SHANGHAI: China is already the largest retail e-commerce market in the world, an observation reinforced by a new survey which reveals the extent to which Chinese consumers now rely on social media and new technology when purchasing.

Far more than the global average, it emerges that Chinese consumers are strongly influenced by content-led experiences, such as celebrity endorsements, and are particularly receptive of relevant and personalised ads.

These are some of the key findings in PwC's latest Total Retail Survey, a global study which includes analysis of the shopping behaviour of some 945 Chinese consumers.

The professional services firm revealed that 29% of Chinese consumers, compared to a global average of 13%, use social media to check what brands or product key opinion leaders and celebrities endorse.

Known as "Wang Hongs", these key opinion leaders interact directly with consumers, raising awareness and building brand image, while "providing a new, direct marketing channel," according to Jane Wang, PwC China's retail and consumer tax leader.

The PwC survey also found that more than half (52%) of Chinese consumers shop while using their mobile or smartphone on a weekly or daily basis – compared to 14% globally – while 41% use social platforms as a way to receive promotional offers (versus 34% globally).

It further revealed that personalised digital marketing is particularly effective in China, where consumers are almost twice as likely (31%) as their global counterparts (16%) to click on an ad that is relevant to them.

And when it comes to buying groceries, Chinese consumers are almost three times as likely (62%) to use the online option as the global average (22%).

"It is almost impossible to distinguish between e-commerce and social media in China today. The context is characterised by a strong orientation to mobile technology and social commerce, underpinned by ubiquitous digital payment infrastructures," commented Kevin Wang, retail and consumer leader at PwC China.

"In this hyper-competitive environment, we recommend that brands and retailers enhance their cooperation with third parties to upgrade the data marketing ecosystem," he added. "Exploring more direct and faster innovation models will be crucial for future development."

Data sourced from PwC; additional content by WARC staff