Even China’s lower-tier cities are migrating swiftly to digital technologies. More than 16 million netizens from the country’s tier 3 and 4 cities are using mobile Internet, 80 percent of all Chinese netizens accept mobile payments, and 100 percent have used weibo (Twitter-like microblogs). Finally, as each new digital platform has been added, adoption rates have gained momentum, rising with increasing speed.
To capitalize on the opportunities being created by these rapid changes in the digital realm, companies must understand the accompanying changes in consumer behavior. This means knowing where and how to interact with consumers, both online and off. BCG’s Center for Consumer and Customer Insight conducted in-depth and innovative digital “shop-alongs” in China—and supplemented them with more traditional face-to-face interviews and surveys—to learn how, why, and when consumers browse and shop online; the ways their behaviors vary across different shopping categories; and the differing roles of offline and online channels. (To conduct the digital shop-alongs, we analyzed PC-based internet click streams spanning an entire month for a sample of 100 online shoppers in Shanghai and Chengdu.)
Our approach yields more nuanced insights than that of traditional digital consumer-research methodologies, which focus on easy-to-capture metrics such as page views per website and minutes spent per page.