Chinese find their calling as smartphone shoppers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 1:21am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 1:21am

Chinese consumers are leading the world in using their smartphones to make online purchases, according to a survey by accounting firm PwC.

Compared with their US peers, Chinese consumers are far more active in online transactions. The research, which covered 15,000 online shoppers in 15 territories, including 900 respondents in China, found that 71 per cent of Chinese consumers bought merchandise online from their smartphones, while 32 per cent of US consumers did so.

"China is more advanced in its use of mobile in the shopping experience than arguably anywhere else in the world," said Colin Light, PwC mainland China and Hong Kong digital consulting leader. "Yet few retailers are bringing a digital experience to the physical store. It is critical to bring the benefit of e-commerce, online-to-offline in a bricks-and-mortar environment."

China is more advanced in its use of mobile [for shopping] than … anywhere else

The PwC research report, published yesterday, suggested retailers should reshape their business model from a single channel of physical store to "omni-channel retailing". This would provide a more integrated online-to-offline service as customers would increasingly want to research, pay or reserve products across online devices while picking up the goods from stores that were convenient to them, the report said.

The survey reveals that Chinese consumers are also more socially connected on the internet than shoppers elsewhere in the world. Some 86 per cent of Chinese consumers have used social media to buy products, while the global average is at 48 per cent. Meanwhile, the popularity of mobile payment tools has been increasing in China, with Alipay's mobile wallet application dominating the market, according to PwC.

Data from market researcher iResearch shows that Alipay, the online payment affiliate of e-commerce titan Alibaba, achieved a gross merchandise volume of 906 billion yuan (HK$1.1 trillion) last year, against 52 billion yuan on Tenpay, a platform owned by fellow mainland internet giant Tencent.

Beijing has tightened supervision over internet-based financial products and halted payments made through so-called quick response codes.

Light said Beijing was acting on security concerns, which was normal for governments.