Assessing the impact and opportunities from COVID-19 for Unilever in China

hand sanitiser unilever case study
Through panel data and WeChat surveys, Unilever was able to better understand consumers' behavioural changes in China following the COVID-19 outbreak.


Following the recent COVID-19 outbreak in China, leading to unprecedented disruption worldwide, Unilever needed to better understand consumers' behavioural changes in China. This was the first market affected by the virus (the epicentre of the epidemic), and Unilever was one of the first clients to react.

The challenge was to evaluate potential losses and reforecast sales in Q1’20 and for the rest of the year, and assess consumer and shopper behaviour changes during and post COVID-19 for 6P optimisation (place, product, proposition, price, promotion, pack).


Our unique approaches have led to outstanding transformational actions in Unilever China. The same approaches have now been identified as the best approaches, used across all clients and markets worldwide. We offered two unique solutions:

  • Weekly panel data tracking – real-time tracking of how FMCG categories evolve, and behaviour consumption changes
  • Timely WeChat surveying and monitoring, during and after COVID-19, to better understand attitude changes, as well as a cross-industry white paper on the impact of COVID19


We were able to offer several insights around consumer behaviour and the pandemic, including:

  • The levels of panic buying & stock-up pre-lockdown (CNY effect)
  • Different patterns during quarantine period by Category/Types, linked to consumption occasions
  • Solid growth of all hygiene products and in-home consumption vs. more highly impacted personal care categories, and out-of-home consumption
  • Channel choices: people showing a preference for small store format, ecommerce and O2O
  • The premiumisation trend temporarily slowing down
  • Increased digital consumption

We also offered more insight and specific deep dives on Unilever brands and categories.


The solid support offered by Kantar to help Unilever navigate through the crisis was delivered quickly and proactively, to ensure they could weather the storm of COVID-19.  

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