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Chinese Online Shoppers Use Multiple Channels, Will Be 380 Million Strong by 2016

BCG Study Finds Chinese Digital Consumers Are More Social, Do More Research, and Expect a Seamless Brand Experience Across Many Different Shopping Platforms, Both Online and Off

HONG KONG, CHINA -- (Marketwired) -- 04/23/14 -- Chinese consumers are less trustful of official brand websites and prefer to get most of their shopping recommendations from word-of-mouth methods such as social media, according to new research from The Boston Consulting Group. The article, titled The Chinese Digital Consumer in a Multichannel World, is being released today. It offers insights into the ways that online consumer behavior is changing as the country goes increasingly digital.

BCG's Center for Consumer and Customer Insight (CCCI) conducted digital "shop-alongs," surveys, and interviews to learn where and how consumers interact with brands, both online and off.

"With more than 730 million internet users and 380 million online shoppers by 2016, it is important companies look beyond traditional metrics and get a nuanced understanding of digital consumers as they move through the purchase funnel," said Youchi Kuo, an expert principal at BCG and a coauthor of the article. The research revealed that Chinese consumers concentrate most of their shopping activity on just a few websites, spend a large amount of time "studying" or educating themselves before they buy, and prefer social recommendations over information from official brand websites. Those behaviors, however, varied by product category and across online versus offline. For example, consumers make multiple offline/online comparisons for skincare items, but will more buy apparel online in a single online session.

Shoppers want to make the best purchase possible, and that means doing lots of research from as many different sources as possible. Research might begin at an e-commerce site, a web portal like, or through a Web search, among other methods. And while actual transactions usually take just 10 to 20 minutes, consumers visit an average of ten Web pages over the course of their browsing.

Strategies for Winning
"This new multichannel environment has brought with it distinctive consumer behaviors that are centered around learning, purchasing, and advocating for brands and products," said Waldemar Jap, a partner in BCG's Hong Kong office and a coauthor of the article. Companies wishing to tap into the digital opportunity should keep in mind that consumers toggle between many different platforms both online and off, and they should ensure a seamless user experience for them across physical stores, brand websites, apps, social media accounts, desktop screens and smart phone screens, and more. They should also leverage the preference for online recommendations, for example, via campaigns run through celebrity weibo accounts (Twitter-like microblogs) and to make use of mobile devices that link physical shopping to on-line purchase And finally, they should tailor their approach depending on the particular, differing behaviors of consumers in their specific product categories.

A copy of the article can be downloaded at

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or [email protected].

About The Boston Consulting Group
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 81 offices in 45 countries. For more information, please visit

About BCG's Center for Consumer and Customer Insight
The Boston Consulting Group's Center for Consumer and Customer Insight (CCCI) applies a unique, integrated approach that combines quantitative and qualitative consumer research with a deep understanding of business strategy and competitive dynamics. The center works closely with BCG's various practices to translate its insights into actionable strategies that lead to tangible economic impact for our clients. In the course of its work, the center has amassed a rich set of proprietary data on consumers from around the world, in both emerging and developed markets. The CCCI is sponsored by BCG's Marketing and Sales and Global Advantage practices. For more information, please visit

About features the latest thinking from BCG experts as well as from CEOs, academics, and other leaders. It covers issues at the top of senior management's agenda. It also provides unprecedented access to BCG's extensive archive of thought leadership stretching back 50 years to the days of Bruce Henderson, the firm's founder and one of the architects of modern management consulting. All of our content -- including videos, podcasts, commentaries, and reports -- can be accessed by PC, mobile, iPad, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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