It turns out there are distinct differences between Chinese consumers and U.S. consumers. For starters, while American shoppers tend to prefer mobile retail websites when shopping online, more than four out of five mobile device shoppers in China prefer a mobile retail app.
According to Google China, 45.6 percent of Chinese consumers shopped using mobile devices last June, and the total amount of time spent shopping through mobile doubled compared to one year prior.
Of those consumers shopping through mobile devices, 81 percent of consumers said they prefer mobile apps over mobile retail websites, although 40 percent use mobile websites for product research prior to making a purchase, according to Internet Retailer.
But despite the improved information and services available through mobile websites, Chinese consumers still prefer apps. That’s a curious trend, especially when it runs counter to American sentiments, where mobile website shopping is preferred over over app alternatives.
A closer look provides an explanation for these differing consumer behaviors.
Bridging Cultural Divides
The Chinese mobile retail market has many similarities to the American market — but there are also key differences, especially when it comes to consumer perspectives. China’s mobile commerce is growing at roughly four times the rate of American m-commerce, but America’s m-commerce is also more developed, and a greater percentage of the consumer population owns smartphones and already shops on mobile.
In both China and America, online-to-offline selling is growing quickly as an omnichannel strategy. As Target, Wal-Mart and other brands encourage this sort of shopping behavior, Chinese brands like Alibaba are doing the same thing, and finding success.
On the American side, it’s possible that U.S. consumers are increasingly persuaded by better shopping experiences available at physical stores. While more than 80 percent of U.S. shoppers use their phones while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, many of those sales eventually occur in-person. Consumers are drawn by the ability to touch and see products in-person, and to the improving retail experiences driven by mobile technology.
Strategies like assisted selling, increased personalization and a focus on delivering a VIP-like experience have helped American retailers leverage their physical stores to improve selling in the digital age. Many of these advancements in mobile retail experience creation come to America before they reach China, so the market overseas may simply be waiting for those developments to arrive.
But Google China also notes that Chinese consumers are more worried about security risks when shopping online. Reluctance to shop through mobile websites is driven primarily by a belief that apps have fewer security risks, making them safer platforms to execute a transaction. That’s why Chinese shoppers will do their browsing on websites before making purchases online.
China’s trends also highlight the value of maintaining both a mobile retail website and a strong mobile retail app. To succeed in both America and China, retailers need both forms of mobile infrastructure at their disposal.
These cultural differences are key for retailers to understand, especially as they expand and build strategies for other regions around the world. Different cultures and communities will present different selling challenges, and retailers will need to take these into account when strategizing for untapped markets.
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