Thursday 08 December 2016

An Insider’s View: Consumer Behaviour in Hong Kong

Originally posted on ConsumerACTIONism.

When I was invited to contribute to this blog, I wondered what fellow colleagues would want to know about Hong Kong and its blogging behaviours. Would you like to read about which top three social media platforms are dominating this part of the world? With smartphones being the latest craze, and Facebook enjoying a 50% penetration rate as of March 2011, social media has now become part and parcel of marketing mix brands must consider. In these few months, Sina weibo (China’s equivalent of twitter) and Jiepang (China’s equivalent of FourSquare) has seen tremendous growth; whilst twitter, seen largely as a really “gweilo” or foreign fixation, only appealing to a niche group of people… So, what else?

Having had the chance to sit on this idea long enough, being a passionate and devoted tweep (@Marsha_H), I decided to ask around on twitter. Some did come back to me with a few nice ideas related to shopping, which morphed the conversation to online shopping as a trend in Hong Kong. To what extent does it exist and what product/services are Hong Kongers buying into? What are the sites dominating the market?

Hong Kong, being the shoppers’ paradise, I asked myself what shoppers here required to justify making a online transaction. Having been born and raised in Hong Kong, I will be first to admit that I’m a shopaholic through and through. With shopping malls within walking distance of every corner, I seldom feel the urge to shop online. In fact, as much as I am addicted to Tweeting, I have never been a fan of online shopping. If I want a dress, I will just visit the nearest store to make the purchase, and certainly won’t want to wait till the end of season sales. But that’s just me, so what about Hong Kong in general? I’ve seen people getting addicted to shopping on taobao.com (a Mainland Chinese website), and people exchanging second hand products on Yahoo Shopping … and a few of my friends have been known to go online in search of special edition tee-shirts only available in Japan or the U.S…. So there has been an uptick in shopping online in Hong Kong.

However, when compared with our neighbours in the region, according to the most recent survey by The Nielson Company (“Online Shopping Trends Report Q1 2010” PDF), “Chinese and Korean online consumers are the most prolific online shoppers in the Asia Pacific region with 95 percent of Internet users intending to make a web purchase in the next six months.”

Conversely, over one-fourth of online consumers in Hong Kong (27%)… “do not plan an online purchase in the upcoming months.” And according to the same survey, we allocate the least of our monthly spending on online shopping. Even though the survey was published before taobao.com and Groupon have become big hits in Hong Kong, it does give us insight into where Hong Kong stands in terms dollars spent on online shopping.

What about the most popular product category? I’m putting my money on holiday tour packages and discount air tickets, since this is the only thing I would buy online. According to a similar research conducted by The Nielson Company (“Trends Insights: Hong Kong Consumers Most Likely to Shop Online for Booking Travels, Books and Clothing”, published on September 14, 2010), airline ticket/reservations hit the top spot as the number one product/service Hong Kongers intend to buy online in the next 6 months. The survey indicates that “Hong Kong online consumers say that purchasing airline tickets and booking tours/hotel reservations are the most engaging online purchase products and services. A respective of 35 percent and 29 percent of consumers said they planned to do this online in the next months. Other online products and services include Clothing/Accessories/Shoes (25%), books (25%) and event tickets (20%).”

Buying tickets/reservations online helps to minimize the trouble of making phone calls to agents/queuing in a line to buy movie tickets. And buying clothing and accessories online provides Hong Kongers a platform to buy what is not available in Hong Kong; and for those who are more budget-conscious, this is also a quick and efficient way to look for the cheapest deals with just a few mouse clicks. This might also explain why YesStyle.com and onenow.com never gained traction in Hong Kong. There is one thing about our purchasing behavior that cannot be replicated in the digital space. I love browsing asos.com, but if I ever get to buy one of those designer bags or high street fashion items, I would rather go to one of their stores nearby. Whilst worrying about online security, geographical proximity to bricks-and-mortar stores is also a major push factor for Hong Kongers to shop online.

Ultimately, I look forward to seeing online shopping gain more popularity in Hong Kong, and am quite excited to see more and more players entering the local market, such as Gmarket. It seems unlikely that a single player will emerge to dominate the market in the short term. Only recently, Hong Kong’s Consumer Council urged caution to people making online purchases through group purchasing websites as complaints about this latest fad is on the rise. For smart shoppers, the online shopping platform gives us a nice alternative from jostling crowds in Causeway Bay (a favourite shopping district). Having talked about online shopping, I now feel the urge to embark on a shopping spree… although I just bought two pairs of shoes over the weekend!

 

Image credit: rakspassion

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