10 Things you need to know about Chinese digital consumers

Ecommerce is huge in China. For brands, understanding Chinese consumers and China’s digital consumer trends, is the roadmap to get ahead in this competitive marketplace.

First things first — Chinese consumers share both similarities and differences with consumers outside of China. Getting to grips with exactly who you’re trying to sell to is key.

That’s why we’ve put together this list – the 10 key things you need to know about Chinese digital consumers — to help you build a winning ecommerce strategy.

10 things you need to know about Chinese digital consumers

1.       There are more Chinese digital consumers than ever

Around the world the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed shopping behaviors, with more people than ever making purchases online. And the digital consumer number is still growing fast! 

The Chinese market is no exception. Digital purchases and digital experiences exploded in popularity during the pandemic.

Even pre-pandemic, ecommerce accounted for almost 25% of all retail purchases in China. This figure far exceeded countries like the US and Germany. Now, ecommerce in China accounts for 50% of worldwide internet retail sales.  

2.       Their household income is increasing

China’s middle class continues to grow. As is household income. According to research on the Chinese market conducted by Bain:

By 2027, household income will have increased by around 5% annually, with a massive number of industrial jobs redeployed to service sector jobs, and population movement from rural to urban areas, where incomes are higher.

That income growth will elevate about 180 million low- and lower-middle-income households to a higher income bracket.

In the years to come, there will be more digital consumers in China with a greater disposable income.

3.       Chinese digital consumers use their smartphones — a lot

Understanding Chinese consumers means understanding that they like mobile shopping. In 2020, 788 million people in China shopped via mobile devices.

The number of people in China who shop, pay and bank using mobile devices is well above the global average. China is also leading the way when it comes to app downloads and in-app spending.

For brands looking to catch the eye of Chinese digital consumers, a strong mobile offering is essential.

4.       The pandemic has led digital consumers in China to reassess their buying priorities

The threat the pandemic posed to health and the economy has not been lost on consumers in China.

There’s been a shift — particular amongst younger consumers in their 20s and 30s — to make more cautious and conscious consumer choices.

Four in five Chinese consumers intend to buy more insurance products post-COVID, whilst interest in investments and savings has also increased.

When they do buy products, quality and health are increasingly at the forefront of decision making. Seventy percent of consumers plan to purchase eco-friendly and healthy products in future.   

5.       WeChat is a big deal…

So many Chinese digital consumer behaviors are tied into the WeChat platform. That’s because this platform is like Facebook, Insta, Paypal, Amazon and more all rolled into one.

WeChat users can chat with friends, view brand accounts, play games, make purchases and even make in-store payments using WeChat functions. Which helps to explain why a whopping 902 million people use WeChat every day.  

To build brand awareness, to advertise and to sell products, brands have to develop their WeChat presence.  

6.       …So are social referrals

The first stage in the Chinese customer journey — awareness — usually comes through social channels. Chinese consumers see a friend or a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) talking about a product and then make the decision to research that product.

Social commerce in China has seen three digit growth over the past five years, with 50% of shopping interest driven by social or content apps.

Chinese consumers put a lot of stock in the opinions of those around them. That’s why brands in China put so much thought and energy into their presence on social channels – like WeChat, Weibo and Douyin.

7.       Chinese digital consumers are happy to switch brands to get the online experience they want

Older Chinese consumers are more likely to be loyal to their favorite brands. But younger digital consumers — born from the 1990s onwards — are much more fickle. They’re happy to switch brands in order to get the best possible product and service.They are also more likely to go for brands that reflect or represent their personality or character. 

Forty one percent of Chinese consumers now say they would switch from one retailer to another if they experienced poor service. Consumers are also liable to chop and change in search of better personalization or to keep pace with changing trends.

That’s why many brands are trying to offer more than just great products and good customer service. They’re creating interactive customer experiences — developing a sense of brand culture and heritage. They’re also personalizing their offering through data collection and product customization.

8.       They embrace new ways of shopping

Chinese consumer behaviors are always evolving — people are quick to adopt new technology and new ways to buy products.

Live commerce is one example. This type of online shopping has really taken off in China. With live commerce, users can log into a social media platform or an ecommerce site, watch a live product demo, interact with the feed presenter, and make real time purchases.

Live commerce in China is a billion dollar industry. According to the EY Future Consumer Index survey for 2021, 42% of Chinese consumers have purchased a product through a live broadcast.

Community group buying (CGB) is another new ecommerce trend facilitated by efficient technology. Groups of people are joining together and leveraging their purchasing power to get the best price for products. Via mini-apps they buy in bulk and maximize savings.

Collective buying is a huge China digital consumer trend with 67% of people either having made a CGB purchase or expressing interest in this collective consumer model.

9.       Chinese digital consumers love QR codes…

It took a global pandemic for QR codes to take off in the west. But even pre-pandemic these black and white squares were ubiquitous in China.

Chinese consumers use QR codes in order to pay for in-store products using their WeChat wallet. They use them to access exclusive brand experiences or a brand’s WeChat account. They even use them to give money to friends and relatives.  

QR codes provide a link between digital and in-person experiences, joining up the conversation and allowing brands to delight consumers in China in fun and original ways.

The best brands go above and beyond, creating beautifully designed, on-brand QR codes that really stand out from the crowd.

10.   …And a shopping festival

Who doesn’t love a sale? Chinese consumers get ample opportunity to save money on products they want to buy because a huge number of shopping festivals take place each year.

Shopping festivals are held in celebration of Chinese traditions – like Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Year) and Singles’ Day (a holiday celebrated by unmarried people). And on top of these shopping festivals, there are many other annual shopping festivals, which skyrocket retail sales.

Alibaba and JD generated $155 billion in sales during the Singles’ Day festival. The 618 Festival – a festival dreamed up by retailers — is China’s second largest annual shopping festival. In 2021, B2C ecommerce sales rose by 26.5% year over year, reaching an incredible RMB 578.48 billion ($83.81 billion).

Recognizing those big dates in the Chinese ecommerce calendar (and planning strategy around them) will help you to maximize the potential of shopping festivals.

Want to know more about Chinese digital consumers?

Nothing beats a little local knowledge.

Here at AdChina.io we understand Chinese digital consumers inside out. We also understand the ecommerce landscape—and the vast array of digital tools, sites and apps brands use to sell to their customers.

By sharing this insider info and our Chinese digital marketing expertise with brands, we help them reach Chinese audiences in ways that resonate and engage.

From social media marketing to WeChat Pay setup to shopping festival campaigns—our clients can count on the very best translation, strategy and digital marketing skills.

Download your free AdChina.io demo to see what we can do for your brand in China.

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