With the spread of the coronavirus and the increasing amount of travel shutdowns, entire industries in the U.S. and Europe are starting to panic. Meanwhile, businesses in Asia are already resuming operations. What could be the reason for this discrepancy in reactions?
The coronavirus is not Asia’s first epidemic rodeo, with the 2003 SARS outbreak still fresh in the continent’s collective memory.
The irony is that most firms with Asia exposure are much calmer about coronavirus because they experienced it in 2003, responding to clients in regards to campaign holds and sudden budget reassignments are nothing new.
SARS paved the way for certain businesses and even entire industries to succeed. It 'made' Alibaba, because in 2003 we were stuck in our homes and tried this new thing called e-commerce.
The response of industries in the U.S. and Europe is not without good reason, as advertising today is almost entirely digital and much more interconnected than it was in 2003, making it easier to pause entire campaigns. In response to the coronavirus, advertising in the US and Europe has come to a virtual standstill due to an entire audience that is currently unable to travel. With less client work, more businesses are looking inward to evaluate their preparedness in the face of the spreading virus.
Beyond taking the intuitive step of enforcing a clean workplace culture, businesses are also preparing formal emergency remote work plans to protect the well-being of their employees while maximizing productivity.
Businesses with manufacturing operations in China are also adapting to the situation, and are diversifying their work through offshore and nearshore alternatives. Yet as businesses continue to focus internally, there is a need for them to be aware of the opportunities amid the chaos of the coronavirus.
The current state of the Chinese knowledge and services industry should be of special interest to businesses based in the U.S. and Europe. While Chinese businesses may be resuming operations, there is still a vast army of knowledge workers looking for jobs. Businesses in the U.S. and Europe could benefit from hiring these workers to remotely handle tasks ranging from coding to media buying, to back-end and front-end development.
The Chinese service and knowledge industry are also growing rapidly. Traditional knowledge markets like India and Eastern Europe should go to China. It is also important for businesses to prepare for the imminent travel rebound that will occur once the coronavirus resolves.
After SARS, we saw a 22.5% increase in traveling on the Asia-Pacific region's major airlines. We’re anticipating that. The question is, are you planning for that right now?
Chinese travelers will attempt to make up for the lost time by seeking out long-term and atypical (i.e. bucket-list and soul-search) travel experiences. Businesses in the U.S. and Europe that hope to reap the benefits of these post-coronavirus era travel trends will need to maintain their respective share of voice when marketing to Chinese travelers. This means placing a greater emphasis on creating inspirational content (not to be confused with a call to action content) for Chinese social platforms such as WeChat to build travel/purchasing intent for when the virus resolves.
Businesses in the U.S. and Europe should consider long-term industry trends that will continue even after the travel rebound dies down, and begin adjusting their focuses accordingly.
Many unable to leave their homes due to the coronavirus, specific niches of e-commerce, such as grocery and pharmaceutical delivery, have developed unstoppable momentum and will continue to grow in popularity. He also forecasts that traditional industries outside of health and wellness will start offering more products and services geared toward preventative measures for epidemics (i.e. office design firms factoring in appropriate social distancing and working dynamics).
The tourism industry will also see sustained long-term changes, with medical and wellness tourism likely to rise in popularity as Chinese travelers start taking an increasingly proactive approach to manage their health. The awareness of these shifting trends will help businesses lay the foundation for a relationship with their customers that will remain strong in the face of any future epidemics.
With the World Health Organization declaring coronavirus to be a pandemic, businesses in the U.S. and Europe are shutting down and focusing their efforts internally to protect their company cultures. However, businesses based in China are already resuming operations, which means audiences in China are receptive once again.
Now is the time for businesses in the U.S. and Europe to reach Chinese travelers because when coronavirus resolves, the businesses that practiced external awareness and maintained their marketing share of voice will be on top.
Humphrey Ho is managing director at the North American offices of Hylink Digital