HOW TO: Retail | How Asian Brands Reacted to the Pandemic

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Leaders from large retail companies based in China met in March to share the experiences they had during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. Among the participants were CEOs, COOs and VPs from Budweiser Brewing Company APAC, Erdos Group, Lawson Holdings, LVMH Asia, Starbucks China and Wumart. Check out some of the lessons drawn by those companies and the strategies they adopted to minimize the impact of the new coronavirus on people and businesses.


1. Protect employees, customers and partners

At first, all of these companies worked to provide protective equipment and implement safety policies for their teams, consumers and resellers. Some rolled out these measures to other areas, by donating food and other supplies to hospitals and more vulnerable populations. 


2. Ramp up of omnichannel strategy 

“The coronavirus crisis anticipated the adoption of omnichannel in the segment by at least a year,” stated Wenzhong Zhang, Wumart’s chairman. During the pandemic, the company created a buy online pick up in store system, without human contact, by installing 3 thousand stations and the capacity to provide services to approximately 4 thousand communities in Beijing. “This was very important to keep the city supplied during the quarantine, and attracted many online orders in the first days,” said Zhang. 


3. New ways to stay in touch with customers

With restaurants and bars closed, Budweiser needed to realign offers and launch experiences for consumers to enjoy at home, like lives with DJs, events with e-gaming and online sales led by digital influencers. The brand also chose some consumers and employees to work as group purchase coordinators.


4.  Strengthening e-commerce 

“We created a team dedicated to accelerating the development of our online business, because we knew that offline would be heavily impacted,” told Feng Hua Song, VP of Erdos Group. The company used WeChat to keep employees and customers up to date on measures taken by the company, and it even resorted to that channel to launch a Valentine’s Day campaign (in February), which helped stimulate online sales of the new clothing lines.


5. Planning for post-lockdown era

As soon as the initial crisis was controlled, Erdos Group turned towards the future. “We revised our action plans for the next three years, including more aggressive omnichannel strategies and more speed for our supply chain, as well as other moves that focus on the business’s growth,” explained Feng Hua Song, VP of the company.


“Managing a crisis doesn’t mean putting long-term perspective aside, especially in a market as important as China’s,” highlighted Jean-Michel Moutin, COO of LVMH Perfumes and Cosmetics in Asia. The company has been analyzing the medium-term consequences of the pandemic and preparing for the changes in Chinese consumer habits, including an even quicker migration to e-commerce and travel reduction. 


6. Agility and autonomy

“It was difficult to coordinate the reopening of stores due to the different scenarios in each region. In this sense, we gave the local teams autonomy to act accordingly to regional regulations, without the need to consult their supervisors,” shared Motonobu Miyake, CEO of Lawson.