Digital Innovations during Coronavirus Outbreak in China

Since the end of Dec 2019, China has been grappling with a pneumonia outbreak caused by a novel coronavirus, COVID-19. By 24th Feb 2020, there are 77,262 confirmed cases and 2,596 deaths. Millions of people stay at home since the end of January 2020, to keep away from the deadly virus.

Most of the streets are empty across China. Many industries, especially the offline ones, are impacted severely. Xibei, one of the top restaurant chains in China, claims that it will face bankruptcy in the next 3 months by considering the extremely low offline traffic.

However, in the online space, bold innovations are happening.

First Chinese Movie Released via Online Channels Only

Most of the cinemas have no traffic at all during the coronavirus outbreak. After 25th Jan, there is no update on the box office anymore. Based on the estimation, 11.3 billion RMB is lost during January and February 2020. Most of the movies are halted from release. The bold move came from Xu Zheng, one of the top directors in China. He chose to release the movie via online channels only. He sold its new movie "Lost in Russia" to ByteDance, the top mobile internet giant for 630 million RMB. ByteDance then released the movie via its 3 mobile apps, Xigua Video, Douyin, and Toutiao. It is the first movie released via pure online channels in China, anmany insiders think that it will disrupt the whole industry.

Live Music Festivals via Online Video Platforms

The music industry faces severe loss too. Based on the China Association of Performing Arts, the box office loss of offline performances and shows is estimated to reach 2 billion RMB in the first quarter of 2020. However, Modern Sky Entertainment, which has the largest independent record label in China as well as being the leading concert and festival event promoter in China, has launched its first online music festival, or called Couch Potato Festival (). From 4th to 8th Feb 2020, 1 million young people enjoyed the online music festival via Bilibili, one of the top online video platforms in China. 100,000 comments and reviews are left. By considering the good performance, Modern Sky chooses to work with the China mobile video platform, Xigua Video, to mirror its top music festival, Strawberry Music Festival, to the cyberspace, from 22nd to 28th Feb. 82 singers and bands will join in the mega online show.

Pure Online Launch Events by Mobile Phone Brands

For the high tech industries, some of the brands choose to keep silent and wait for the end of the outbreak. However, Xiaomi, one of the top China mobile phone manufacturers, chose to stick to the launch plan of its new products (Xiaomi 10 and 10 Pro) but switched the launch event into a purely online version. On 23rd Feb 2020, Xiaomi live-streamed the event through Shenzhen TV station, internet, and social media platforms. It is a bold move for Xiaomi who never tried pure online launch before, and the CEO of Xiaomi expressed his concerns before the event. However, the result is astonishing - the sales volume of its new mobile phones reached 200 million RMB within 55 seconds and created a new milestone.

After Xiaomi's bold move, Huawei launched its virtual press conference in Barcelona Spain and live-streamed it to the world on 24th Feb 2020. Based on the previous schedule, Huawei was to launch an offline press conference at the Mobile World Congress 2020, which was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. During the online version of a press conference, Huawei launched its latest products, including Mate X foldable phone, Huawei Matebook X Pro, etc.

Digital Innovations in B2B World

Even in the serious business-to-business world, more online efforts are being taken.

BESTORE (), one of the top snack brands in China, went public on 24th Feb 2020. The brands headquarter is located in Wuhan, the epicenter of coronavirus outbreak. Since Wuhan is still locked down, the Shanghai Stock Exchange invited the BESTORE executives to have a pure online listing ceremony. It lasted for some 20 minutes and featured video speeches and a five-second countdown to a simulated gong-striking as the climax. Actually, it is the first online listing in China history and maybe human history.

Meanwhile, Alibaba Cloud and Huawei Enterprise Business Group launched online events, to promote their new products or engage with their users or business target audience.

More Digital Innovations during Coronavirus Outbreak

Though the coronavirus outbreak stops people from moving physically, the bold brands are hunting new opportunities in cyberspace. Since the mobile internet and social media high penetration in China, it is feasible and acceptable to switch the battlefield from offline to online. Some never-before online trials and pilots are done to engage with the customers or clients in multiple industries and created reasonable or extreme performance and experience.


The shift from offline to online has been obvious in the past few years and is being accelerated to a new level during the outbreak. It is no doubt that more brands will join and create more miracles in more industries.

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