Via China Daily

A boy joins his mother to pick strawberries at a plantation cooperative in Hohhot, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, in April. [WANG ZHENG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Female shoppers tap e-commerce to keep life on an even keel during epidemic

In China, the novel coronavirus didn’t just unleash the COVID-19 epidemic-it appears to have also unlocked the purchasing power of hundreds of millions of female consumers, sparking e-sales worth billions of yuan and deepening consumption upgrade.

In the process, the bug may have unwittingly paved the way for actualizing the full potential of e-commerce, and transformed the fortunes of certain categories of products and services like healthcare, household necessities, consumer electronics, kids products like toys and learning aids, and even fashion and cosmetics, in spite of women staying indoors mostly.

Lin Wen, 35, a clerk at a financial institution in Beijing, epitomizes the new-generation Chinese female consumers keen to adapt to a pandemic-stricken world in order to keep life on an even keel. Part of the adaptation process involves mastering the art of online shopping, which is mostly done these days by tapping on smartphone screens.

Since the outbreak, Lin has been trawling online marketplaces frequently to buy a range of products: hand sanitizers, juice extractor, electric oven, baking ingredients, sportswear, face masks, eye essence, health supplements, what have you.

She has also bought Lego toys and children’s books for her little son who will enroll into a primary school in the next academic year. This led to her spending more time playing with him during the outbreak, given the stay-at-home orders of the local authorities.

“Although I have to remain indoors to avoid getting infected, I still manage to buy what’s needed via online shopping, which I find to be a lot of fun. I’d like to buy all sorts of protective and healthcare products for my family,” Lin said.

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Her larger goal is to maintain the quality of life as much as possible during the pandemic. She has downloaded several fitness apps and bought a yoga mat, workout clothes as well as high-end skincare products, in an attempt to stay in good shape, improve her image and temperament.

Thanks to consumers such as Lin, China’s e-commerce sector has grown exponentially in recent months. The country’s middle-and high-income female shoppers now demand increasingly diversified and personalized products and services, said industry insiders.

It is noteworthy that female consumers are attaching importance to health and spending more on maternal and infant goods, and beauty, makeup, and fitness-related products, they said.

According to a report released by big data service provider QuestMobile, China’s online retail sector saw a surge in the number of female users in February when the epidemic peaked in the country. Active female users of mobile shopping rose 8 percent year-on-year to 446 million in February.

During the 29-day month, female users spent an average 157 hours on mobile internet, up nearly 43 percent year-on-year. Each female user spent nearly 7 hours on e-commerce apps on average, up more than 10 percent year-on-year, said the report.

In February, e-commerce apps Taobao and Pinduoduo figured among the top 10 apps with the most active penetration rates among female users, said the report. It also cited the increasingly diverse channels for female users in online purchases, including content platforms, social networking platforms and recommendation-based platforms.

Chen Ke, senior partner of consultancy Roland Berger, said during the epidemic, female consumers, who drive household consumption, had sufficient time to satisfy their families’ purchasing requirements for daily necessities and healthcare and protective products.

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