Taobao Report: Mobile Shopping Is Catching on Quickly in China

The value of online purchases made via mobile devices soared 600 percent last year on Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com, China’s largest shopping websites, as Chinese consumers continue to adopt smartphones and tablets in droves.

A report on mobile shopping in 2012 released this week by Taobao also reveals that the total number of unique visitors to Taobao Marketplace who used mobile shopping apps or visited via WAP browsers reached 300 million last year. Of those visitors, 57 million (19 percent) completed Taobao Marketplace transactions with their mobile devices. The total value of transactions was not disclosed.

Mobile shopping is still at an early stage of development. Purchases via cellphone represented just 6.87 percent of all Taobao transactions in 2012.

But the just-released stats confirm that as smartphones proliferate and cellphone service providers roll out faster networks in China, wireless devices are quickly being adopted as cheaper, more convenient alternatives to computers for Web surfing and online shopping.

"The speed of mobile adoption has been much faster than we thought it would be," says Alex Qiu, a vice president and general manager of the Mobile Business Unit at Alibaba Group, the parent company of Taobao and Tmall.com.

Research firm Flurry Analytics recently asserted that China is now the largest smartphone market in the world with 246 million users, compared with 230 million in the U.S.

"Mobile is changing how people use the Internet, because it provides a different Internet experience," Qiu says. For example, while the average personal PC user might go online once or twice a day and surf the Web for an hour or more, mobile users are accessing Taobao six times daily and staying online for only about three minutes. When using mobile devices, "People want to access information very quickly and very efficiently," Qiu says.

Computers and cellphones are not necessarily mutually exclusive, Qiu adds, noting that some people are using both devices while shopping online, doing detailed product research with their computers while using smartphones to complete purchases.

"Mobile is changing how we operate our platform and how online merchants operate their businesses," Qiu said. "These are revolutionary changes, similar to the change from offline to online more than 10 years ago. Three years from now, the amount of time people spend on mobile devices will have increased significantly, as will the amount of money you spend online."
 

Other stats from the Taobao 2012 Mobile Shopping Annual Report:

● Women are the most active mobile shoppers, spending an average of RMB 1,757 on Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com last year, compared with the men’s average of RMB 1,144.

● About 26 percent of people shopping on Taobao via mobile used their phones to search for products, while 14.2 percent accessed logistics (package delivery) information.

● An average of 9.28 million mobile users searched for products daily on Taobao Marketplace, and each user searched 13-14 times per day on average.

● In 2012 an average of 220,000 products were sold every hour through mobile devices on Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com.

● Mobile shopping is growing fastest in smaller cities. The annual growth rate in the number of mobile Taobao Marketplace users in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen was 146 percent; the growth rate in second-tier cities such as Guiyang, Changsha and Chongqing was 167 percent; the growth rates in third- and fourth-tier cities were 180 percent and 230 percent respectively.

● Mobile transactions represented 6.87 percent of total transactions on Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com in 2012, compared with just 1.77 percent in 2011.

● Some 3.55 million Taobao Marketplace vendors sold products via mobile devices in 2012, up 87 percent from 2011.