Understanding 3 key elements of Chinese consumer behavior in the digital marketing world

July 5, 2018

The pace of change in China is difficult to comprehend for those outside the Middle Kingdom but at AgencyChina we have a front row seat as local consumer behavior and technology collide at rapid speed. Here are our top three insights on key elements of Chinese consumer behavior in the digital marketing world .

 Rigorous research before purchasing

When it comes to retail spending, Chinese consumers have long had a tendency to conduct more in-depth research than their western counterparts before buying. While word of mouth and family recommendations were once the primary starting point, Chinese consumers now increasingly turn to online platforms and diligently read peer reviews from other consumers.

According to a PwC report, 61% of Chinese consumers begin their product search journey on Alibaba’s Tmall, meanwhile, only 39% of global consumers use Amazon for the same purpose.

Xiao hong shu (Redbook) is also an example where online peer review content is king. Used by consumers as a product search engine, Redbook is a highly relied on resource for Chinese female consumers around the world. It is there that trusted user-generated content and online word-of-mouth marketing shape purchasing decisions, and especially in regards to international brands in the space of cosmetics and health products.

Heatmap of Redbook users based on geographic location, Source: Redbook

The platform also has a content-to-commerce approach that links user-generated content directly to online purchasing options, which is popular in China but generally less developed in the West.

Click on well-targeted advertising

While users in the West tend to veer away from clicking on paid advertising, Chinese consumers have a higher threshold for paid links and are almost twice as likely to click. According to a PwC report, 31% of Chinese consumers will click on an advertisement that is relevant to their needs – almost double the global average of 16%.

This is not to say that one in three Chinese consumers will click on your paid advertisement! The key to interpreting this statistic is matching relevant content to the user and this is why researching and investing in the right online channels is key to hitting your target audience.

 e-retail via mobile

With the already broad popularity of smartphones and 5G connections destined for China in 2019, there’s no underestimating the power of e-retail on mobile. From the moment of waking, to long subway commutes to work and online shopping during lunch break, there are endless opportunities to connect with Chinese consumers through their smartphone.

As shown below, Deloitte visualizes the dramatic growth of mobile Internet browsing and the market share it is taking away from PC terminals.


Growth of e-tail via PC terminal and mobile terminal, Source: Deloitte

Given the importance of mobile as an interface for communication, it’s vital that your website is mobile friendly.

This includes having a page layout that renders quickly on a range of devices. Static websites can benefit from deploying on a Content Delivery Network (CDN) in China such as Alibaba Cloud or Tencent Cloud, which saves a copy of your website across multiple node locations and improves load speed by serving content to users based on their location to the nearest node.

Mobile payments are a must with WeChat Pay and Alipay the preferred options, which are both fast and saves the hassle of consumers sharing the private bank card details.

In regards to search engine optimization, it’s important to have your mobile sitemap uploaded to Baidu, 360, Shenma and other search portals in China. This is because Chinese search portals do not automatically detect mobile and PC sitemaps like Google and both sitemap versions should be uploaded manually.

Finally, avoid Adobe Flash for streaming and multimedia as it is no longer compatible with Android and iOS.

Understanding these three overarching consumer behaviors will help serve your digital marketing strategy in China. If you need assistance with digital marketing channels, online marketing in China or social media, AgencyChina is here to help you achieve your goals.


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