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Cross-border e-commerce report reveals new consumer profiles

by Antoaneta Becker
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From ‘Millionaire’s Wivesto Middle aged Fun Dads, digital marketing company Westwins 2020 China Cross-border Consumer Report identifies the most important groups in cross border commerce – here’s what they discovered…

Following a series of surveys and interviews with consumers in Chinese first, second, third and fourth tier cities,  Westin’s report discusses different cross-border consumers groups in China, including:

  • Small-town mums with significant leisure time living in third and fourth-tier cities
  • Single women with an above-average salary in first and second tier cities
  • Millionaires and their wives keen on overseas investing
  • Gamers obsessed with digital gadgets
  • World adventurer and middle-aged fun dads.

The report analyses which cross-border products they are purchasing, which channels they buy through and where they source their information.

The market scale of cross-border e-commerce in China grew steadily between 2018 and 2020. In 2019, the market was valued at 415.5 billion yuan. Sales in the first quarter of 2020 declined due to the pandemic; however, they remained stronger than during the same period in 2018. The report also indicates that the epidemic has in fact boosted online shopping revenues.

China cross-border consumer insights

Among the consumers interviewed, 20.7% made cross-border purchases more than 20 times in the past year, while 15% spent over 20,000 yuan (£2,300) in 2019.

Cross-border e-commerce consumers prefer their online shopping platforms to offer a wide range of categories, with Tmall International, JD Worldwide and Amazon being the top three options. Cosmetics, electronic goods, as well as apparel and handbags, represent the three most popular categories.

To get cross-border product information and connect with vendors, 55.3% of consumers said they use WeChat the most, followed by Douyin – the Chinese version of Tiktok at 49.7% – and then Sina Weibo (39.3%).

The report found that the effect of the coronavirus on skincare and makeup products has been polarising, since staying at home and wearing masks means no need for lipstick. Meanwhile many felt wearing masks for too long caused acne or oily skin.

In 2019, the number of outbound travellers amounted to 155 million, while travellers from tier three and four cities continue to grow 160% yearly. In 2020, cross-border tourism was hit hard due to Covid-19; however, the intention to travel remains strong, 45% are willing to travel abroad when COVID-19 is over.

Typical cross-border consumers profiles

Small Town Mums refer to young women living in third and fourth tier cities. Usually, their parents purchase their houses and cars; even if their salary is not high, disposable income is considerable. They love to post every large purchase on WeChat moments to promote a luxury lifestyle. These young women also tend to follow trends and appreciate the opinion of friends and influencers.

Big City Single Ladies live in tier one and two cities. They typically have a promising career, are financially independent and well educated. They believe that clothing choices reflect attitudes, therefore refuse to wear the same outfit as someone else. They significantly prefer overseas niche brands.

Millionaires are polarised, some of them enjoy their lives; others have no life and anxiety issues. This group rarely do cross-border purchasing themselves, but rely heavily on their wives. They have a low desire for shopping but are keen to invest in overseas real estate to hedge risks.

Millionaire’s Wives are ladies from high-income families. Most of them are well-educated and have studied overseas. They mentioned they do not care about their child’s academic achievements but are eager to send them to overseas summer camps, sport camps and international academic competitions, which add to foreign colleges applications.

Cross-border consumption trends and outlook

The report offers insights and tips based on consumer behaviour and a world shaped by the pandemic. It shows that third and fourth tier cities, as well as rural areas in China, present significant potential for cross-border consumption.

Accounting for 71.4% of the country’s population, consumers from these markets represented 60% of new buyers on the major e-commerce platforms during the Double 11 shopping spree in 2019.

These consumers are also more price sensitive. Companies can offer more discounts and promotional events online by working with e-commerce platforms and video-sharing platforms to attract this segment of consumers.

The pandemic-induced live streaming boom is also relevant to the business world. Brick-and-mortar stores can create a tour or other shopping experience through live streaming. Businesses have proven that they can appeal to home-struck consumers with online concerts, theatre shows and even museum tours.

According to the report, niche segments defined by hobbies and personal tastes are playing an even more vital role in shaping consumer behaviour. Companies should therefore customise their online offerings to appeal to a group of spenders with varied preference and habits.

Westwin, formerly known as Microsoft Online (MSN China), is a leading, technology-driven digital marketing company that focuses on cross-border business. It provides branding strategies and digital marketing solutions to help customers achieve success in China and around the world. Westwin is a certified marketing and advertising partner of Baidu, Tencent WeChat, Sina Weibo, and others. To download the full version report, please visit Westwin Official Website

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