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Mobile payments

Sleepless in China: here’s what consumers get up to once night falls

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 August, 2018, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 August, 2018, 3:07pm

Even when night falls, China keeps on shopping.

Across the country online orders for supper start coming in at 9pm. Beijingers’ favourites are fried chicken and barbecued sticks of meat. Down south in Chengdu, people spend the most on supper, gathering around tables for hotpot, their evening meal of choice. The city of Hangzhou prefers drinks to eats, with its highest sales of alcohol at night.

A new report by Alibaba Group Holding analysing data across its ecosystem of services, including payments service Alipay, food delivery and on-demand units Koubei and Ele.me, as well as video-streaming site Youku and even ticket sales platform Taopiaopiao, provides fresh insights into Chinese consumers’ shopping and eating habits that kick in once the sun sets. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

The massive ecosystems of services built up by China’s internet giants like Alibaba and Tencent Holdings help boost their respective payments services Alipay and WeChat Pay, and enables them to amass valuable consumer insights so they can personalise services that in turn increase user stickiness, as well as improve targeted advertising.

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With a population of 1.4 billion and some 772 million internet users, China has three times the number of smartphone users and 11 times the number of mobile payments users as the US, factors that drive the development of the Chinese app-based and on-demand delivery economy, according to the China internet Report co-authored by the Post, its tech news site Abacus and the San Francisco-based venture capital firm 500 Startups.

Thanks to mobile payment platforms like Alipay and WeChat Pay, Chinese consumers can place a food order, shop online, even pay bills via several taps on their smartphone screens – no matter what time it is.

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The peak hour for online shopping on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao is 10pm, whereas online payments peak at 11pm, according to the report dubbed “China’s Nightlife”.

Shanghai is the city with the most activity in the bedroom, with the highest condom sales nationally. Midnight is the peak hour for condom orders in Shanghai, likely due to Alibaba’s Hema supermarket on-demand deliveries. Hema first introduced an adult channel on its delivery app in Shanghai in March, promising to deliver items like condoms and even sex toys to consumers within 30 minutes after the order has been placed online.

Viewership on video-streaming site Youku generally peaks after 10pm with subscribers logging on to watch popular Chinese TV drama Guardian (the series was removed from Youku earlier this month, with no official reason given). Shanghai residents love the cinema, racking up the most movie ticket sales in China. Nanjing is perhaps the most well-read city in the country, with the most payment activity to bookstores at night, according to the Alibaba report.

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Beijingers turn in earlier than others but also wake up the earliest, with many heading out of their homes at 5am in taxis, compared to Shenzhen residents who are often still on their way home at 4am in the morning, the report found.

The average fare of rides booked via ride-hailing apps at night is 28 yuan (US$4). Most of China is asleep by 4am, when payment activity finally slows.