SCMP examines COVID-19 impact on China’s tech sector in latest report

China’s technology landscape has changed a lot since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its shifting live-streaming industry is another area that brands and marketers should pay attention to. The South China Morning Post has released the “China Internet Report 2020”, unveiling several trends shaping the world’s biggest digital community.

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on China’s technology landscape, from accelerating media consumption to rallying innovative technology use cases to combat the virus. 

It has affected media consumption across China, driving record high internet and app usage, with this growth driven mostly by the 40-plus age segment. The average daily time spent on the internet by Chinese users; the average number of apps opened monthly by Chinese users; and the comparison of the growth in monthly mobile users by age segment between March 2019 and March 2020, has recorded significant growth. 


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As for app categories, work productivity, short video, video editing, web browser, and education all enjoyed significant growth as well. The category of work productivity saw the greatest increase in monthly active users across all app categories as there was an increase of 308 million users in March 2020. 


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Many new technologies have played an important role in containing the pandemic, resulting in more application use cases and further development of these emerging technologies, such as big data, AI, and 5G. 

For example, in February 2020, China implemented a national initiative to assign residents coloured QR codes to determine whether they had to be quarantined. The colour-based system was based on factors such as travel history, duration of time spent in an outbreak-stricken area, and relationships to potential carriers of the virus.

The application of technologies is expected to accelerate digitalisation in education (online learning and new formats of instruction), healthcare (online patient consultation and knowledge sharing), and recruitment (video interview products and virtual job fairs). 

Another main topic in the report is live-streaming as China has shifted its focus from gaming, sports, and teen culture to an exploratory channel for shopping and eCommerce. Starting from 2019, the primary content in China’s live-streaming landscape has included shopping and eCommerce for traditional industries.

Meanwhile, the report suggested that China’s live-streaming market would continue its healthy growth, and is expected to increase to 613 million users and US$16.3 billion in value by year end.


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Spurred by the pandemic and lockdowns, live-streaming was adopted by traditional industries as a new and effective marketing channel, such as international luxury goods, real estate, travel services, and automotive. In addition, tech industry leaders and entrepreneurs became live-streaming stars as they were eager to cater to the vigorous appetite for online shopping in China. 

Last, but not least, China’s 5G market is expected to hit US$70-85 billion in 2020 with an estimated 160 to 175 million 5G subscribers. 

The introduction of moderately priced 5G smartphones from domestic players such as Huawei, Xiaomi, VIVO, Oppo, and ZTE, this year will drive further adoption of 5G. It’s expected that more than 50 5G smartphone models will be available by the end of this year. 


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The wide adoption of 5G is complemented by the Chinese consumers’ eagerness to upgrade to 5G. Seventy per cent of Chinese people said they intended to upgrade to 5G, higher than South Korea (61%), the US (42%), and the UK (23%). Currently, there are a lot of 5G usage in China such as for rich communication services, smart tourism, smart agriculture, and smart manufacturing, all implying a higher productivity and enhanced experience.


 

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