Ecommerce Report: Chinese Consumers Increasingly Motivated by Health-Consciousness

Ecommerce Report: Chinese Consumers Increasingly Motivated by Health-Consciousness

by Kelly Dawson

In a new report released by China-focused digital marketing agency Alarice, corporate innovation coach Nishtha Mehta pointed to JD’s healthcare arm JD Health, which listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in Dec. 2020, as a “great example of both speed and a variety of customized products and services. Demand for online healthcare services has boomed over the pandemic, as people avoided outpatient clinics and pharmacies.”

Post-COVID-19, Chinese consumers are increasingly driven by a desire to enhance well-being, not only for themselves through the purchase of health and self-care products but also for the greater good, as evidenced by a spike in interest toward environmentally sustainable brands, according to this report.

“Personal care will be more and more important and Chinese consumers will continue to spend more time and money purchasing safe, eco-friendly products and eating more healthily after the [COVID-19] crisis,” said Alberto Antinucci, a digital innovation strategist and China expert, in the report. In fact, recent analysis by McKinsey found that 70% of respondents signal willingness to spend more to buy environmentally conscious products, and three fourths plan to continue a healthier diet after the pandemic.

Indeed, as fears around the virus have led to more diligence among customers toward personal hygiene and health, JD Health has seen massive growth with both health products and services. As of that month, JD Health’s daily online consultation interactions averaged 100,000, making it the largest online medical consultation platform in China; and during the first 30 minutes of JD’s 2020 Singles Day Grand Promotion, JD’s nutrition and health products category saw sales increase by over five times YOY.

“I believe JD has and will continue to offer a compelling alternative to Alibaba’s mass offering by focusing on niche and personal services,” said Jerry Clode, founder of China-focused brand strategy agency The Solution, in the report. Clode raised the example of JD’s fresh produce business, which as of October 2020 leads China’s online fresh produce sales with a market share of 25.8%, according to the China Association of Market Information and Research.

“JD has successfully created a perception amongst consumers that they are more dedicated to delivering products fresh and in optimal condition,” he said.

Although there has been a rise in health-consciousness among all categories, consumers born after 1990-1995 (segments deemed “post-90s” and “post-95s”) are driving the consumption of health-related products, according to the report.

Post-95s, referred to as Gen Z in the US, were the main purchasers of traditional-style health foods during the 2020 Singles Day Grand Promotion, for products including bird’s nest soup and thermal underwear. Many purchased these items not only for themselves but also for family members, as remote orders increased during a period when many families remained separate for longer than usual due to anxieties around travel.

As Chinese consumers became more health-conscious, environmentally sustainable brands and products also saw a boost because they were associated with healthy and clean characteristics. “Many Chinese saw COVID-19 as a sign from Mother Nature to stay in line,” theorized Mark Tanner, founder and managing director of marketing strategy firm China Skinny, in the report.

JD’s commitment to developing a sustainable, ethical approach is firmly rooted in the core identity of the business, as evidenced by its extensive poverty alleviation efforts and ongoing projects including the JD Green Stream Initiative.

Younger consumers are also driving the market trend of “Guo chao” (which translates to “national fashion”), in which products feature traditional Chinese motifs. One example is JD’s cooperation with the Forbidden City Cultural Products flagship store on a traditional almanac calendar and other products ahead of Chinese New Year.

“They’re seeking customized and limited edition products as opposed to mainstream products that feature flashy logos or brand names,” said Beverly Law, a senior digital marketing executive for Alarice, in the report. “Guochao isn’t just a fashion trend. It also reflects a strong appreciation and recognition of Chinese culture.”

This trend is also motivated by a growing desire among post-95s toward customization and personal expression, a demand that JD’s ongoing C2M initiative aims to address with tailored products reflecting consumers’ evolving tastes.

Analysts interviewed for the report were largely optimistic, and for good reason: As China’s economy has largely recovered from the upheaval of COVID-19 in 2020, revenue in China’s e-commerce market is projected to reach US $1,250,539 million in 2021.



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