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Consumers in China want more than retailers deliver

China’s consumers know what a modern shopping experience looks like, but retailers continue to under deliver.

China’s consumers know what a thoroughly modern shopping experience looks like, but the country’s retailers continue to under-deliver in meeting those expectations. Accenture’s latest research reveals that China’s shoppers seek the latest online and mobile shopping advances. For example, nearly three-quarters of the country’s consumers say they used their smartphone more frequently this year to find what they want to buy (far above the global average), and over twice the global average expect to purchase more using their mobile devices this year. Retailers, on the other hand, only match the global mean when comes to offering smartphone apps with purchasing capabilities, and remain below average in offering mobile-optimized websites. Still, many more shoppers in China say they find it easy to purchase items via their mobile devices, perhaps indicating that the retailers who offer this service have created effective mobile purchasing apps.

A minority of shoppers (below the global average) wants to receive real-time promotions over their mobile phones, but none of the retailers covered by Accenture’s research are set up to send these promotions. Likewise, similar percentages of shoppers want the ability to credit coupons and discounts automatically when checking out, but no retailers provide this service. Chinese consumers match the global average in their desire to use mobile shopping lists, item locators and in-store navigators, but the retailers studied ranked far below average in offering them.

Improving the shopping experience
When asked what retailers could do to improve the connected shopping experience, double the number of respondents from last year says being able to check product availability online prior to going to the store would make a difference. Unfortunately, fewer than 5 percent of retailers offer this kind of store-specific stock availability, which is seven times below the global average. China’s retailers also significantly fall behind the global mean in providing the ability for consumers to order out-of-stock items via smartphone—ten times fewer offer this service. At the same time, nearly three times as many consumers would like this capability compared to last year.

The research shows that consumers in China seek convenient shopping experiences: Nearly two-thirds say they would shift over half of their purchases to a retailer than offered a subscription program, for instance. This is one case where retailers have delivered, with over half already offering such programs. At the same time, nearly three-quarters of shoppers in the country said they would like to buy items online and ship them home more often, and two-thirds said they were very or somewhat likely to use a fee-based shopping service that made home deliveries from one or multiple retailers.

China’s consumers say that two online brands have had the biggest impact on their shopping-related lifestyles—domestic digital powerhouses Weibo and Alibaba. The impact these companies have had in the country is significantly more pervasive than the effect Google and Facebook have had globally.