Jessica Goodfellow
Jan 21, 2022

How to prepare for hybrid commerce: Chinese consumers lead unification of online and in-store

As consumers seamlessly hop between physical and online, brands are expected to provide real-time stock information and personalised experiences across all of their touchpoints. But they must demonstrate a value exchange to consumers to collect the data they need.


Consumers increasingly shop in a hybrid way—they use their smartphones to research products while browsing in-store, and make online purchases in advance of visiting physical locations. This convergence of online and in-store is most pronounced in China, according to a Forrester report on omnichannel commerce, where, for the majority of consumers, one channel does not exist without the other.

Three quarters (76%) of metropolitan Chinese online adults surveyed by Forrester between April and June 2021 used “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) options for their purchases. This far exceeds their global counterparts—half (50%) of US consumers stated they had used this buying option, followed by 45% of UK consumers and 43% of French consumers.

The ability to collect an item on the same day of purchase emerged as the top reason why metropolitan Chinese consumers choose BOPIS options.

Globally, consumers all share the same desire for convenience—roughly one in four online adults across the four countries stated they choose to collect online orders in-store in order to avoid a wasted trip.

It means consumers are less likely to visit physical retail locations if they can't check stock online first. Nearly half (49%) of metropolitan Chinese online adults said they are less likely to visit a store if its in-store inventory isn’t available online. This figure drops to 33%, 29% and 25% in the US, UK and France, respectively.

Meanwhile, Forrester's earlier May 2021 consumer survey found that some 71% of metropolitan Chinese online consumers feel more confident about their in-store purchases when they use their smartphones to do research while they browse. This is compared to 43% of US consumers, and 30% of Europe consumers.

All of this means brands are expected to provide continuity of information and resources for customers and store associates across digital and physical touchpoints. This requires retailers to collect and analyse a vast array of customer data across multiple touchpoints and put in place technology solutions to react to it in real time.

But building consumer trust is paramount when it comes to collecting the required data, Forrester found. Sixty-one percent of US, 56% of UK, and 44% of French online adults surveyed by Forrester agree that how a company uses their personal data is important to their purchase decisions. 

Demonstrating a value exchange with customers and clarifying and reassuring customers on how they will handle their data emerged as the top motivators to encourage consumers to share more personal information with businesses, according to Forrester's survey.

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