 million daily orders (+60% YOY). In an effort to catch up, Taobao launched its own C2M platform in March.

Isolation is being linked to a reduction in demand for colour-cosmetics. Contrastingly, we’re seeing an emergence of ‘healthy beauty’ products. Brands are now focusing on healthy and natural ingredients, and appealing to their markets’ desire for a holistic, healthy lifestyle. Prior to the global pandemic, online sales of cosmetic items already accounted for 30% of total China retail sales.

Applications for dental and cosmetic services skyrocketed 3000% in the 10 days ending March 27.

On Tmall, demand for non-essential foods plummeted. Snacks, lunches and regional foods comprised only 22.0% of purchases, down from 73.4%. By contrast, ‘essential’ foods like noodles, oil, rice and seasoning shot up from 26.3% to 67.7%.

In Nielson’s report on the Homebody trend; 75% of the respondents indicated a willingness to spend more on sports and fitness in the future. Meanwhile, 60% identified they would increase spending on regular medical examinations. Overall, 80% indicated they would pay more attention to healthy eating post-COVID19.

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Global Shopping Trends

Visual Capitalist have released a fascinating infographic summarising America’s most and least popular purchases in isolation. We’re experiencing 670% demand surges for disposable gloves, 652% for bread machines and 535% for cough medicines. Meanwhile (intuitively) luggage sales are down 77%, cameras are down 64% and bridal wear is down 63%.

Big W is experiencing surging demand for home-office expenses such as printers, copy paper, headsets and furniture. They’re also experiencing 3-5x the demand for family entertainment goods, such as puzzles, books, gaming products and fitness items.

Kogan is experiencing similar demand for remote-work and entertainment goods. They’re selling out of standing desks, air-purifiers, TVs, freezers and Japanese-style toilet seats. They’ve also encountered a surprising spike in demand for jewellery (+72% YOY), as well as seed bulbs (+155% YOY).

Since shutting their doors last month, Myer’s online sales continue to boom. They’re experiencing 4x demand for beauty products. Similarly, they’re experiencing just under 4x demand for homewares and entertainment. Consumers are apparently focusing on making their homes comfier. Sleepwear purchases are up 1100%. In their apparel sales, underwear, activewear and sleepwear are also experiencing surging demand.

Livestreaming & Video

Livestreaming has been taking off in China for quite some time now. In 2019, the value of China’s livestreaming market was already $63 billion, or 9% of total online sales. This equates to a 71% YOY rise from 2018.

Under quarantine, livestreaming has naturally become of greater importance to retailers. Businesses are being forced to innovate new and exciting ways to engaging customers, enhancing experiences, creating content and selling products. Even China’s book stores have taken to live streaming.

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Fashion

Amidst China’s $600 billion sales decline in fashion and luxury, retailers took to livestreaming to offset their deficits. The shift makes sense for customers. Not only are they armed with extra time on their hands, but eCommerce is now a necessity.

Shanghai Fashion week abandoned a physical event in favour of a Tmall-Livestream. At the event, 150+ designers launched 1000+ products via livestream. Many netizens described this as a “once-in-a-lifetime overturn of the industry”. The move is already being replicated globally.

Chinese fashion designers are creating clothing for a COVID era – from protective windbreakers to silk masks.

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The Arts

In China, musicians and artists continue to livestream ‘parties. They’re teaming up with community radios and leveraging a variety of video and livestreaming platforms to engage with fans.

The recent ‘One-World’ COVID19 special in the US garnered performances from Elton John, Stevie Wonder, David Beckham, Michelle Obama, Bill gates and many more. Australia is also embracing the trend, as artists take to Instagram, Facebook and online video portals to broadcast performances.

In China, people are increasingly tuning into ‘imaginary museums.

New York’s Met Museum is employing Pinduoduo’s assistance to boost livestreaming sales.

Abandoning focus on 15-60 second videos, Bytedance’s Douyin is rolling out a variety of feature-length films.

Powered by Amazon Prime, the 2020 South by Southwest Film Festival will go ahead this year as a ‘virtual fest’.

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