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Digital Lifestyles in China


When traveling in China it won’t take long before you encounter and likely experience WeChat, Tencent and JD.com — all services that underpin the fast moving Chinese digital lifestyle. In the span of a decade, China has developed and deployed a world-class online services sector and consumers have fully embraced it. CTA’s new consumer study Digital Lifestyles in China, which debuted at CES Asia, dives into the Chinese online realm to explore consumer behaviors in three key areas: social networks, video content consumption and shopping preferences.

Social media is a fundamental part of Chinese consumers’ personal lives today, but they’re not using it for work. Chinese are highly engaged — messaging (63 percent), liking (49 percent) and commenting (42 percent) — daily or even multiple times a day. But unlike the U.S. and other Western countries, only 28 percent use social media for professional purposes.

Chinese consumers believe strongly that social media is a necessary part of society in the 21st century. They use networks to connect to friends, family and the world. Because they feel the need to be constantly connected, smartphones are the devices preferred overwhelmingly when it comes to social media because they’re always on hand, anytime, anywhere. WeChat leads the pack of social networking sites with 95 percent of consumers saying they have an account and 86 percent of users connecting multiple times a day. WeChat is also a leading platform for mobile payments in China.

Streaming Video

Like many Americans, Chinese consumers use streaming video to relax and pass time both alone and with friends and family. The research shows they watch content during their commute, work breaks, after work, after dinner and while going to bed. They describe watching videos as calming and relaxing, whether they are spending time with family and friends or ‘decompressing’ alone. Sound familiar?

Also similar to U.S. consumers, Chinese consumers stream videos on different devices – smartphones for short clips, posts from family/friends and news. Movies do well everywhere, but particularly on the bigger screens of laptops and desktops. When it comes to content sources, Chinese consumers are generally open to both domestic and foreign content, with a slight preference for domestic, especially for news. Nearly half, however, are looking to be well-informed and like to use both foreign and domestic news sources.

Shopping is where we discovered a key difference in behavior between American and Chinese consumers. Among Chinese consumers, an overwhelming preference exists for shopping online vs. in-store. Some 61 percent of consumers say they prefer to shop online, compared to just 11 percent who prefer to shop in-store.

Chinese consumers buy online frequently, typically from a smartphone, and purchase various items, a dynamic that closely resembles the U.S market. Sixty percent shop online once a week or more for things such as clothing, grocery and household items, electronics, books and beauty products. They like the ease of shopping anywhere and anytime, the expanded selection and the ability to compare products and prices. There are very few things they can’t (or won’t) purchase online – mainly expensive items they need to see or try on.

Even more so than in the West, mastering the digital and online realm in China, a country of 1.4 billion people, is understandably essential to reaching and building relationships with customers.

Steve Koenig

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