These four groups of Chinese shoppers will drive online consumption in 2020

Zen Soo

With a population of 1.4 billion and its status as the world’s No 2 economy, China remains one of the biggest consumer markets in the world. Thanks to widespread mobile and online payments as well as a high smartphone penetration rate, e-commerce is also a popular way of shopping in China.

However, amid slowing growth in China’s megacities, coupled with more affluent shoppers in smaller Chinese cities as well as the advent of Generation Z, some new groups have emerged in the changing consumer landscape. Here are several demographics to look for in 2020, according to CBNData’s annual report.

1. Residents of small cities

In China’s smaller cities – specifically fourth-tier cities and below – the cinema business is booming. According to data from Alibaba Pictures, more consumers in these cities are going to the movies and they enjoy watching comedy films.

Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

When it comes to other forms of entertainment, residents in smaller cities also enjoy watching short videos and live-streams, and tend to share more videos in chat groups than other demographics, according to the report.

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In China’s online reading market, small Chinese cities make up over 70 per cent of the readers of online novels and e-books, with a preference for love stories.

Consumers also enjoy following internet celebrities and even aspire to be like them, according to the report. As such, shoppers in these cities tend to purchase products used by internet celebrities they admire, and are more likely to use short video platforms to seek out trends.

2. The Gen Z smartphone lovers

Gen Z – the generation born after 1995 – grew up using smartphone devices as part of their life. So perhaps it is not surprising that CBNData found that this demographic was more open to making friends on the internet, seeking out those who have the same interests as them.

China’s Gen Z internet users also enjoy going on apps such as video platform Bilibili, as well as short video apps Douyin and Kuaishou, as opposed to other social media platforms such as Weibo, for example.

3. Millennial parents

Millennials in China are now fast becoming young parents, and this group of consumers tends to spend big when it comes to their children.

CBNData’s report found that 47 per cent of Chinese millennial parents bought insurance for their children in 2019, spending on average 517 yuan (US$74), up from 42 per cent who bought insurance the year before. About 60 per cent of parents born in the 1990s were also willing to bring their children aged younger than one year on a holiday with them, according to the report.

Parents with their children walk in the Sanlitun area of Beijing. Photo: EPA-EFE

4. The silver-haired tribe

For a long time, the elderly in China were left out of China’s rapidly-growing technology ecosystem as some restaurants and stores moved to accept only digital payments instead of cash. This digital divide was highlighted in viral videos that went online, such as this one about an elderly man who tried to use cash to buy a bunch of grapes at a cashless supermarket and was turned away.

But the situation is gradually improving. According to the CBNData report, the proportion of elderly internet users aged 50 and above has doubled to 13.6 per cent from 6.7 per cent four years ago.

In particular, the rise in numbers of these users also bodes well for companies because older shoppers tend to be big spenders, buying big-ticket items such as household appliances online. They are fans of buying branded goods and strive to purchase items that provide them with a better quality of life, CBNData found.

Popular items bought by “silver hairs” include rice cookers, food processors and blenders.

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