SHANGHAI: About four-fifths (79%) of Chinese consumers use their mobile devices for e-commerce at least once a month, compared to 33% of all global consumers, according to figures from PwC.

Meanwhile, Alibaba’s most recent Singles Day shopping festival saw it rake in a record US$25bn of gross merchandise volume. Of this GMV, a whopping 90% was accounted for via tablets or smartphones.

“China has about over 700 million Internet users, and 91% are smartphone users – that’s why most of the e-commerce sales for example, during Singles Day, over 90% are mobile,” said Kestrel Lee, principal analyst for Greater China at Econsultancy, while discussing these and other findings during a recent webinar. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Five trends defining China’s e-commerce boom.)

According to data from Analysys International, the lion’s share of e-commerce sales in China goes to Tmall (51.3%) and (31.9%), as of Q2 2017. That makes over 80% of combined e-commerce takings captured by two marketplaces alone.

While marketplaces make it easy for brands to start selling, brands need to set aside dedicated resources for fulfillment. A strong marketplace strategy, therefore, is necessary.

“You have to invest in the e-commerce marketplace for first time customer acquisitions, if your brand is still relatively new to China,” Lee advised.

“You should also slowly build up e-commerce features on your social platform, as well as your dot-com website, to promote repeat purchase from existing customers as part of customer aftersales CRM,” he added.

Social media is a core component of the end-to-end customer journey in China. Nearly half (45%) of Chinese respondents in PwC's Total Retail 2017 survey said they use social media to discover new brands and products, versus 39% globally, and 25% of Chinese respondents have purchased products directly through a social media channel, versus 15% globally.

For instance, Taobao alone connects many points of the customer journey, such as product discovery through content, community interaction and chat support with merchants. Social, in short, is increasingly a “one-stop shop”.

“In China, the interesting thing to note is that Alibaba, Taobao and Baidu… all have social content,” said Lee.

“They are all social platforms. Taobao has customer reviews and forums. Baidu has its own Wikipedia clone and its own version of Yahoo answers. People like to start researching there. Because it’s so easy to buy from platforms when the key research is there, there’s more conversion.”

Sourced from WARC