iClick Interactive Asia Group, an independent online marketing and enterprise data solutions provider in China has published a report analysing how the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has affected the online behaviour of Chinese netizens. The report uses data from iClick’s proprietary market intelligence platform, iAudience.
The iAudience data is a clear illustration of how the mindset of Chinese netizens has changed at different stages of the epidemic. In 2019 as whole, over 300 million Chinese internet users followed health-related topics online. At the start of the epidemic in December last year, keywords relating to the novel coronavirus increased significantly. More than 40 million users searched for or viewed topics and content relating to the virus. The data shows this figure increased rapidly at the beginning of February, only beginning to decrease in early March.
Following the COVID-19 epidemic
China’s internet users following the development of the epidemic online were predominately male (69%). This was double the number of women who followed topics relating to COVID-19. The 35-54 age group was the demographic most likely to view coronavirus-related content. This represented 50% of overall Chinese internet users who did so.
Users based in the Chinese provinces of Zhejiang, Guangdong and Jiangsu followed the coronavirus outbreak closely compared to other provinces. The data also shows the consumption behaviour of internet users in China’s smaller cities were least affected by the epidemic. In contrast, the area to experience the largest impact in consumption was Hubei province, the centre of the Chinese epidemic.
Areas of consumer interest
During the epidemic period, Chinese internet users became more interested in topics relating to health, work, education and personal finance. There was an increase in the time spent by urban Chinese internet users on matters regarding investment and personal finance. They spent more time consuming information of this nature than anything else, apart from everyday topics while stuck at home.
After the peak of the epidemic, consumers showed an increased interest in financial insurance, which could impact their consumption behaviour. This was particularly with regard to clothing, pets and consumer electronics. Chinese internet users are also now showing greater interest in overseas travel content. Analysts believe this indicates a rekindling of their desire to travel the world once the global epidemic passes.
Amid the period of the epidemic, TV news and online media remained the largest sources of information for consumers. In addition to traditional media, notices posted in communities became a major source of information for residents in China.
The iAudience report also shows significant differences in keywords searched relating to the virus at different stages of the epidemic. Data indicates at the beginning of the epidemic, users were concerned with the number of local cases in their area. Users also searched local healthcare initiatives and followed the latest updates from both the central and local government bodies. By March, when the epidemic was viewed to be largely under control in China, searched keywords began to show a greater focus on topics such as returning to the workplace and schools reopening.
Enterprise Times: What this means for business
With many of the world’s cities under lockdown, its interesting to see how COVID-19 is impacting internet behaviour of consumers. The Coronavirus epidemic started in China and therefore iClick’s research provides an initial understanding the Chinese market landscape.
iAudience analysed real-time data about Chinese internet users’ behaviour to develop valuable market information and insights into consumer profiles. Before the crisis, China’s eCommerce market was set to grow by 13.3%, an analysis by GlobalData’s reported. Enterprises around the globe may want to learn the user behaviour lessons from colleagues and partners in China.