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Digital Marketing Strategy Transformation of B2C Companies Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

Image source: HSBC

The B2C industry used to take off through the contributions from digitalization. However, upon the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020, B2C companies are compelled to rethink their strategies of digital marketing as the whole world is isolated at home – or smarter to say, people are all gathering on the Internet. It might be a better opportunity or a hidden risk at the same time. As a result, there have to be changes made in the digital marketing strategy of brands and companies to handle the new situation. Based on analyzing B2C industry characteristics as well as challenges brought by the pandemic, companies could enforce strategic transformation by making full use of big data, providing personalized customer experience with the assistance of technological innovations such as AI.

China was the first country affected by the pandemic of COVID-19. In the face of the pandemic, how have foreign and domestic B2C companies in China responded? What kind of experiences can Western companies learn from these case studies?

Starbucks seeks recovery with digital marketing strategies

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Starbucks has long marketed itself as a social gathering spot – a “third place” between work and home, a symbol of normalcy for millions of people who buy coffee every day. Its bustling cafes are designed to build community and promote interaction between customers and baristas. However, when COVID-19 spread rapidly in China earlier this year, people got anxious about gathering in public places, which severely threatened Starbucks’s sales combined with forced stores closure.

To improve brand engagement, Starbucks’ WeChat account features a cartoon barista instructing readers on how to brew the perfect cup of coffee – at home (Source: Gartner). As things were getting better in China, Starbucks reopens stores and allows people to enjoy the coffee time as usual. Starbucks Now launched in May last year which is an innovative, express retail experience to integrate Starbucks’ physical and digital customer touchpoints seamlessly. Customers only need to place a mobile order and pay in advance of their visit and pick up their beverage and food at the store. During the pandemic, Starbucks upgraded Starbucks Now, set up a food counter near the entrance of the store to allow users to pick up beverage and food quickly, and some stores even set the counter at the entrance, which reduces the risk of exposure and decreases chances of spreading the virus. Also, Starbucks offered new delivery services to reduce “social gathering”. In early 2018, Starbucks had already announced a partnership with Alibaba Group, the parent of to offer services dubbed “Starbucks Delivers”, which was the first delivery services offered by Starbucks globally and Starbucks could leverage this capability during the pandemic.

Even though social distancing and reduced seating sound like bad news, the Chinese market’s adoption of digital ordering and delivery is on average far higher than the rest of the world. That is helping Starbucks make a rapid recovery in the wake of the coronavirus crisis (Source: The Motley Fool). Even those new store openings after COVID-19 are a part of the digital strategy of Starbucks, as adding real estate helps make pick-up and delivery quicker and more convenient.

Fitness app Keep offers online classes and workouts

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Unlike traditional industries, the online fitness industry saw its booming growth during the pandemic. Keep is a workout & fitness training app in China. On February 17, Keep teamed up with Li Jiaqi, China’s top live-streaming KOL, to launch the customized course for female – “Li Jiaqi Charming Flat Belly Plan”, and an exclusive Li Jiaqi cheering-up voice package. Weibo topic #Keep加油官李佳琦# (Keep x Li Jiaqi) received more than 8 million views. A total of 15,000 yoga mats was sold out during Li Jiaqi’s live streaming. KOL marketing and endorsement has become an important method of traffic steering adopted by home fitness products recently.

On February 18th, 23 B2C companies including Dell, Hema Fresh, China Minsheng Bank, and the sportswear brand Anta joined Keep’s “Health Care Sports Alliance Program” to encourage their employees, users, customers, and partners do sports scientifically at home to maintain health and safety during the pandemic. Under this program, Keep offered exclusive workout classes and training plans for the member enterprises. For example, Keep’s content team customized a home workout and health plan for them. After 12 days of professional training with appropriate intensity and no equipment, users can sculpt a stronger body. At the same time, Keep also offered online video training courses, workout progress sharing, as well as discounts for malls, among others for the member enterprise. In doing so, Keep actually adopted an online approach to undertake corporate social responsibility with its business capabilities and allows more people to stay healthy and actively to prevent the spread of viruses. This also serves as a B2B2C marketing method that transits from “B2B” to “B2C”. It is conservatively estimated that more than 30 million participants of 23 companies will join Keep’s “Health Care Sports Alliance Program”, and Keep’s user number will achieve a breakthrough.

