What Do Chinese Consumers Really Want From E-Commerce Platforms?
One trend that intensified in China during the COVID-19 pandemic and is sure to continue long after is the adoption of e-commerce to purchase luxury goods. While some luxury brands have been active on platforms such as Tmall Luxury Pavilion for several years, others have only taken the plunge in recent months.
But simply selling products online isn’t enough to drive sales. Consumers in China are looking for much more in deciding when and where to make their purchases, and for brands this can mean the difference between realizing a sale now or in a year or two, when Chinese tourist-shoppers may finally venture back out into the world in anything approaching pre-pandemic numbers.
So what do Chinese consumers look for in a luxury e-commerce platform and from brands selling in China through online retail?
1. Seamless shopping via mobile and social
One truism about young Chinese consumers is that they have never been tied to a particular platform when browsing or buying luxury goods online. They shop pragmatically — driven by value, flexibility, and convenience — so it is crucial for brands to make products easily available on e-commerce and social platforms.
As Jing Daily has previously noted, one feature that sets Chinese consumers apart from their Western counterparts is that Chinese loathe shopping via internet browser, and mobile rules. Everything from the discovery of a luxury item (for example, seen via a branded placement on streaming video) to researching every aspect of a product (such as on platforms like Xiaohongshu) and finally completing the purchase (perhaps through a livestream on Taobao Live) is often done solely via a mobile device, which is also used for post-delivery sharing of product posts on social media.
Consumers under 30 make almost 50 percent of luxury purchases in China. As such, this younger cohort increasingly calls the shots in terms of what brands do in the market. Sandrine Zerbib, founder of Tmall Partner agency Full Jet, told Vogue Business, “Because the consumer is younger, he or she is also keener than Western consumers to shop online as well as to enjoy and share online content.”
In China, shoppers generally do not align themselves to e-commerce platforms or necessarily turn to them to discover brands. The online retailer is simply the point of completion for a sale that was a long time in the making, with the decision-making process conducted through a great deal of research and exposure across various other platforms, many of which are also increasingly shifting their focus to boosting their e-commerce capabilities. For a global e-commerce platform considering expanding into China, all of this must be taken into consideration. Strategies that are overly browser-focused or otherwise lacking in mobile experiences will fail to succeed in the Chinese market.
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