How do Chinese consumers search for products in China?

12/10/2021

When western consumers look for a product or brand, we typically search on Google first. Google is banned in China, but there are alternative Chinese search engines, such as Baidu and Sogou. However, most Chinese consumers don’t search for products or brands on those Chinese search engines. Usually, they use their smartphones only and check e-commerce platforms, such as Taobao, Tmall or JD. Other searches are done on social media apps such as WeChat, Weibo, Little Red Book, Douyin, etc.

With almost 1 billion internet users, China is the fastest growing and largest mobile app, social media and e-commerce market in the world and very different compared to other countries. Foreign companies and brands not only need to adapt and tailor their products or services to the Chinese preferences, additionally it is crucial to be present on online marketplaces where the Chinese customer can find you. When planning your marketing strategy for China, forget Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter or even your foreign website, translated into Chinese. Most western apps are blocked in China and foreign websites load slowly, the so-called ‘Great Firewall of China’.

Chinese consumers behave very differently compared to foreign consumers and they rarely visit company or brand websites. Instead of searching for specific items online in the prepurchase phase, Chinese consumers embark on a journey of discovery. They do extensive research for reviews and recommendations (= brands and celebrities, posting reviews or using social media) before making an online purchase.

On Taobao, Tmall and JD.com, China’s leading online marketplaces, brands can promote their products by live streaming events. Furthermore, a lot of time is spent on watching, sharing and creating short videos on apps such as Douyin (known as Tik Tok in English) and video streaming services like Tencent video.

The typical Chinese consumer is between 25 and 44 years old and is part of the growing middle class. They save less than their parents or grandparents despite earning a sizable income. On the one hand, this young generation is willing to pay a more expensive price for foreign products because they are usually of better quality, but also because it gives them ‘prestige’. On the other hand, they are very price-conscious, and their consumption pattern and behavior are constantly changing, making it very difficult for foreign brands to have loyal Chinese customers.

The MyChinaWeb team in Belgium and China is available to help you with your online strategy for China. Our team combines local experience with a global outline. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any help.