A Chinese consumer’s purchase journey is like no other. It begins online for most, with 85% using search engines, brand websites, or social media as their first step for researching a new product or purchase, according to a PWC survey.
Whilst online research is not unique to Chinese consumers, the way they do it is. For a start, they are less trusting of products and services, and investigate more, across a wider range of online channels before making a decision.
Globally, 56% use a search engine as their first port of call for doing research, whereas just 33% do in China. When Chinese search, it isn’t just on Baidu as it is on Google elsewhere. Consumers are more likely to research products on ecommerce platforms like Taobao, particularly when they are getting closer to making a purchase decision.
Food and beverage is one illustration of Chinese search habits. For example, consumers do twice as many searches for wine on Taobao/Tmall than on Baidu. And wine is a product most consumers still require further education about. Products such as packaged snack food – which consumers are more familiar with – often account for ten times more searches on Taobao/Tmall than on Baidu.
32% of Chinese will go directly to a brand’s website – much higher than the 19% globally, and almost as many as those who will use a search engine initially.
When we talk about online research in China, it’s a good idea to be thinking about mobiles. Wherever Chinese are thinking about making a purchase – in a store or online – they will always have their smartphones with them, so it is important to factor this in to customer touchpoints.
PWC’s findings are polarising: 85% are online for their first step of research, whereas just 11% of retail sales happen over the Internet. This signals a disconnect in the customer journey and represents an opportunity to further integrate online and offline channels to better tailor to consumer preferences. China Skinny can assist with that. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.