PwC Total Retail Survey 2017: content marketing and data analysis at the forefront of customer experience strategies

Shanghai, 17 May 2017 – The PwC Total Retail Survey 2017 shows that brands and retailers are developing how they use eCommerce. They are moving from a transactional environment to social engagement and they are incorporating content into their strategy for customers’ digital experience. There is also now a more mature approach to applying data analytics and technologies when creating a seamless consumer journey between online and offline channels.

China’s eCommerce market is set to be driven by content-led experiences. PwC’s research finds that 29% of Chinese consumers, compared to a global average of 13%, use social media to see what brands or products KOLs and celebrities are endorsing.

Over the last 12 months, ‘Wang Hongs’ – a distinctive new segment of social entrepreneurs – have been making their presence felt in the retail landscape in China. Wang Hongs are Internet celebrities that monetise their personal brand and follower base by selling products (mostly fashion and cosmetics), over eCommerce platforms and dedicated micro-merchant shopping sites.

Jane Wang, PwC China Retail and Consumer Tax Leader, notes “In a fragmenting market, brands and retailers need to dig for new entry points for internet traffic. In this way they can attract consumers’ time and attention, both of which are shrinking sharply in this new era.  Wang Hongs are having a notable impact on retailers and brands. These KOLs interact directly with consumers, raising awareness and building brand image, while providing a new, direct marketing channel. Additionally, social selling techniques like livestreaming and Q&A are enabling brands to gather rich insights and real-time customer feedback. Consequently, they are able to disrupt the product development process, while taking advantage of new models such as crowd-sourcing.  ”

Over the last 12 months third parties have set about unlocking the massive potential of data analytics, in particular the development of a mature data management and digital marketing ecosystem. The emergence of demand-side and supply-side platforms, along with master data management, enables advanced customer profiling, precision marketing, and content personalisation. The survey shows that the personalisation of digital marketing is particularly effective in China, where consumers are almost twice as likely (31%) as their global peers (16%) to click on an advertisement that is relevant to them.

Adam Xu, PwC Strategy& Consulting Partner says: “Personalisation is the future of the retail and consumer industry. We have witnessed growing consumer expectations in this field. In the past, most brands and retailers in China had to rely on internal customer data, which only provided a very small picture of the overall digital landscape. The opening up of third party platforms through APIs, together with the greater capacity for data management and a digital marketing ecosystem,  enable businesses to generate new customer insights and business value. In the future, innovation will be about fewer devices or gadgets – not more. Brands and retailers need to explore their core competitiveness, which could be one product, one brand name or one kind of user experience.”

China is already the largest retail eCommerce market in the world. Mature categories like clothing, cosmetics / beauty, and electronics will continue to see major growth from lower tier cities, and breakout opportunities are expected in the food, luxury, sports and wellness segments.

‘Total retail’ is the in-depth integration of online and offline engagement. The survey also highlights that in China, the Internet is chiefly mobile. Some 52% of Chinese consumers shop using their mobile/smartphone on a weekly or daily basis, compared to 14% globally. 41% of Chinese consumers use social platforms as a way to receive promotional offers (34% globally).

 “It is almost impossible to distinguish between eCommerce and social media in China today.  The context is characterised by a strong orientation to mobile technology and social commerce, underpinned by ubiquitous digital payments infrastructure. As local and international brands compete for the attention and wallet share of consumers, Internet giants are racing to build broad digital ecosystems that will strengthen their existing network effects. At the same time, well-funded start-ups continue to redefine peak customer experiences. In this hyper-competitive environment, we recommend that brands and retailers enhance their cooperation with third parties to upgrade the data marketing ecosystem. Exploring more direct and faster innovation models will be crucial for future development,” says Kevin Wang, PwC China Retail and Consumer Leader. 


Notes to editors:

This report draws on insights from our study of the shopping behaviours of 905 Chinese consumers, and our experience working with retailers and brands across eCommerce, omni-channel and social initiatives in China. The study is part of PwC’s global Total Retail report, which in 2017 is our 10th consecutive study of online shoppers. This year is our most comprehensive to date, including 24,471 online shoppers across 6 continents and 29 territories.

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