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Retail in China 2020

Malls to proliferate while consumers become more discerning
  • May 17 2012


This is the second of a multi-part series on changes in China. Read part one here.


In most countries, there is increasing speculation about the extent that e-commerce and e-shopping will impact consumer buying behavior. China, of course, is included in this trend. But as we move toward 2020, shopping malls will still be a dominant outlet because of the massive urbanization taking place across the country.

It is true to say that e-shopping on mobile devices will be a much more user-friendly, speedy and reliable platform in the future, which will contribute to the Chinese becoming extremely efficient online shoppers. They will use mobile and the Internet to make product choices and compare prices before and after shopping trips.

But the lure of the more modern mall will remain a powerful magnet.  

People will enjoy much higher-quality shopping experiences, where, for example, dining and entertaining venues will be more in demand alongside existing mall facilities and retail space.

Still, key growth categories, like men’s beauty care, distilled water, milk powder and diapers, will be purchased almost 100 percent through e-commerce and home delivery.

The 2020 Chinese consumers will not be satisfied with narrow choice in products. Brands will need to carry a wide range of variants addressing different individual needs, also including a portfolio of price tiers and sub-brands.

If the consumers can’t physically find what they require in a brand, they will either switch to a competitive brand or use QR codes to search for the right product to address their “individual” needs, then probably purchase online. This shift in shopping habits will impact larger purchases as well, like mobile phones, watches and even cars.

Clearly, the one-size-fits-all and global roll-out strategies of the past will not succeed in winning over Chinese consumers in 2020. Manufacturers, retailers and brands need to plan ahead now with sophisticated R&D and forward–planning centers based in China to identify the tipping points in order to defend their market position.

It will prove to be a good investment when a diversified portfolio of products and services can be rolled out to the rest of Asia Pacific and perhaps the balance of the Chinese population living in every continent of the world.


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