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June 8, 2020

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Pandemic gives online shopping new relevance among shoppers

DURING the coronavirus lockdown, many consumers found online shopping and courier services a blessing to get daily necessities. Now, with the pandemic under control and life returning to some sense of normality, many people aren’t showing any inclination to return to their old buying habits.

The already robust digital shopping age, it seems, is attracting even more consumers.

People who benefited from delivery of online orders have praised courier staff for the lifeline they provided to bring food and drugs during a strict lockdown.

The State Post Bureau said the total number of domestic courier packages shipped in April went up 27 percent to 625 million, despite the resumption of most business operations and major stimulus measures introduced to boost online shopping.

According to a latest Nielsen survey, 24 percent of Chinese mainland consumers expressed an increasing demand for takeaway food and 37 percent favor home food deliveries.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they purchased daily necessities or fresh products more than twice a week. And 89 percent said they are more willing in the future to make online purchases of such products.

“The COVID-19 epidemic is changing purchasing behavior and the channels used to shop,” said Justin Sargent, president of Nielsen China. “For many, old habits like eating out may be replaced by new habits due to an altered environment where people reassess where they’re eating.”

Online sales are becoming more of a necessity than an option for both retailers and consumers. Retailers are expanding their online channels and improving the integration of multichannel shopping, and e-commerce giants are strengthening their foothold in the offline realm as well.

The on-demand delivery platform of Alibaba Group said it hopes to bolster its delivery network and “smart” facilities, based on demand for contactless delivery services that surged during the coronavirus epidemic.

In the first quarter, Alibaba said transactions of its fresh grocery store Freshippo and online supermarket service unit Taoxianda both doubled from a year earlier.

Nationwide, both Alibaba-backed and Tencent-backed Meituan Dianping plan to add thousands of food delivery lockers in first-tier cities to address the rising demand. The lockers allow delivery of goods without contact.

In some downtown office buildings and community neighborhoods, delivery lockers originally designed only for courier packages are being altered or modified for food takeaways.

Nationwide, thousands of such facilities are gradually being put into use, even as some neighborhoods have complained about the imposition of new charges. E-tailers like JD are helping eateries that used to offer only dine-in services go online.


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