The State of COVID-19 in China

Compared with the rest of the world, China is months ahead in dealing with COVID-19, and Chinese platform companies have played a critical role in the effort to slow the spread of the virus. They supported communities while the country was in lockdown, providing valuable information, and helping connect friends, families, experts, and governments. They’ve entertained people, helped them to learn, and kept small businesses alive. Along the way, they’ve faced new challenges with innovation and creativity. They’ve also demonstrated how digital platforms can move quickly, operate flexibly and serve as a powerful resource in these testing times.

What can other platform companies learn from the Chinese experience

Platforms in China have taken on four major roles that, together, provide a playbook for other companies in the rest of the world as the pandemic spreads:

Create community and share information

With regional and national lockdowns in place, people are likely desperate for both information and community. These demands can quickly overwhelm the capacity of normal channels, and digital platforms can help make society, business and individuals more resilient and responsive.

Platforms’ distributed nature means fewer bottlenecks, and their already widespread adoption means more infrastructure capacity and the ability to share information quickly. In China, existing groups (like gaming and social shopping) became emotional lifelines for people stuck at home. New demand for offline-to-online services has created spikes in the use of platforms during lockdowns. Gyms are streaming classes, museums are offering tours, and teachers are live-streaming lessons.

Platforms enabled many of these responses, contributing critical capability and information when and where it was most needed.

Geospatial layer to show clinics

Baidu, for example, helped people access testing faster by adding a geospatial layer into its mapping products that showed where ad hoc and permanent fever clinics were operating.*

Real-time COVID-19 tracking map

Tencent launched a real-time COVID-19 tracking map on January 23 that became the easiest and fastest way to see where outbreaks were happening.**

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Wide exposure and success of these types of offerings may drive further platform advances and services that will likely continue when the pandemic subsides.

Fight for trust

As platforms become more critical to daily life, they inevitably attract would-be fraudsters.

Platforms have also had to aggressively monitor and remediate an onslaught of fake news stories and counterfeit products. Convincing people to believe official information and to share it back to their community is a critical success factor in reducing infection rates.

Platform speed and trust are essential. That means identifying and isolating cases, getting the population to know what to look for, and helping get protective gear.

47%

Year-on-year increase in fraud from January 24 to March 13, recorded by Liewang Platform, a website where Chinese internet users can report online fraud.***

This was the period when the pandemic wreaked havoc in China, confining hundreds of millions of people to their homes.

Support social welfare

To support health agencies and government in controlling the outbreak, platforms in China have undertaken innovative measures to support social welfare. And in order to help their communities and save lives, they have been ready to take steps that are uneconomic in the short term but may benefit in the long run.

In a crisis, integrity of a brand can be shored up or tarnished. Acting publicly to help the community during COVID-19 will build customer trust, attract talent, strengthen relationships with merchants and advertisers, and even shore up support from governments.

In China we saw three common approaches to supporting social welfare:

Help ecosystem partners and workers

Another key element of Chinese platforms’ response strategy was to support their own ecosystem of partners who were facing supply chain disruption, job loss, business shutdowns and cancellations. They acted aggressively to help with financial, operational and technology incentives. Because of their focus on ecosystem health and activity, platforms were willing to offer uneconomic short-term support to maintain the stability of the system.

Supporting small and medium enterprises

Alibaba and Ant Financial launched 20 special measures to support small and medium-sized enterprises. These included eliminating platform service fees for Tmall merchants in the first half of 2020, subsidizing the collection and delivery of goods and providing low-interest loans.

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Actions to take Now and Next

While the economic ramifications from COVID-19 will be felt for many months ahead, it appears that the Chinese platform companies have weathered the storm. Other global platforms can learn several key lessons from their Chinese counterparts’ experience:

1. NOW

  • Deploy Your COVID-19 Response Globally:

Take your ideas for new products and services to other markets so they can benefit the people who need them most.

  • Prevent Fraudsters from Abusing Your Platform:

Authenticate users, verify content and news, and ensure product authenticity so that your platform remains safe and trusted.

  • Identify Ways AI Can Help:

Utilize AI to analyze patterns and connect people to vital health and collaboration services.

2. NEXT

  • Accelerate Out of the Lockdown:

Platform companies that develop solutions quickly will likely emerge even stronger after the pandemic lockdowns.

  • Safeguard Against Fraud Going Forward:

Review and update policies, and ensure you have systems in place to flag and stop deceitful attempts to infiltrate your platform.

  • Productize AI Solutions for Ongoing Value:

Integrate AI across your platform and discover new applications to continue assisting your customers, developers, and partners post-pandemic.

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There could be many more lessons to be learned from China. And other platforms may also create and discover new and unique ways to help communities and businesses address the needs created by the pandemic.

What will be most important? Staying connected and collaborating across the world at speed.

Sources:

* China supports accurate epidemic prevention and control with big data

** Bid to contain coronavirus COVID-19 sees Chinese tech giants deploy tracking maps

*** Online game players were top target for scammers during China’s coronavirus lockdown



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