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Social Shopping in China: 3 Tactics to Maximize Impulse Buying among Chinese Consumers

Posted in E-commerce on September 19th 2018

In our previous article, we discussed the impulse buying trend witnessed in China’s growing e-commerce industry while providing three reasons why this phenomenon is taking place. If you have not read the first part of this series, read it here before you embark on the following journey with us!

After understanding the factors that contributed to the rise of impulse shopping amongst Chinese consumers, we are sure that many readers were left with a question - how do we get the most out of the impulse buying trend? You are in luck, as in this article we will share how brands can benefit from this shopping behavior and highlight the related technologies to keep consumers engaged. In particular, we will show tactics used to capitalize on this trend by presenting practical examples from well-known corporations and organizations that have applied the following strategies: smart targeting, FOMO, and an all-in-one ecosystem. Let’s dive in!


1. Embracing social media (and segmentation) to drive impulse buying among consumers

Building and promoting a brand through social media by circulating the right information to target consumer groups is a crucial strategy in the digital world, especially in China. Today, it’s estimated there are 616.5 million social media users in China alone - that is more than the entire population of the European Union! In addition to that burgeoning figures, China Daily stated in one of their articles that the Chinese Internet users have spent over 39.8 billion hours on social media platforms in the first half of 2017 alone.

More than a half of post-90s consumers know about new products/brands via social media

With the growing social media footprint in China, Chinese consumers have built a deep trust and reliance on their digital social circle to get the latest scoops on product recommendations, news, and reviews. Today, China hosts an ultra-consumerist society where retailers and brands can utilize consumers’ social media postings to drive immediate conversion. For example, if a consumer sees a product on their WeChat Moments, retailers should provide the ability to purchase that product directly. By making the purchase process seamless, retailers can lead their consumers to impulse buying without going through an extensive thought process on whether or not the product is necessary.

Advertisement by 19tea on Moments, where hyperlink brings the user to a discount code

Going a step further, brands need to also maximize their efforts by targeting their users correctly. While doing mass advertisement via their social media account can be a strategy, being able to personalize the promotions to target the right people at the right time can be what makes or breaks a successful campaign. Brands using social CRM on WeChat have the ability to tag followers based on their demographics and interests and can push segmented promotions to boost impulse buying with a higher degree of success.

The process of tagging and retargeting the users using WeChat Social CRMs. Users are tagged based on their behavior on the WeChat account. They can be then retargeted accordingly with relevant content based on this segmentation.


2. Implementing time-limited and holiday-based promotions

As discussed in the previous article, FOMO plays a big part in spontaneous shopping. Brands must leverage consumer psychology around holidays or other promotions through price promotions and limited-time offers to drive consumers into buying more products. For example, JD saw a 50% increase in sales during this year’s 618 festival by offering discounted promotions, generating a whopping US$17.6 billion in transaction value within two weeks. Chinese consumers love a good promotion and even expect sales and discounts around holidays: be ready to target them with tailor-made holiday discounts.

Advertisement for JD.com’s 618 festival

Another way to leverage spontaneous buying is to design time-limited campaigns, an example being a recent one by Roger Dubuis. The campaign, called - Race Against Time. The campaign was designed to last only 8888 minutes, with only 88 pieces of watches available for sales. By using the number 8 - a lucky number in Chinese culture, Roger Dubuis could drive more engagement from the users and ensure maximum success. The results of this campaign speak for themselves:

  • 5 million visualizations
  • 207,000 engagement in total and 17,000 engagements for social commerce
  • 7,500 followers gained

Roger Dubuis time-limited H5 Campaign allowed users to pay a deposit of 8888RMB for a personalized shopping experience, and get a limited-edition Roger Dubuis watch


3. Leveraging China’s all-in-one APP ecosystem

Besides the suggestions above, the purchasing platforms that brands utilize should be seamless and integrated to promote impulsivity and make the shopping experience enjoyable for the users. In China, people are used to all-in-one super apps combining multiple capabilities without distracting the purchase journey, and brands need to tap into this trend. These super apps allow the users to visit other landing pages and sites within the app itself, replacing the need to navigate to an outside website. For example, e-commerce site Alibaba has been offering social and entertainment features inside their app since 2009, while social platforms like WeChat allows the users to buy/sell products, read news, join in H5 campaigns, book tickets, and pay bills (and much, much more) all within an app. Numerous news sites, games, videos and e-commerce sites are also adjoined in massive online hubs with a clear “Buy” button intelligently embedded everywhere within their platforms, easily enticing the users to complete transactions. Being able to intelligently leverage all these internal channels is a must to leverage spontaneous buying.

Taobao’s Live Stream allows users to access the product page directly from the video. Once in the product page, the user can still view the live stream or purchase on the spot

Another way to leverage all-in-one ecosystems is WeChat Mini Programs, the powerful, lightweight mini apps embedded into WeChat. As they are easily accessible and do not occupy much of a phone’s memory, they are becoming more and more prominent for users and brands. WeChat Mini programs are a great addition to the sales channels of any brands since they can be easily shared within the platform so that users do not need to leave the platform to finalize the sales - a perfect way to catch that impulsive purchase.

Users can purchase directly on the Xiaomi Mini program


Conclusion: The future of China’s impulse buying trend

Today, brands need to have a holistic strategy in order to make sure they can successfully leverage these super apps and be found anywhere, at any time.

The new features offered through China’s growing technology platforms point to the future of integrated seamless shopping. When comparing to the US and UK's ecosystem where apps are still very separated, meaning different apps don’t connect or function with other apps or websites, China is already on the next version of its super app. The difference between China and the rest of the world may be due to cultural context, where users in China are already familiar with an integrated application, thus they have a continuous demand for higher efficiency in their apps. The fast development of super apps may also be the result of market dominance by BAT, as all these three companies have been pushing for the next generation of an all-in-one application. Soon, China’s e-shoppers like Lihua can scrap the need of visiting online stores, since their favorite brands and suggestions will be integrated into an array of digital channels - making impulse buying even more tempting.

Maintaining the spontaneity of online shopping in China with integrated digital platforms has enabled an amazing impulse buying culture that has not been witnessed anywhere else in the world! Mid-to-premium brands can continue to profit greatly by offering their consumers an efficient and instantaneous shopping experience. Extension of links to external pages, apps, and websites for buying products are now being left behind in China’s rapidly growing and competitive e-commerce industry. As impulsive shopping becomes more apparent in the Chinese consumer base, it will be important for brands to incorporate suitable strategies aimed at reaching more consumers while keeping their shopping fever on edge.

About the author


Nisha Rao

Consulting and Strategy Manager

For over 10 years, Nisha has held many key positions as a Senior Project Manager and Consultant for well-known brands across the United States including Nike, Kraft-Heinz, UnitedHealth Group, Target, and more. At IT Consultis she leads the Consulting and Strategy Department, focusing on improving performance and delivering the best strategies for the company’s clients.