Major Chinese e-commerce companies have unveiled a number of measures to support merchants and medical suppliers during the economic slowdown affected by the coronavirus outbreak. A number of tech giants including Alibaba, JD, Pinduoduo are offering financial services such as loans, subsidies, delayed repayments to thousands of merchants as the coronavirus outbreak threatens their businesses.
JD.com launched subsidy programs covering 200,000 small merchants , while online discount retailer Pinduoduo has offered CNY 1 billion subsidies to online merchants who have been fulfilling orders during the virus outbreak, in the form of a per-order subsidy to merchants and extended delivery window for the majority of orders placed between Jan. 17 and Feb. 10.
“Given the fear of going out and physical contacts, the coronavirus has led to more people trying online shopping for daily necessities, the idea behind the subsidies is that we want to encourage more merchants to continue servicing customers, and ensure their order especially medical supplies has been fulfilled during the critical time,” Fu Zheng, the head of Pingduoduo’s anti-epidemic task force said. The company is also giving subsidies to consumers.
Alibaba has stopped charging affected merchants some fees across its online platform to help them ride through the epidemic. All online stores operating on Alibaba’s Tmall platform will be exempt from services fees for the first half of the year, while a paid-to-use website design tool for shop owners has been offered free of charge. Alibaba also launched a CNY 1 billion fund to help sellers offset the rising logistics cost.
Its logistics unit, the Cainiao Network will provide free warehouse space to merchants for two months until the end of March, while Its local services unit Koubei will waive commissions for merchants in Wuhan until the end of March, and the end of February for all other merchants.
Ant financial, Alibaba’s fintech unit has also offered interest-free or low-interest loans to online merchants based in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak. For Taobao and Tmall merchants in Hubei, the one-year-loan will be interest-free for the first three months, and lowered by 20 percent from the regular level for the remaining time.
Eleme, Alibaba’s food delivery business, will invest CNY 1 billion to support small restaurant and chain restaurant operators which has been hit heavily and suspended their services due to the outbreak.
In order to fight against the deadly virus, Alibaba and JD.com both have introduced a “emergency supply sourcing platforms” to better connect medical and healthcare service providers with the medical institutions across the country. According to JD, the platform has helped more than 3,000 suppliers and logistics service providers in Hubei, helping them to fulfill the urgent need of hospitals.
For Alibaba, the platform so called the “Alibaba Global Direct Sourcing Platform” will serve as an information bridge, matching sellers of medical supplies and their products with the needs of affected hospitals and local authorities.
In addition, JD.com has been using AI robots and drones to support the deliveries of medical supplies in virus-hit areas.
On February 7th, JD.com’s logistics arm has used Level 4 autonomous delivery robots to deliver the first batch of goods to hospital in Wuhan, JD’s logistic arm said that it will also open its L4 autonomous driving solutions to other robot makers as the company is planning to scale up its assistance to Wuhan’s medical system.
According to JD, it has transported more than 2.36 million medical supplies including masks, medical gloves, goggles to major hospital in Wuhan, Huanggang and other cities in Hubei province as of February 13.
Not only the merchants and retailers has been affected by the coronavirus, farmers are facing huge losses as the logistic and supply chain systems has been paralyzing.
Thanks to the technologies, E-commerce has become a crucial distribution channel for farmers as the deadly virus has led to lockdowns in many major cities across China.
In efforts to help farmers to ride through the epidemic, major e-commerce platform like Alibaba, JD and Pinduoduo have launched special campaigns and subsidy funds to facilitate online sales of fresh vegetable and fruits from farmers
Pinduoduo has unveiled a marketing campaign for fresh products directly from farmers, listing fruits and vegetables from nearly 400 agricultural area countrywide.
“As one of China’s largest e-commerce site, safeguarding the interests of consumers and merchants is our top priority especially at this critical time.” Fu Zheng stressed.