Traditional industries embrace new opportunities by moving businesses online amid epidemic

By Sun Yahui, People’s Daily Overseas Edition
Chinese people from all walks of life are going back to business as the situation of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has stabilized gradually.
The catering, retail, real estate industries have launched online services for customers in an effort to avoid mass gatherings and minimize the impact of the epidemic.
Beijing’s famous restaurants such as Beijing Dadong Roast Duck, Bianyifang Roast Duck and Dong Lai Shun, which previously relied heavily on dine-in revenue, have started offering food online.
The catering industry has a relatively lower threshold and smaller pressure for shifting their services from offline to online compared with other traditional industries. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, multiple restaurants have discovered different remedies to save their businesses.
Some restaurants even livestream how their food is made by the chefs, attracting a large number of customers and boosted their online sales volume. The internet-based approach has brought fresh experiences for customers and is obviously more attempting.
The catering industry is an epitome of the traditional industries seeking to resume work by going online. Besides, some other industries have also endeavored to move their markets and services from offline to online.
Tang Lin is a real estate agent in Liu Zhou, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region who’s now very adept at selling houses on a livestreaming platform. On his very first livestream show, he was watched by over 60,000 people.
As a matter of fact, most real estate firms across the country have established online sales channels, and a rising number of real estate agents and marketing personnel have started to sell houses online.
The auto retail sector also went online. SAIC Volkswagen, Geely and Chery have all set up “exhibition centers” on their online shopping malls, mobile applications, and flagship stores on e-commerce platforms Tmall and, and some of them showcased their cars through virtual reality (VR) technology. BMW also joined livestreaming, making the selling process more dynamic.
Some auto companies are now offering non-contact sales. The service allows customers to receive their vehicles at their doorsteps after placing orders online, and all formalities including the insurance will be handled by the dealerships.
Some traditional industries, which didn’t rely much on the internet, have also shifted to the online model, such as the home decor sector. Easyhome, one of China’s largest home furnishing retailers, have presented over 1,000 brands through holding more than 1,000 livestreaming shows on Taobao. The huge online traffic created has brought new opportunities for the traditional industries.
Though the online model was the “last straw” for businesses amid the epidemic, a lot of retail brands have achieved better-than-expected performance. This has probably made online selling a possible model for the retail sector in the future.
Data showed that more than 100 new professions have emerged on Taobao livestreaming since February, and the number of shops selling products on livestreaming shows has increased by 50 percent.
Other e-commerce platforms such as and Pinduoduo have invited offline stores to move business online to make up for the loss caused by the epidemic. Through going online, the entity businesses have embraced an opportunity to deepen interactions with the consumers.
Industry analysts believe that the shift of businesses from offline to online is not just a conversion of the sales platform, and it will also bring in-depth transformation that spurs new models, broadens the space for future consumption scenarios and possibly makes the “cloud working” a routine. In the process of transformation, more cross-industry attempts based on “cloud” are likely to take place.

A merchant hosts a livestreaming show to sell her products on Xiushui Street, a shopping center in Chaoyang district, Beijing, March 3, 2020. The shopping center reopened to business on the same day. Liu Jing/People’s Daily Online

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