As the COVID-19 pandemic forces most of the world to stay indoors, an unprecedented number of people are turning to the internet to stay connected, attend school, and work. This is just as true in China, where internet usage has skyrocketed due to the outbreak.
With a population of almost 1.5 billion people, a surge in online activity in China means great possibilities for SaaS solutions, online marketing, and enterprise technology providers. While airlines and the hospitality industry suffer under mobility restrictions, other sectors are well-positioned to benefit from these shifts in consumer habits caused by the pandemic.
In 2008, China had around 298 million Internet users. In 2019, that number tripled as it increased to 854 million people. Today, that number is rising rapidly.
Companies like ClassIn have experienced a massive surge in activity as children and students across China turn to remote solutions to continue schooling. Since the outbreak began, activity on ClassIn has multiplied 40 times with upwards of 1.6 million daily active users.
The B2B space, which spans virtual meetings, digital healthcare, and logistics is also on the rise in China. Downloads of work apps like DingTalk, WeChat Work, Lark, and Zoom have jumped exponentially amid the crisis. Some experts suggest that such an increase in the use of these applications will dissipate when the crisis ends, though others are calling this the “new normal” and posit that this shift in behavior will remain.
“People are reluctant to change once they form a new habit,” said Joe Chan, a partner at Hong Kong-based Mindworks Ventures. “Meeting in person and through Zoom both have their own merits, depending on the social norm. Some people are used to thinking that relationships need to be established through face-to-face encounters, but those who don’t hold that view will have fewer meetings. [The pandemic] presents a chance for a paradigm shift.”
One company that is successfully utilizing China's surge in internet users is iClick, a marketing technology platform designed to target Chinese consumers. In this current climate, iClick’s enterprise SaaS solutions are set to present exciting opportunities for retailers and brands as they reorganize and adapt.
Despite what feels like unprecedented times, this isn’t the first time a technology revolution has been sparked by a crisis. In 2003 the SARS outbreak was a turning point for the ecommerce giant, Alibaba. Then, e-commerce was an undeveloped sector but as the outbreak left many Chinese suppliers with limited options to sell their goods, many turned to the online platforms that hadn’t been forced to close.