China VS Hong Kong: One Country Two eCommerce Ecosystems

 In China, Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, Social Media Marketing

A recent KPMG survey of Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese consumers has revealed startling differences in their internet habits. Highlighting the continuing cultural divide between Hong Kong and the Mainland, the report is a must-read for those considering selling online in either location.

To save our readers some time we’ve pulled out a few key statistics from the report that will help you understand eCommerce culture in both places.

1. Hong Kong is lagging behind China in eCommerce

As is clear in the graph below, Mainland Chinese consumers are omnivorous when it comes to online retail, with the majority having bought products in every category – from travel to fashion, to food and drink – online in the last 12 months.

While Hong Kong saw strong growth, especially spending on Books and Entertainment which rose 13% and 12% year on year, there is still have a way to go in order to catch up with the Mainland.

In addition to this, KPMG has identified a wider shift to mobile eCommerce among Mainlanders as more and more consumers shop through mobile apps. Some 37% of customers bought through mobile devices in 2017.

What Chinese and Hong Kong consumers purchased online in 2016 and 2017

Source: KPMG, 2017

2. Chinese consumers trust eCommerce more than Hong Kongers

The graph above also reveals a broad disparity in how consumers in both areas view and trust eCommerce.

Chinese consumers put significantly more faith in eCommerce providers to deliver the product they’ve paid for. As a result, they are happier buying goods in which quality is crucial online such as high-ticket premium products or home appliances, as well as safety-important products such as food and drink or cosmetics.

A segmented marketing strategy is therefor important in order to strike the right tone with these differing audiences.

3. Only 1% of Chinese consumers buy from websites VS 12% in Hong Kong

As you might expect given their geographic proximity, there is quite a lot of cross-over between the online ecosystems of Hong Kong and Mainland China. The most popular e-tailer in both markets is Taobao – a C2C platform similar to eBay – with 45% market share in Hong Kong and 43% in Mainland China.

Perhaps more interestingly, however, Hong Kongers are significantly more likely to shop on a brand’s first-party eCommerce site than their Mainland counterparts – 12% vs. just 1%.

Hong Kongers also tend to shop online more internationally, with a much higher proportion using Amazon and eBay compared with Chinese shoppers, who favoured domestic platforms such as Tmall and JD.

4. There is a sharp divide in the social media landscape between China and Hong Kong

China has a radically different social media landscape to the rest of the world, a point reiterated by KPMG’s results.

As you can see below, where the Western social media giants Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram dominate in Hong Kong, they are almost entirely absent in China, replaced by China’s domestic equivalents – Weibo and WeChat.

If you are looking to target both markets with one platform, however, there is one clear winner – WeChat. Both Hong Kongers and Mainlanders use WeChat to engage with brands and shop online – with 60% of Mainlanders and 20% of Hong Kongers purchasing through the platform. WeChat is the only platform that gets this kind of reach in both markets.

China VS Hong Kong which social media platforms do you use to engage with brands or make purchases

Source: KPMG 2017

5. Free Shipping and Convenience are the biggest drivers of eCommerce in both groups

Finally, KPMG revealed that consumers in both Mainland China and Hong Kong valued fairly similar things when it came to eCommerce.

As you can see below, free shipping and the convenience of eCommerce over traditional retail were key drivers for both demographics, with Mainlanders valuing convenience slightly higher than Hong Kongers, who considered the price of shipping most important.

China VS Hong Kong: What would encourage you to shop more online

Source: KPMG, 2017


As we’ve seen above, large differences still exist in attitudes to online retail between Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese consumers. This only serves to highlight the fact that brands need to embrace regional variance in Asia – as ASOS learned to its cost, treating China as one homogeneous mass is a strategy that is destined to fail.

To maximise your online ROI your brand must adopt a more nuanced eCommerce strategy, picking apart these local differences and using them to tailor your offering to your audience.

If your brand needs further help understanding the subtleties that underpin eCommerce and online culture in China, get in touch below.

We’ve helped brands from Whittard of Chelsea to Chelsea Football Club and BAFTA understand the Chinese market – and we’re here to help.

TongDigital is an agency at the forefront of social commerce and digital marketing in China. We focus on social commerce through WeChat, social media marketing, digital PR and media buying in China.

Get in touch for a preliminary consultation on how to best sell direct to the Chinese consumer.

Recommended Posts
Chinese Household debt rising between 2006 and 2016Chinese consumer perceptions of foreign brands