China’s Smog Is Boosting Online Sales

Many societies coming out of their industrial periods have struggled with periods of intense, localized pollution, and China's current battle with smog-covered cities proves that it's no different. However, what's new this time around is that China's economy doesn't have to suffer because of its homebound citizens.

The Wall Street Journal reported that China's pollution-ridden cities are seeing modest increases in online retail activity across the board since the residents of certain cities have been warned to limit their exposure to the outside air at certain times of the day. From the week of Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, WSJ explained that online marketplace Taobao registered more than 600,000 searches for face masks — a 41.1 percent increase compared to the month prior.

That's not the only region where Chinese consumers are looking to stock up during this uncertain period. According to the state-sponsored China Daily newspaper, smog-trapped urban dwellers have increased their searches for condoms online as a result of their confinement and possible developing cabin fever.

It's not known when the air quality situation will improve in Beijing and other areas, but that hasn't stopped at least some Chinese consumers from maintaining hope — as their purchases indicate. Outdoor fitnesswear has been a target of online shoppers since the smog set in, China Daily reported, which shows that consumers are more than ready to embrace the retail therapy aspect of online shopping as readily as they do for in-store businesses.

Of course, China Daily admitted that this could all be another case of anxiety purchasing as the mob drives demand higher than it needs to be on account of a craze about the weather. While Western consumers are all too happy to play the same game when blizzards make their way up the northeast or a tropical storm sweeps up to L.A., it's unclear if Americans' online ordering priorities fall in line with their Chinese counterparts.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.