Retail in Asia


Survey unveils what Chinese e-shoppers look for in Western brands

A survey, which has polled 1,000 Chinese shoppers who shopped on the largest cross-border marketplace Tmall Global in the past 12 months, was carried out to understand these cross-border shoppers’ online buying behaviour, and how their buying decisions for Western brands and products were influenced in different stages throughout the customer journey.

SEE ALSO : Online sales of Valentine’s Day limited editions soared in China

Overall, 67 percent of respondents said they would spend more time online shopping in the next 12 months. This polling was conducted at a time when parts of China faced lockdowns to curb the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The result shows that China’s cross-border shoppers have proved remarkably resilient and are generally optimistic about their life in future. 73 percent of our respondents are considered higher income groups (annual household income around USD 45,000 or above), and 92 percent of them live in China’s Tier 1 and new Tier 1 cities; such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Hangzhou.

According to the sales reports, the national online retail sales reached CNY 3,012 billion, a year-on-year increase of 6.6 percent, in Q1 2022. Of these, online retail sales of physical items accounted for 23.2 percent of all retail sales of social consumer goods and climbed by 8.8 percent to CNY 2,525.7 billion (USD 377.7 billion). Food, apparel, and consumer goods had increases of 13.5, 0.9, and 10.6 percent, respectively.

The research shows that Tmall Global was approved by 85 percent of respondents as their favourite cross-border buying channel, and led other online marketplaces, shopping agents and foreign brands’ direct-to-customer websites. Supplemented by its diverse on-platform marketing tools, Tmall Global is recommended as a good starting point for Western brands to test the water of their products in the Chinese market.

The survey also pointed out the importance of brand’s official presence on marketplaces. A majority of respondents said Western brands gained their trust from information on the brands’ storefronts on marketplaces (70 percent of the respondents). Most shoppers searched reviews of Western products on brands’ official accounts on social media (74 percent) and storefronts (70 percent), and 59 percent of them did this on brands’ websites.

When buying from Tmall Global, 69 percent of the respondents gave priority to guaranteed authenticity, followed by better product quality (63 percent), better customer services (57 percent), and better prices than elsewhere (50 percent). Regarding their reasons to buy Western goods or from Western brands, the top choice is product quality (60 percent), closely followed by a sense of uniqueness and a match of their style or values (both 59 percent), and then value for money (57 percent). These results show that China’s cross-border shoppers have more considerations in mind than product price when making purchase decisions.

SEE ALSO : Adidas sees China sales plunge 35 percent, while Under Armour sales dip 14 percent in APAC

Off-platform marketing has been an indispensable part of brands’ ecommerce strategy in China, particularly for cross-border ecommerce players. Chinese short video platform Douyin, Xiaohongshu and WeChat top in this polling, with 55 percent to 61 percent of respondents agreeing that their buying decisions were influenced by these channels. Their large user bases make these channels optimal for social selling and building brand awareness, but they also differ in functionality for marketing that brands should be aware of. And even with the right tools, brands should provide localised, relevant, and more targeted content to resonate with their audiences.