COVID-19 in China: What does it look like on the other side?

China was the first to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and quite severely at that. From the 23rd of January 2020, provinces across the country were systematically put into lockdown, with many companies asking their staff to work from home, whilst others came to a halt altogether.

But in a matter of months, it seems the pandemic has started to recede, with many provinces now going back to work and Wuhan – the first affected city – expected to be back to business next week. As China seemingly begins coming out the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, what can we learn from search and consumer insights from the Chinese market?

Remote work vs back to business

Figure 1. Baidu index shows ‘work from home’ search trends before and after the pandemic


Figure 2. Baidu index shows ‘return to work’ search trends before and after the pandemic

When Wuhan went into lockdown on the 23rd of January, searches for ‘work from home’ began to rapidly increase, as different provinces within China went into lockdown. In late February China began to advise businesses across various cities that they were able to go back to work, and so search trends for ‘return to work’ quickly began to emerge. What is most unique about the two trend patterns, however, is that whilst ‘work from home’ searches declined following new Government advice, it still remains higher than pre-COVID-19 which may suggest that the local attitude towards remote working has changed following the crisis.

Weekend outings on the rise

Figure 3. Baidu index shows ‘weekend outing ideas’ search trends before and after the pandemic

Searches for weekend outing ideas declined starkly during the lockdown process and naturally once lockdown measures were reduced across the country, these began to increase. However, searches still remain lower than before the pandemic, which might indicate that the Chinese population are still sceptical about social gatherings. And with the rise of online events, it may also indicate that people have found newer ways to socialise outside of outdoor activities.

Live stream vs. in-person

Figure 4. Baidu index shows ‘live video streaming’ search trends before and after the pandemic

There was a notable boom in searches for ‘live video streaming’ during the pandemic across China. Businesses were forced to utilise online tools to continue operating and as a result, consumers increased their interest in live streaming for purchasing by 150%, in comparison to the previous period. And whilst this figure declined as the pandemic reduced, the trend still remains higher than prior to social distancing, which indicates a real shift in consumer behaviours. We can expect Chinese consumers to be more open to live content in the future. 

Industries are evolving

Figure 5. Baidu index showing ‘online viewing’ search trends before and after the pandemic

Much like many sectors, the real estate industry was forced to rethink their service offering during the era of social distancing. With people unable to leave their homes, the ability to view houses came to a halt almost instantly, and so trends for ‘online viewing’ emerged significantly in early February. Many real estate companies collaborated with Anjuke to provide VR viewing of properties that covered more than 5,000 real estate projects across over 100 cities in China. 

Whilst the search demand for online viewings declined slightly after travel bans were lifted, they have continued to remain strong. So you could argue that the COVID-19 crisis essentially changed the real estate market and their standard methods of selling. With consumers now able to view properties from the comfort of their homes, this is an added advantage that the real estate industry could potentially capitalise on.

Normality will resume

Many parts of China are starting to return to some form of normality following the COVID-19 pandemic. At Croud we are already seeing growth in our Chinese marketing campaigns, with one of our clients seeing a 66% increase in conversions month-on-month and ROIs increasing by 2% against the same period last year.

So whilst the rest of the world is seemingly dealing with the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, what we can learn from these search insights is that there is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long that may be. And whilst normality may seem like a distant memory, data insights suggest that our perceptions of what is normal may change too!

To find out more about Croud’s China marketing services or about us, get in touch.

by Croud
3 April 2020



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