China Inc thinks outside the box as coronavirus keeps consumers at home


A pump attendant carries a box of groceries into a car at a Sinopec gas station where customers can buy supplies while they refuel as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Beijing, China. — Photos: Reuters

BEIJING: With Chinese consumers hit by quarantine and travel restrictions as well as just wary about venturing out to the shops due to the coronavirus epidemic, companies in the world's most populous nation are experimenting with new tricks to make sales.

Oil giant Sinopec – keen to get customers back in their cars and help farmers unable to deliver produce due to roadblocks – launched a new scheme last month called "zero-touch" vegetable sales at its 6,000 gas stations in 147 Chinese cities.

Consumers place and pay for orders on the Sinopec mobile app and when they drive up, gas station attendants put the vegetables into their car trunk, eliminating any need for human-to-human contact.

A customer uses an app to order groceries at a Sinopec gas station where customers can buy supplies while they refuel as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Beijing, China.A customer uses an app to order groceries at a Sinopec gas station where customers can buy supplies while they refuel as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Beijing, China.

"The coronavirus outbreak has made it difficult for people to shop as before," said Li Hong, vice president of Sinopec's convenience store sales division. "Travel demand has been falling, but demand for food is pretty rigid."

Mengniu Dairy, China's second largest dairy producer, is racing to add more vending machines to the 10,000 it currently has, saying the epidemic has driven unexpectedly strong demand for the sales channel.

Its system allows customers to order products like milk and yoghurt online which can then be picked up from their local vending machine.

A pump attendant puts a box of groceries into a car at a Sinopec gas station where customers can buy supplies while they refuel as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Beijing, China.A pump attendant puts a box of groceries into a car at a Sinopec gas station where customers can buy supplies while they refuel as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Beijing, China.

"The virus outbreak has curbed consumption for dairy products as people are unwilling to go to the supermarket," said Meng Fanjie, head of the company's Communist Party committee.

The company has also introduced a 'community wholesale' initiative, making bulk deliveries to housing compounds and other communities so that the people living there do not need to venture too far out.

"The new retail measures...have helped to bring back some sales and given us bigger market share," he said, adding that sales as of Feb 27 had returned to 80% of levels seen in January.

Luckin Coffee, a domestic rival to Starbucks, now also offers deliveries of alcohol-based sterilisers and antibiotic hand soap in addition to caffeinated beverages. It is also stocking its network of vending machines, launched this year, with the sanitiser products.

Liu Xingliang, an independent retail analyst, said, however, that he thought Luckin's strategy would have only a modest impact. "At best some users will place an order when they buy coffee but nobody is deliberately choosing the Luckin app just to buy sanitiser." – Reuters

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

coronavirus

   

Did you find this article insightful?

Yes
No

Next In Tech News

Doodle honours Saloma, Malaysia's first National Songbird
TikTok granted one-week extension of forced-sale deadline
Amazon’s US$3,000 signing bonuses irk workers who got US$10 coupons
Lights, camera, sell: Retailers want you to watch and shop
Black Friday ‘deals’: How sellers try to trick you into buying things
EU to allow companies access to private data to boost innovation
EU’s Breton: Tech giants face fines or even break-up if they breach new rules
Schedule future actions with Google Assistant
Will Twitter, Facebook crack down on Trump?
Amazon cloud outage hits customers including Roku, Adobe

Stories You'll Enjoy