What Sells Best Online During the Coronavirus Outbreak?

Consulting firm Kantar recently conducted a nationwide survey about the impact of the coronavirus on Chinese people’s consumption behavior and the potential spending rebound after the epidemic is over. The survey managed to question over 1,000 respondents, including nearly 200 from the worst-hit Hubei Province.

The outbreak resulted in a considerable increase in purchases made through online retail channels. 55% of all surveyed have bought from e-commerce platforms (Tmall, JD.com, Taobao, etc) during the outbreak, slightly less than those who have bought from supermarket, which is the No.1 retail channel mentioned by 58% respondents. Online-to-offline platforms, such as Ele.me, Meituan, Dingdong Maicai (grocery platform), which connect stores with consumers at home, were mentioned by 35% respondents with 34% favoring hypermarkets.

What people buy the most?

People’s purchases generally reveal what they have been doing to kill time during the prolonged stay-at-home days. As the delivery services begin to recover, it is likely that the current consumption patterns will linger for a while even after the outbreak subsides.

Groceries and kitchen products

A representative of Fenqile, one of the largest online installment e-commerce retailers in China, revealed the latest consumption trends on the platform. Kitchen products have registered strong sales, as Chinese people working from home are starting to cook more due to the quarantine that has seen many restaurants closed.

On Fenqile, orders of high-speed blenders and electric grills have seen a month-on-month increase of 40% and 55%, respectively. It seems like unable to go to their favorite barbecue restaurants, people have started making barbecue at home. Blenders became wildly popular as under the influence of some food bloggers making cakes at home has become a new fad online.

On the online group-buying platform Pinduoduo, egg poachers made it into the “best selling products” list between Jan 24 and Feb 14. On Taobao and Ele.me, the order of flour has increased sevenfold this week. Sales of condiments and sauces also increased drastically. Coca Cola chicken wings and fried eggs are now the most commonly searched recipes online.

In the meantime, as the delivery business recovers and workers get back to work, Ele.me data showed a twofold increase in takeaway orders for milk tea compared with last week. It is especially evident in the southern city of Hangzhou, where the number of milk tea orders this week is 8 times that of last week.

According to information from Taobao, renowned Chinese hot pot brand Xiaolongkan has sold tens of thousands of boxes of self-heating hot pots in 10 minutes in a live broadcast on Taobao.

Electronic products

Between Feb 6-20, Fenqile’s laptop sales increased by 50% from the same period last month. Computer-related products such as earphones, keyboards, and mouses have also seen an increase of 30%-50% during the same period.

Consumers have turned to used Apple products partly due to supply shortages resulting from Apple’s Chinese factories being shutdown during the outbreak. In February, the average daily sales of used iPads on Fenqile have grown by 40% compared with January.

These observations echoed the trends on major Chinese e-commerce platforms. For example, JD.com claimed that its sales of computer desks between Feb 1 and Feb 11 grew by 196% year-on-year.

Indoor exercise & fitness products

Indoor exercise and fitness products saw a surge in demand recently, as China’s young consumers try to stay fit and healthy by exercising at home. From Feb 10 to 23, Fenqile’s fitness equipment sales increased by over 50% compared with the previous two weeks. Smart abdominal trainers, smart treadmills, and dance mats, all suitable for home workouts, have seen double-digit growth during the same period.


Nintendo’s Switch console has enjoyed particular popularity. Sales of the console have gone up 120% between Feb 10 and Feb 23, compared with the Spring Festival holiday, not least because of the fitness and exercise games that it allows users to play. Accessories for Switch’s popular exercising game Ring Fit Adventure were all sold out at some point on the Fenqile platform.

Real Estate & Cars

Taobao Live has attracted over 5,000 real estate agents from over 500 brokers, across nearly 100 cities in China. According to official data, from Feb. 12 to 17, some two million users watched their livestream events on Taobao Live. Beijing, Jiangsu and Shandong were the top three areas in terms of the number of livestream hosts in this sector.

23 global car brands such as BMW and Audi are also leveraging livestreaming to sell cars. Taobao Live currently hosts around 100 livestream events every day. For example, BMW is working with professional livestreamers to introduce its various models.