Earlier in the summer, we hosted our Asian launch of The Truth about Shopping (麦肯解读中国购物真相) at the Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai. As to be expected in one of the most advanced mobile markets in the world, there was much buzz surrounding the conference as suited and booted businessmen jostled with some of Asia’s brightest, young entrepreneurial minds. The much anticipated keynote from Xiaomi, the hotly tipped first Chinese brand to go truly global, reinforced that China is truly leading the way when it comes to mobile innovation. Mobile technologies are seamlessly integrated into every aspect of consumer’s lives and nowhere is this more evident than in the retail category. With this in mind, I’ve outlined the Five Things You Need To Know About The Chinese Shopper and the impact that technology is having in the shopping landscape:
1. Shopping has been defined anew by Chinese consumers
Our research first set out to understand what consumers associate with the actual word shopping. Globally, 80% of consumers think of ‘in store’ when they hear the word shopping whereas this figure dramatically decreases in China to 55%. Indeed, for 45% of Chinese consumers, the primary association is ‘online’ shopping and this figure is only set to rise. Furthermore, while globally the number one category associated with shopping is food and groceries, for Chinese consumers it is clothes and shoes. In this context, it is hardly surprising that the Chinese are far more likely to view shopping as ‘a leisure activity’ and ‘their time to relax’.
2. The Chinese consumer approaches shopping in a more positive mindset
From our quantitative data, we were able to identify five distinct mindsets in which consumers approach shopping. While it is true that which category you are shopping in has a huge influence in how you positively view shopping, where you live also makes you more pre-disposed to certain mindsets. Chinese consumers are far more likely to exhibit the more positive and engaged mindsets of the ‘Adventurer’ (a spirited shopper who wants to be surprised) and the ‘Lover’ (a loyal shopper who wants to be pampered). In comparison, we see a wearier shopper in developed markets marked by a significant over-index in the ‘Zombie’ mindset (a switched-off shopper who does not want to be interrupted). Chinese consumers are looking to be delighted and are actively willing brands to engage them in new and surprising ways.
3. Mobile is king
Chinese consumers have rapidly adopted mobile technology and are fast assimilating it into every aspect of their lives. When we look to the future of shopping, they are incredibly optimistic about the potential of the mobile with 87% wishing their phone held all of their shopping information (e.g. clothes size, family preferences) vs. 66% of consumers globally. This also extends to the future of payments with 83% of Chinese consumers wanting their phone to be intelligent enough to select the correct card to pay with (vs. 59% globally). Furthermore, with popular messaging services like WeChat enabling people to pay for everyday services, like taxis, via a simple text, consumers are rampantly adopting such innovations. The consumer reticence to adopt new mobile technology that we see in the West simply does not exist in China. Chinese consumers see technology as being intrinsic to the future of shopping and mobiles are the key to ensuring a totally seamless shopping experience.
4. Chinese consumers are far more trusting of brands
Chinese consumers are far more likely to trust brands with their data and information. For example, when given the choice of entrusting their friends/children or online stores with their card details, 63% of Chinese consumers would choose online stores. In comparison, only 37% of consumers globally agree with this statement. Notwithstanding, their more relaxed attitudes to privacy overall, many Chinese consumers would welcome brands and retailers into their most private online spaces. Indeed, 60% would let a brand post on their social network wall (such as Renren or Facebook) for a discount on goods and services. The opportunity for brands to connect with consumers in a more personal arena is plain to see; however, just because you can doesn’t mean you necessarily should unless you can offer genuine relevancy, usefulness or entertainment.
5. Social commerce is becoming a natural extension for shopping
Almost a quarter of Chinese consumers (23%) have bought something they’ve seen on a social platform. This figure is significantly higher than the global average of 16% and is even more notable when you compare it to attitudes in the more developed markets like the US where only 8% of consumers have engaged with social commerce. Chinese consumers see shopping as a natural extension of their lives and are happy for the lines of commerce, entertainment and connection to be blurred, so it is only natural that we are seeing this replicated in social media. Almost half use social networks to discover more about a product and 4/10 are actively looking to discover new brands. Again, we see a ripe opportunity for brands but one that should be used in a measured way.