Digital Commerce in China vs. USA

Digital Commerce in China vs. USA

eCommerce in the US and in China are very different. Online usage patterns, buying behaviour and the attitude towards the Internet vary a lot. In a recent blog post, iq! showed that major eCommerce players in BRIC countries are not eBay and Amazon, but local players. In China, the Alibaba Group with TMall (B2C) and Taobao (B2B) is the dominant Internet enterprise. But not only are the Online giants others – consumers are very different, too.

eCommerce China vs. USA – Digital usage
Source: iq! Consulting

eCommerce in China vs. USA – Online/Mobile usage

The vast majority of US citizens are Online – almost 88% in 2017 (the penetration rate in Germany is similar). In contrast, only around half of Chinese people have access to the Internet, mostly in the many big cities the country has as well as on the coastline. However, Chinese Onliners spend a bigger share of their media time on digital devices and have a strong leaning toward the Mobile Internet. In fact, the Chinese population spends more time with Online than Offline media. With only around half of them Online, Online usage among the digitized part is immense.

61% of Chinese eCommerce happens on Mobile devices, while the figure for the US is just around 35%.  In China, the usage rate for QR Codes is extremely high – they are almost everywhere and highly appreciated by users while people in the US or in Europe are far less keen on the little black and white squares.

eCommerce China vs. USA – Digital users
Source: iq! Consulting

eCommerce in the US vs. China – Online/Mobile users

As already mentioned, digital users in China prefer the Mobile channel. They are much more open than Westerners to Gaming, Social Media and Shopping. For many people in the US, Online ads are annoying, privacy and data protection are vital and the Internet is used more for professional reasons and conveniece. Chinese users are completely different. They are not disturbed by advertising, they love to expose personal details online and they want to have fun playing games and surfing around in social networks. If you look for Best Practices around the world, the US has perfect examples of combining Online and Offline, in China you find an extremely good and tight connection between Offline and Mobile.


Doing Digital Business in China is entering a completely different world for companies used to Online Commerce in the West. Understanding the habits and preferences of the Chinese digital population is crucial. Finding experienced local partners is a good starting point for a successful market entry. The same applies to the other BRIC countries and the rest of Asia.



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