China’s Shoppers Expect Physical Stores to Mimic Online Experience

Retailers find it challenging to meet this demand

Author: Jeremy Kressman

April 3, 2017

China’s increasingly sophisticated ecommerce environment is placing growing demands on retailers, both online and offline. Because China’s consumers are more accustomed to shopping online—particularly via mobile devices—than they are shopping in store, they expect the same types of digital and mobile-friendly benefits when they shop in the real world.

When PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) asked internet users in China about the most important attributes of the in-store experience in September 2016, more than 70% of respondents said real-time, personalized offers, the second most popular answer.

Another key attribute for in-store buying was the ability to see and order an extended range of products at the store, cited by 68.0% of respondents.

These responses suggest that many of the data-driven, real-time features mobile shoppers in China take for granted online are becoming expectations for the physical retail environment as well. This can be challenging for many retailers, which often don’t have the back-end software or technology infrastructure to satisfy such demands.

PwC is not alone in highlighting this disconnect between the expectations of China’s online and mobile shoppers and the in-store experience.

A February 2016 survey conducted by YouGov for JDA and Centiro investigated the shopping-related mobile activities conducted in-store by digital buyers in China. Nearly 60% of respondents said they checked prices on their mobile devices while in-store (known as showrooming), while close to half said they read product and service reviews.