Keeping the China Consumer Happy: What Does it Take?

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Keeping the China Consumer Happy: What Does it Take?

Chinese consumers say online shopping offers a better customer experience than more conventional ways of buying stuff. Here are three reasons that help explain why.

A recent study done by global research and advisory firm Forrester found that customers in China are having a better experience online than in physical stores. But why?

Here are three aspects unique to the online customer experience in China that may help to explain why consumers prefer shopping from their computer or smartphone:

Transparency. The more you know about a store, the better. On Taobao Marketplace, Alibaba Group’s C2C online-shopping website,consumers viewing a store can see exactly how many units of a given product have sold in the past30 days. They can also see how many of those sales were successful transactions. Forshoppers using a C2C site, these numbers translate to merchant legitimacy. Take a store that sold 300 shirts in the past month, of which 295 went through as successful transactions. Anyone visiting can see that only five out of the last 300 shirts sold were not accepted, and make a more informed decision based on that figure. Storesthat offer more transparency will come out ahead. Being able to gauge a seller’s success rate allows Chinese consumers to buy (or not buy) with increased confidence.

Social anonymity. In a society that rewards modesty, online shopping allows Chinese consumers to defy social norms through anonymous review postings and product inquiries, completely removing the risk of peer judgment. Praise, as well as harsh criticism, is found across a variety of merchant storefronts, giving shoppers a voice and forcing companies to listen. Instant-messaging options feature live customer service reps who welcome pre-purchase inquiries so that shoppers can ask questions and express qualms that might otherwise be too uncomfortable to ask in front of fellow shoppers. Customer service departments that are quick to respond and offer leniency with returns will earn a strong reputation for their stores.

Visual engagement. One way online merchants in China have successfully defined themselves amid tough competition is through unique visual engagement. Including videos, slides, and close-up images, virtual shops in China are typically laid outas very long web pages. This allows visitors to invest time in a siteby scrolling versus multiple clicks—minimizing time spent having to wait for new pages to reload. A single web page for OtterBox’s Preserver Series on, for example, features over forty images of the waterproof cell phone case, a four-minute-long video, a 12-step guide on how to install the case, and a four-step display of the packing process. Through detailed presentations like this, consumers can visually engage with the product in ways that aren’t possible at physical stores.

Joe Nora is a business development and marketing Intern with Export Now, a company that helps Western businesses sell directly to Chinese consumers through

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