While online purchase intentions around the world have doubled in 14 out of 22 product categories over the past three years, China is the key leader in the Asia-Pacific region and the world, according to the Nielsen global survey of e-commerce, which polled more than 30,000 internet respondents in 60 countries.
More than half of Chinese respondents said they intend to make an online purchase within the next six months. In the other 59 countries, the percentage ranged from 35 to 46 per cent.
Intent to buy is particularly strong in durable and entertainment-related categories like clothing (74 per cent vs 57 per cent just browsing), airline tickets (69 per cent vs 48 per cent just browsing) and hardcopy books (64 per cent vs 45 per cent just browsing).
“By one account, China has more than 600 million Internet users and an annual e-commerce growth rate of 120 per cent, making it the fastest-growing, and soon to be the largest e-commerce market in the world,” said Patrick Dodd, managing director of Nielsen China.
Online purchase intent for consumable products like groceries and baby supplies, while still not as strong as for non-consumable categories, is gaining traction quickly. Since 2011, Chinese online purchase intentions for baby supplies jumped 25 percentage points to 38 per cent, and both cosmetic and food & beverage categories increased 14 percentage points to 56 and 57 per cent, respectively. Alcoholic drinks rose 20 percentage points to 34 per cent.
“The elevated purchase intent for consumable goods signals great timing for retailers to start creating an omni-channel experience for consumers who are actively using both digital and physical platforms to research and purchase,” said Dodd.
Additionally, overcoming negative perceptions, such as the high risk of receiving fake products, is essential if consumables like alcoholic drinks are to succeed within online channels, he added.
Even for some products that are more conducive to online browsing than buying, such as those that carry a high price tag or require a try-before-you-buy test run, Chinese consumers are enthusiastic about both browsing and buying online. Electronics, mobile phones and sporting goods are examples of categories that Chinese consumers often purchase online, while many other consumers around the globe prefer to buy offline.
“The higher percentage of online buying versus browsing in China tells us that more Chinese respondents are going for the actual transaction rather than research only," Dodd said. "Online has become a strong retail channel for Chinese respondents. In this regard, out of the countries surveyed, China is one of the furthest along on the e-commerce maturity curve.”