China Surpasses U.S. In Mobile Commerce

China leaves the U.S. in the dust when it comes to embracing m-commerce. Seven out of 10 smartphone in China have used their devices to make a purchase in the last three months, compared to only 22% in the U.S., 13% in France and 6% in Belgium.

That’s among the key findings from a new study of online shopping habits worldwide by Digitas LBi, based on online survey of 1,000 adult Web user per country covered between February 2 and March 28. The 12 countries included mainly European nations, the U.S., China, and Singapore.

In the report, “Connected Commerce – A Snapshot of the Modern Shopper,” the world’s most populous nation stands out as having the most avid e-consumers. Even if tablet use is counted, three quarters of devices users in China have bought stuff on devices versus half in the U.K. and Germany, and 40% in the U.S.

Rising affluence and greater access to mobile devices and the mobile Web than PCs and wired broadband are the main factors driving the high rates of m-commerce and mobile-related shopping activity in China, according to Chia Chen, mobile lead at Digitas. eMarketer projects the country will overtake the U.S. in e-commerce spending on any device starting in 2016. 

Overall, three quarters of those surveyed shop online via a computer, tablet (43%), smartphone (34%) , and connected TV, 15%. Shopping research is done primarily on the desktop (67%), but also on smartphones (42%) and tablets (26%).

Researching online before purchasing offline is almost universal, with nearly nine in 10 people doing so globally. What about showrooming—the practice of going to a store to examine a physical product before buying elsewhere, often at a lower price? That’s common as well, especially in Sweden, where 88% do it, followed by China (84%) and two-thirds in the U.S.

The price difference is a crucial component—two-thirds overall said they would leave the store for a price difference of 5%, and 88% for 10% less. Almost three quarters (72%) of smartphone users said they used their device in a store, with China again leading the way, at 95%, versus 80% in the U.S.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re using their devices to showroom, just that they’ve used them at all in a store. More than four in 10 people (42%) have used in-store multimedia tools as shopping aids, and 73% find digital in-store technologies generally useful. About three-quarters think sales staff would be more helpful if equipped with tablets containing product info.

When it comes to the influence of social media on purchases, it varied widely by country. On average, 45% of social network users said they buy more products from brands they follow on social media. In China, that figure climbs to 80% but falls to 40% in the U.S., Italy and the U.K. The question is a bit circular, though—people are more likely to follow brands they buy in the first place, right?

With Facebook blocked from China, the majority (65%) go on Weibo, often described as a Chinese hybrid of Facebook and Twitter. But in nearby Singapore, 61% go on Facebook. Pinterest lately has gained much attention as a commerce-friendly social platform, but adoption is still fairly low, at 18% in the U.S., 5% in the Netherlands and 2% each in Belgium and Sweden. 

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