E-commerce surges amid coronavirus lockdown

When walking out of one’s own neighbourhoods would become an uneasy task because of the lockdown across China, more and more residents have turned to e-commerce platforms for daily food supplies and delivery.

The country’s tech giants have become a major force contributing to the flow of necessities, with e-commerce platforms including Alibaba and Meituan Dianping working to assure the users their needs are met.

With mobile apps, users can easily scroll through the list of items and order almost everything they can buy – from fresh food to hygiene products – from an offline store in the city, and then wait for a knock on the door from the delivery man.

Delivery men of Meituan Dianping, in yellow jackets, could be spotted travelling across the empty cities with boxes full of food, especially over the past few weeks. The country’s food delivery app has taken special measures to prevent the virus from being spread through the delivery men and take-out boxes, giving out Thermometer, face masks and disinfectants at its stops across the country. They have also launched a “non-contact delivery” service, asking the delivery men to avoid direct physical contact with the consumers, by dropping the goods at designated zones or handing over through scanning QR codes, said a staff at Meituan in charge of Shenzhen’s businesses, as quoted by sznews.com.

The traffic lockdown has also pushed the boom of the e-commerce business of the traditional offline supermarkets and groceries. China Resources Vanguard, one of the country’s biggest supermarket chains, has seen numbers of both of its transactions and sales volumes on the mostly-used e-commerce platforms, including JD.com, Meituan Dianping and Alibaba-owned Eleme surging by three times from the same period last year. While the categories of items purchased have increased by four times, said the staff in charge of the supermarket giant’s Shenzhen businesses, as quoted by sznews.com.

However, the surging demands along with the lack of manpower during the Chinese New Year holiday have brought the e-commerce platforms to a full capacity. Hema, Alibaba’s retail store chain, had to seek part-time labourers in the face of a labour shortage.

“I have to bend over and over, and had suffered a pain in the back after all-day working,” said Zhan Fenghao, a kitchen helper at a restaurant in Shenzhen’s Bao’an district who offered to help with Hema’s distribution work. “But the pain is nothing to compare with what the medical staff at the frontline [are suffering].”

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