HONG KONG: Online has become the dominant engagement and transaction channel for Chinese consumers according to a new report, with mobile and social influencing upwards of half of all retail spending.
A study from consulting firm PwC, Delivering on O2O: How Chinese retailers can respond to the blurring of online and offline, drew on a survey of more than 19,000 consumers across 19 countries. It found that 85% of Chinese consumers chose a digital channel as the first step in researching a new product.
And 58% said that where they did make a purchase, research was done online compared to just 47% globally.
Showrooming is also far more common in China than the rest of the world. PwC found that 86% of Chinese consumers had intentionally browsed products in store before buying them online, compared to 68% globally, with price the key driver.
The flip side of this practice, webrooming, was more widely practised elsewhere: 70% of global consumers had intentionally browsed products online before buying them in store, compared to 64% of Chinese consumers.
The research also showed that 60% of Chinese consumers shop in-store because they get to touch, feel and try the merchandise. PwC noted that the experiential strength of the physical channel cannot be matched in a purely online environment, but added that "this is not an either/or equation".
Mobile, it said, offered the opportunity to enhance rather than replace the physical environment and Chinese consumers were very keen to engage with in-store digital technologies.
Thus, for example, 40% indicated that real-time personalised offers would make their in-store shopping experience better, a sentiment shared by 27% of global consumers.
"With the lines between digital and physical becoming irrelevant to consumers, retailers need to offer brand-defining engagement, such as real-time personalised offers in order to create differentiated services that entice customers to come back," said Michael Cheng, PwC Asia Pacific and Hong Kong/China retail and consumer leader.
Data sourced from PwC, Marketing Interactive; additional content by Warc staff