Are Chinese Consumers Enthusiastic about Shopping Online?
Trends in Consumer Behavior
Ever wondered why the e-commerce business has been booming in China? More consumers today prefer staying at home and waiting for that delivery at their doorstep. Recent studies reveal significant changes in the shopping behaviors of Chinese consumers. Consumers buying items home consumption, especially food (see figure 1 below), are among the leaders in online purchases. For instance, many consumers buy groceries where sellers deliver them at home instead of physically visiting physical stores. Other items that have joined the trend include personal care and home care products, which have witnessed an upward trend in orders made online. While online consumption has grown considerably in recent years, Chinese consumers consider important aspects before making a purchase, including the veracity and honesty of their shopping site; hence, many experts try to understand whether Chinese shoppers are enthusiastic about online shopping or some circumstances force them to engage in online platforms.
Figure 1: Edwards, Kinga. Countries Overview: A brief overview of China’s e-commerce in 2021, 2021. Available at https://ecommercegermany.com/blog/a-brief-overview-of-chinas-e-commerce-in-2021.
The COVID-19 and E-Commerce Trends
The COVID-19 pandemic happened at the end of 2019 and changed everything, including how people shop. More people engaged in social distancing to avoid the new highly contagious coronavirus strain of coronavirus. People were too afraid of the virus that they chose to remain at home instead of going out to shop. Besides, the Chinese government developed new policies, including stay-home, to avoid infections (Lannes et al.). For instance, China was one of the most affected countries globally, explaining why more people would prefer to order and wait at home for their deliveries. During the period, many consumers turned to e-commerce platforms, with sites such as Pinduoduo experiencing consistent growth (see figure 3 below) (Edwards). The pandemic drove fresh food ecommerce growth since lockdowns and social isolation required people to shop from home. Would a shopping environment without the pandemic be different?
Fugue 3: Edwards, Kinga. Countries Overview: A brief overview of China’s e-commerce in 2021, 2021. Available at https://ecommercegermany.com/blog/a-brief-overview-of-chinas-e-commerce-in-2021.
E-Commerce Growth, Nothing to do with COVID-19
Revisiting whether it was the pandemic that drove the e-commerce growth in China or a trend that would happen even without the pandemic, it is necessary to look at consumer behavior in China. The trend would probably continue devoid of the pandemic, but the event accelerated the growth and distribution of e-consumption. The growth and acceptance of technology in China have occurred in the past few decades, increasing the number of people shopping through online platforms. It is worth noting that platforms such as Aliexpress, Taobao, and JD.com are based in China, and their development has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic (Buchholz) (see figure 4). Such platform developed in response to technological development and changes in consumer behavior, including the acceptance of technology. Even the Chinese people had been excited about shopping online long before the pandemic.
Buchholz, Katharina The Biggest E-Commerce Players From China, Apr 12, 2021. Available at https://www.statista.com/chart/22519/biggest-b2c-e-commerce-platforms-china/
With or without the pandemic, e-commerce in China would still grow. However, the rate of growth might be slower than in post-COVID 19 China. Long before COVID 19, Chinese consumers had started to accept online platforms as alternative shopping channels. The changes have been so significant that China’s digital currency could challenge the dollar (Campbell). The trend would not be possible without consumers accepting e-commerce. As long as an online platform proves to be trustworthy and accessible, it becomes a shopping destination for the Chinese people. Sites, such as Alibaba and Pinduoduo, have proven trustworthy and provide verified brand stores that consumers prefer visiting instead of going out to shop from physical stores. The pandemic accelerated the growth of many online shopping channels, but it is not the sole driver of the trend in China. The trend will continue into the future, with new and more advanced platforms developing to challenge the existing ones.