Given how many people in China are online, the internet may seem like an obvious way to reach potential shoppers. But there’s reason to believe that social media is even more important for retailers in China than it is in other markets. Some Chinese retailers—as well as Western brands like Nike, Adidas, and Coach—are active on the Chinese microblog Sina Weibo, but other retailers are missing the country’s the most important marketing opportunity. Here’s why.
China has the world’s largest population of internet users
And there is still room to grow. About 42% of China’s 1.3 billion citizens are online, compared to the United States, where internet penetration is about 77%. Educated Chinese below the age of 39, who are often members of the country’s expanding middle class, make up most of the country’s online community.
Almost all online users in China have a social media account
At least 597 million Chinese internet users are active are on microblogs, forums, and social networks. That’s about 91% of Chinese internet users, compared to 67% in the United States. That figure is growing. Sharing on social media networks jumped 60% in 2012. Moreover, as over 400 million Chinese use their phones to access the web, more people are logging on to their social media accounts via mobile devices every year.
On average, a Chinese social media user follows eight brands
Chinese internet users follow product news, but also discuss retail goods pretty heatedly within their social media communities. More than 40% of Chinese online shoppers read and post reviews online. (Some feel it’s their moral obligation.) And a little over a third of online users say they make shopping decisions based on what is said about a product in their social media networks.
This goes back to a tendency of Chinese shoppers to rely on recommendations. According to a report by consulting firm McKinsey last year, 66% of Chinese who bought a particular moisturizer did so on recommendations from friends and family, compared with 38% those who bought the item in the US.