Data-crunching by e-commerce giant offers new insight into lasting, post-COVID consumer trends following its huge 618 Grand Promotion – the biggest mid-year shopping festival in China – along with online shopping behaviours for the first half of 2020, .

In a blog post for the World Economic Forum, Vivien Yang and Ella Kidron, senior managers with, identify four lasting consumer patterns that have emerged from the data.

Retail sales in China in the first four months amounted to $1.5 trillion, down more than 16% on the same period a year earlier; but online sales were up 8.6% to $360 billion. The shift to online is significant, the authors say, because it has carried on after the lifting of lockdown, and has accelerated an already established trend by at least one or two years, especially in the grocery category.

JD’s online supermarket, JD Super, saw sales rise by 100%, with online sales of fresh groceries up by 140% on the first day of the 618 Grand Promotion compared to the same promotion a year earlier.

The data shows that younger people were the biggest drivers of online shopping during lockdown as they also took on wider responsibilities: the numbers show that over 70% of those born after 1995 have shifted from “buying only for themselves” to “buying necessities for the whole family”.

There has been a huge rise in livestreaming by retailers and social e-commerce, which has boosted sales for both big brands, but also for local businesses.

Post-COVID, the authors say, the biggest emerging trend is consumers interacting with their favourite brands online, combined with celebrities and attractive offers “for fear of price rises later on due to production disruption”.

International brands have been fast to respond to this trend, with Canadian fashion label PORTS, for example, running a nine-hour livestream featuring young celebs and the fashion editor of Elle magazine – over 1.3 million people visited the stream and sales topped $1.4 million on the day.

Livestreaming and social channels are also boosting local business and farmers and factories, and consumers feel drawn to support them.

As people grew more anxious about purchase decisions during the pandemic, sales in the C2M category rose, as they are seen as good value for money and as directly satisfying a consumer’s needs.

In general, the data shows demand grew for products and services that enhance comfort in the home, such as exercise equipment and home furnishings; demand for pet-related products also grew, including for online pet hospitals.

Other snippets from the data are: with the introduction of mandatory mask wearing in public, lipstick sales have plunged, along with other facial health and beauty products. On the other hand, eye-make up products are up. People are still buying large amounts of baby milk powder and nappies, possibly fearing shortages in the longer term. And sales of bicycles and electric motorcycles have seen “explosive growth”, say the authors.

Sourced from World Economic Forum