China is a giant in the world of ecommerce, with its influence on ecommerce being felt across the world. With a population in 2017 of 1.4 billion and an online population is projected to be 56% in 2018, its no wonder that many experts believe this market to have astronomic potential for cross-border ecommerce.
When it comes to the device usage in China, mobile comes first in many ways:
“China has leapfrogged this step, with many citizens already growing up as mobile natives. They are the trendsetters for a kind of ecommerce that will be available anywhere and anytime.”
- Isabella Yu, Computop Shanghai
China Ecommerce and Infrastructure Data
As mentioned previously, internet penetration pushed past 50% in 2016 and is slowly increasing year-on-year with a project 56% of the population being active online in 2018. When looking to three core infrastructure/logistics indicators, China’s performance is mixed. The Worldbank’s Logistics Performance Index puts China at a respectable 26th position, whilst their Ease of Doing Business Index places China 78th and the UN’s E-Government Development Index puts China 65th.
With such a large population, and a growing middle-class the number of online shoppers is huge in China, with a substantial level of growth year-on-year. As of 2017 the figure for the number of online shoppers is 533 million with a growth rate of 14%.
When looking to the most popular types of products bought online, daily use articles top the list, with apparel & footwear and computer and accessories following close behind.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Alibaba is leading the way when it comes to the share of sales from Chinese consumers. But the extent tot which is dominating can still be rather surprising. However with such a large consumer base, even having a small foothold can be a significant achievement.
M- and S-commerce and mobile payments
When looking to M-commerce, China is pushing the envelope with immense growth in recent years. This has increased from 169 billion euros to 4,593 billion euros.
When looking at s-commerce WeChat is a huge player in China. When making a purchase on social media, 60% of Chinese consumers chose WeChat with over 13,000 WeChat accounts containing ecommerce links.
Mobile payments is dominated by a familiar name - Alibaba Group through Alipay (54%) with Tencent’s TenPay following behind (40%).
Tips for ecommerce in China
China is in the midst of a consumer revolution, with foreign products taking advantage of advanced marketing, advertising and research techniques. Brand awareness is increasingly important and sophisticated advertising is beginning to play a key role in attracting Chinese consumers. Producers of luxury goods and providers of services have seen large growth in China.
Chinese society is often viewed as “collectivist”, with the group prevailing over the individual. As a result, the standards, preferences and standards of the group to which an individual belongs have a tremendous influence on purchasing habits. The golf craze – with over one million taking up the sport in recent years – is an example of the desire to belong to a group (the affluent) and subsequent conformity to the preferences of said group. For this reason, advertising is frequently directed at groups, rather than individuals.
Today, the elite among the single-child generation want to live a good life and are not shy about spending – including on education, luxury items, travel, leisure activities and consumption goods – especially those in large cities. The consumption is often aimed towards high-end, big-name products, as evident by the explosion in the number of luxury cars. Largely due to the desire to conform with the affluent reference group, there are few individuals ready to run the social risk of being “different” or stray too far from the standard. At the same time, once a product is adopted by the reference group, the passion for it rapidly catches on far and wide.
Chinese consumers tend to be very brand-sensitive. They believe price to be an indicator of the quality of a product, though both price and sales services are the most important selection criteria. Aspects such as warranty and possibility of product refund are less important. Generally, the Chinese attach great importance to researching a product before purchasing it, the principle source of their information being word of mouth.