China sets trend in digital shopping

By Egidio Zarrella
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, September 5, 2013
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In China, innovation has been driven by both necessity and convenience. Chinese consumers have enthusiastically adopted e-commerce online transactions and social media platforms, which will fuel future mobile technology innovation.

Because China is relatively new in the technology space, it has the advantage of not being constrained by legacy systems. As such, China is already leading the way globally in mobile payments, which is driving innovation across social networks and cloud computing. China is also experiencing a mobile revolution. A whole new generation of mobile-centric consumers are gaining their first media experience via mobile devices. These consumers have a much greater preference for digital media, and the coming of next-generation, high-speed mobile networks can only accelerate this trend.

Consumers in China are now becoming savvier in their use of technology. Compared with consumers in many other countries, Chinese consumers love buying retail goods and services online via mobile devices. This coming wave of online consumers can accelerate the digital shift that companies selling to these consumers must understand.

Yet the emerging and massive wave of mobile-centric Chinese consumers highlights a preference for digital content that surpasses that of today’s online Chinese consumers. China is leading the revolution in the take-up of mobile technology.

Many Chinese and multinational companies in China can tap into this growing market by understanding consumers’ online and offline media consumption. Content providers can develop a business model that appeals to even the most sceptical consumer. It is not about developing a digital business strategy; it is about developing a content strategy that spans all media and digital channels.

China’s prevalent domestic consumption of both online and physical retail items can also help us understand the global consumer of the future. That Chinese consumer walks within the virtual and physical world with relative ease.

A huge number of Chinese consumers own at least one smartphone, with many owning two to three devices. This, in part, is due to the ability to sign up for contracts that provide the latest technology at little or no outlay, but it is also a cultural phenomenon. Most consumers are getting their media via their smartphones, tablets or laptops. Very few rely on print media, and their desire to have access to content on the move, on the latest devices, is driving a massive explosion of mobile media consumption.

Another major innovation where Chinese consumers are driving change is social media. In China, many purchases made nowadays, such as insurance, clothing and groceries, are done via social commerce platforms.

However, businesses need to have a strong understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture to really grasp Chinese consumer behavior. Chinese consumers enjoy connecting to like-minded people and are open to sharing their experiences. This is why social media has such mass appeal and has been widely adopted as a key marketing and public relations tool. It is all about the ability to connect and share real-time ideas with friends and family.

Revenue streams

With the development of social media applications or platforms, such as Weibo and Wechat, the relationship between brands and social media is evolving. This is creating new revenue streams, and, as a result, companies are increasingly interacting with social network users. There is a high instant demand from consumers nowadays, and companies need to develop new channels through social media to provide fresh experiences to consumers. Chinese consumer demand is driving much of the innovation that we see. China is becoming the market to watch, especially for online.

Technology and media companies need to focus on this emerging class of mobile-first consumers. They can learn from the experiences of the Chinese consumers to address the next generation of mobile consumers.

Ultimately, Chinese consumers are creating the perfect storm for the mobile market: accessing payments, devices, social media and online advertising are all on the move. These consumers are more accepting of these new technologies because they don’t have the legacy of traditional media channels in the same way countries such as the UK and US have. The fact is that Chinese consumers are much more willing to pay for content and accept advertising than their Western counterparts.

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