Coronavirus: what tech companies are winning?

5 min read
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Two Meituan delivery people sit and wait for deliveries on Feb 4, 2020. (Image credit: TechNode/ Shi Jiayi)

version of this post by Thomas Graziani first appeared on WalktheChat, which specializes in helping foreign organizations access the Chinese market through WeChat, the largest social network on the mainland.

Fear over the spread of a new coronavirus has led millions of Chinese people to remain at home, shortly after the end of Chinese lunar new year.

The situation is putting a strain on most retail, restaurants, services, tourism industry, and other offline businesses. But is everyone negatively impacted by the virus outbreak?

A blessing for the gaming industry

As people in China are now confined at home, one industry has been benefiting: gaming.

The Baidu Index (reflecting search volume) for the word “gaming” (youxi) has reached an all-time high since the beginning of the crisis. Searched volume peaked 60% above the previous weekly maximum.

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Top-grossing apps include Tencent’s “Game for Peace” and “Honor of Kings.”

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Some games got special attention due to the recent health crisis. The game “Plague Inc.” which lets players “spread and evolve a deadly plague to bring about the end of the human race” was one of the winners. Although this game might seem morbid and insensitive in current times, it has skyrocketed to the top of the Chinese App Store, ranking as the top paid app for the last 10 days.

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Gaming influencers also saw a big uptake in traffic. Most of them have seen exponential growth of their followers and engagement numbers over the last couple of weeks.

MaoQi, a leading gaming influencer saw an increase of almost 1 million followers over the last month (a 20% growth month-over-month). The growth clearly became exponential following the outbreak.

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Fitness apps are booming

One of the first measures taking by local authorities in order to prevent contagion was the closure of gyms across the country. Fitness addicts are left with only one choice to keep their body moving: fitness apps.

Keep is the number one fitness app in China. Keep was ranking around the 260th position of the China iOS app store before Chinese New Year. It has now climbed all the way up to number 79, and keeps rising every day.

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Although all of Keep’s offline gyms are closed down until further notice, Keep has used Douyin live streaming features to move classes online.

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Keep hosts three livestreaming classes per day, first announcing them via its hundreds of WeChat groups. Although the classes are free to watch, the Keep instructor asks the audience to follow the account, comment and like the live-streaming. This engagement is picked up by Douyin’s algorithm which exposes Keep to an even larger audience.

With the live-streaming campaigns, Keep boosted its followers by 18% in the first five days of the virus outbreak to 258,000 followers.

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The fitness ring from the Nintendo Switch is another prized item as people are getting stuck home.

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The fitness ring sells for a price of around RMB 550. But resellers are now selling it for more than RMB 800, sometimes even more than RMB 1,500, and still collecting thousands of orders.

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Online health services are seeing a surge of activity

Naturally, one of the positively impacted segments is online health services. WeChat recently added a new “Health” segment to its WeChat Wallet menu.

The “Health” section includes the ability to track in real-time the epidemic data of every district in every province. It also enables, among other things, to book online consultations with doctors.

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The most in-demand doctors for online consultations are working in virology.

According to TechNode, the telemedicine services from Ping’an, JD, and Alibaba have also seen a peak in usage.

Enterprise collaboration apps are becoming essential

Fun is not all there is… the Chinese New Year holiday is drawing to an end, and some of us have to get back to work. However, most companies have set up remote work policies in order to avoid contamination of their workers.

This is an amazing opportunity for enterprise collaboration apps to facilitate remote working. Alibaba’s DingTalk skyrocketed to the very top of the App Store in a few days.

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WeChat Work, the enterprise communication app from Tencent just released a set of new features specifically aimed at facilitating remote work during this critical period:

  1. Online meetings up to 300 people
  2. Live streaming
  3. Upgraded forms to collect information about staff during the epidemic
  4. Specific “epidemic” section in the WeChat Work third party app Store, with relevant apps and special discounts
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A new breed of influencers

The epidemic has also created a wave of support for Wuhan and China. Some influencers who have been actively supporting the anti-virus efforts saw a boost in their engagement and follower growth.

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Many of the top-trending influencers on Douyin are sharing news about the outbreak. The #1 trending influencer as of Feb. 3 is Tu Lei. Tu Lei has been sharing daily news, commentaries, and inspirational videos about the virus during the last couple of weeks. His growth of followers boomed as a result.

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Tu Lei gained up to 3 million followers daily as a result of his messages related to the Wuhan epidemic.

Cross-border e-commerce peaking up

The “Shopping” category ranking of App Annie shows that two of the top-five apps are cross-border e-commerce apps (Feb. 3 data).

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The two cross-border Apps in this list, Omall, and Haitun, have seen a clear rise in engagement and skyrocketed to the top of the App Store.

Omall jumped from #161 to #2 on the iOS China App store shopping category. It did so in less than two weeks.

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Haitunjia saw a less explosive but still significant rise from #23 to #5 on the App Store in just 12 days.

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One of the reasons for this boom in cross-border e-commerce is that many Chinese residents are looking for supplies such as face masks which are now unavailable in China. Such products saw hundreds of thousands of orders on these cross-border platforms over the last weeks.

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Conclusion

The coronavirus has changed the way of life of many people in China over the last few weeks. This change in consumption patterns is also boosting some industries.

As the old Chinese saying goes, a crisis is a combination of risk and opportunity. And a lot of tech companies are seizing this opportunity for growth.