Hostesses sell agricultural products via livestreaming at a public center for e-commerce related services in Feidong county, Hefei, Anhui province, this month. (PHOTO BY XU QINGYONG / FOR CHINA DAILY)
The Spring Festival, or the Lunar New Year, in China is traditionally known as "the biggest human migration on earth", as millions of people hit the roads, rails and skies during the weeklong holiday as they head back to their hometowns for family reunions.
Yet, in light of the resurgence of sporadic COVID-19 cases in China, many people are refraining from going back to their hometowns and are choosing instead to stay put in the cities they work in to celebrate the long holiday.
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As such, various merchants are tailoring their unique festival offerings to accommodate a growing number of consumers as they celebrate an unusual year away from hometown.
Spring Festival has always been a cash cow for Italian confectionery giant Ferrero, whose variety of sweet treats makes for perfect gifting options. This year, the company is rolling out different packaged offerings targeting online and offline channels to pamper customers with varying needs.
For instance, its iconic Ferrero Rocher chocolates come with two sets of packages: a more traditional pattern featuring plum blossoms is available at brick-and-mortar stores, while a co-created pattern with the Summer Palace－endorsed by a number of key opinion leaders, content curators and popular vloggers－will be available online only.
"With the lingering impact of the contagion and more younger people staying in place, it's becoming imperative to attract them through creative ideas, especially online," said Mauro De Felip, general manager of Ferrero China.
Various merchants are tailoring their unique festival offerings to accommodate a growing number of consumers as they celebrate an unusual year away from hometown
"The collaboration with sought-after IPs (intellectual properties) in the online sphere holds key to attracting younger consumers," De Felip said.
For instance, some 25,000 limited-edition gift combos featuring the chocolates were snapped up within two days since pre-sales began on Jan 20.
According to De Felip, the company's marketing spending has shifted from traditional ad placements on TV to a variety of digital vehicles. These include not just traditional e-commerce players like Alibaba and JD, but a host of emerging online-to-offline services such as JD Daojia, which witnessed exponential growth even during the height of the pandemic last year.
"You need to have a totally different way of presenting the products and a complete new way to engage with customers," he said, adding that the company is working with top-tier livestreaming host Viya Huang to market several products during the gala.
"China, compared with the rest of the world, has done a much better job in containing and controlling the pandemic," he said. "I see that sales could bounce back to pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of the year."
Offline businesses also have reasons to stay upbeat. China Xintiandi, a high-end commercial property company, is slated to unveil a number of interactive installations, mobile marketplaces, theme parades and pop-up stores to entice customers across its major complexes nationwide.
Traditional Chinese elements can be found in the form of dragon and lion dances, traditional hanfu costumes and lucky draws, according to Cindy Ye, deputy general manager of China Xintiandi.
Outdoor festive sessions are set to be held in a complex in Southwest China's Chongqing, where a spacious 80,000-square-meter venue allows customers to indulge in shows while being able to maintain social distancing.
To better engage with customers who visit the store, one of its properties, Shanghai Xintiandi, also plans to join hands with health drink brand Oatly to host a special show "Real Talk", where customers get to share their personal stories during the festival.
Merchants that open stores within Xintiandi properties are also poised to embrace higher-than-expected traffic flows during Spring Festival.
For instance, Xiaolongkan, a hotpot brand that is very popular among the younger generation, has just opened an upgraded store－dubbed a 2.0 store－in Shanghai to ride on the festive boom.
One selling point, according to company Executive Director Li Shuoyan, is how the store manages to blend authentic Sichuan culture featuring spiciness into the distinctive local culture, creating a warm festive atmosphere.
"The Shanghai store is designed in a neater and more chic fashion, bringing us closer to local diners, while the food itself maintains unified aromas and taste, which is critical in drawing those who are fond of our offerings from elsewhere," Li said.
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The company said the outlet is specifically designed in a photogenic fashion that facilitates the sharing of photos on social media platforms. It is also potentially looking at co-branding or product co-creations with other brands in order to attract younger customers.