Animal Crossing boosts Nintendo sales

Home-bound and work from home, many people spent more time on playing video games. According to NPD Group’s monthly report for March showed that all game-related purchases totaled $1.6 billion, a 35 percent increase over the same month last year. Nintendo’s wildly popular Animal Crossing game has become a global bestseller as its players describe the ability to create virtual versions of themselves and their homes and interact with other gamers as a form of escapism from the real world of coronavirus lockdowns. This game was a big sales driver, with 11.77 million units sold as of the end of March (Source: The Verge).

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Animal Crossing is not the only game to create a virtual escape for people frustrated with being locked inside; others included a similar land development game, Stardew Valley. Gentle, non-violent games have – along with baking elaborate loaves of bread, puzzling, and mastering the art of Zoom happy hour – became one of China’s coronavirus isolation coping mechanisms. These games are more than escapist entertainment, though; they’re helping to reshape how we connect in a future where social distancing might become the norm. Video games are letting people chat, connect, and meet new people online. In the past month alone, graduations, wedding ceremonies, protests, and virtual meetups with friends were coordinated on lush pixelated screens (Source: Technology Review).

Video games provide safe spaces for marginalized people or those seeking solace in the simple joy of meeting new friends. They also offer an easy way for people to show their personalities in a digital mode, without having to show the “real selves”, which make connection less scary, both physically and emotionally.

The global video game market is forecast to be worth $159 billion in 2020, around four times box office revenues ($43 billion in 2019) and almost three times music industry revenues ($57 billion in 2019) (Soruce: World Ecnomic Form). There is no doubt that the video game industry has been able to experience growth with strong software sales and an ever-growing customer base keeping economies afloat. The industry’s pioneering approach to technology, as well as its ability to grasp users’ psychology in a specific period, have been key to its growth to date. The qualities will enable it to continue to thrive in the months ahead.

Digital Marketing Tips for B2C Business Owners

As can be seen from the cases above, during the COVID-19, digital solutions have become a crucial tool for B2C companies. A smart marketing strategy can help maintain growth during the pandemic. Here are some digital marketing tips for B2C business owners:

Build an online customer community for support and further marketing activities

Nowadays, modern consumers expect more than an impersonal, one-sided relationship with the products and services they use. They anticipate a customer service base that is available to answer their questions and respond to their concerns. This is why B2C companies should build online customer communities. With an online customer community and an effective digital marketing strategy, B2C companies can remove the distance between brands and their customers, ensuring a more loyal customer base and a better overall reputation.

Harness power of big data to provide a personalized experience

B2C companies can utilize big data analytics to personalize and customize the customer experience. By doing so, companies can interact with their customers by specifying suitable products and services according to the customer’s needs. This helps to expand greater sales, greater customer satisfaction, and sustained brand loyalty.

Find partners with complementary capabilities

The ability to provide a differentiated, full-service solution is critical to business success. Partnering with complementary capabilities can help filling gaps in core businesses or markets and allows to do what a company does best while expanding their business to build a unique offer.

To learn more about how B2B companies using digital tools to survive in this global pandemic, please read our latest article about Digital Marketing Strategy Transformation of BCB Companies Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak.

How Melchers can support you in China

Melchers provides a complete end to end digital-execution service for Western-brands wishing to define a strategy for China through to market implementation. We manage the client relationship in Europe and China, to ensure strategy, planning, and projection is set out at the onset. Local teams based in Shanghai and Beijing oversee campaign implementations. Among our digital marketing services, we design, build, and optimize web and mobile presences in China to drive customer acquisition including SEO set-up and optimization services. Our team engages in design, content creation and management of your website, blog and social media accounts while driving digital marketing campaigns.

To learn more about how we can support you, please contact us at [email protected].


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