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(formerly Counter Intelligence Retail)

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Creating connections with the Chinese consumer

The recent Global Shopping Forum in Frankfurt highlighted the need to integrate online and offline channels to effectively communicate with the Chinese traveller throughout their journey.

November 2015 | Alison Hughes, Research Director

With a high consumption capacity and strong brand loyalty, the Chinese shopper in travel retail is anticipated to spend $422 billion by 2020* – particularly when travelling long-haul to high-profile destinations.

Whilst the industry recognises the importance of the Chinese shopper, research indicates that many opportunities to target this vast and varied traveller profile are missed**. Mandarin-speaking brand ambassadors and promotions around key Chinese holidays are only the start of the story.

The online-offline combination

China’s e-commerce industry is evolving at a tremendous pace; it’s predicted that online retail sales will reach the $610 billion mark by 2018***, which surpasses both Europe and the US combined.

In a rapidly developing market where shopping experiences integrate social media, location-specific information and mobile payment capabilities***, brands and retailers compete to engage with the Chinese consumer at every stage of the online journey: from generating demand and price comparisons to payment and product reviews.

International brands have found social media to be especially important for targeting Chinese consumers on the online domestic market; many shoppers trust word of mouth over big corporations and governments***. With only 0.73% of the population English literate**, it’s vital for these brands to appear on China’s most influential social networks – such as Qzone, WeChat and Sina Weibo. An additional benefit of relaying key brand messages to Chinese consumers online and in their own language is that most of these sites are integrated within the e-commerce platforms***. This builds consumer trust and brand loyalty, as well as creates an interconnected shopper journey.

In a similar way to the approaches implemented by global brands in China’s e-commerce industry, travel retail needs to go beyond trying to fit existing strategies into a different landscape (Amazon’s ‘one size fits all’ policy continues to face serious competition from China’s largest online shopping mall Alibaba) and truly understand the mindset of the Chinese shopper when travelling.

For instance, 33% of Chinese travellers do not set a budget when travelling abroad** and yet, at the same time, they generally like to compare prices and negotiate. Targeting such a wide-ranging passenger profile requires a tailored, multi-platform and personalised approach.

2016 will see the launch of Heinemann’s first Chinese language website to target consumers**** and the introduction of social media accounts to build a consistent dialogue. The aim is to entice the Chinese traveller to shop in travel retail before they even begin their journey.

In addition, the retailer will introduce Digital In-Store Assistants (DIA)****. These will enable brand ambassadors to interact with the Chinese shopper through product information screens in English and Simplified Chinese. The DIAs will help target smaller sub-groups, as well as families and individual travellers, on a one-to-one basis.

The next stage will be to integrate these online and offline experiences into one seamless, unified end-to-end journey – but the success of this will be determined by the Chinese consumer.

What’s next?

The uniting of the online and offline worlds to deliver a new and cohesive style of shopping has also influenced the conventional Chinese tourism model. It too is now evolving to cater for a Chinese traveller that is used to more choice, convenience and is comfortable researching and visiting new places independently.

As a result, the traditional Chinese group travel tours and escorted shopping trips are likely to decline in popularity – and independent, themed travel itineraries, such as wine tours and safaris, will take precedence**. This opens up the travel retail landscape and increases competition between retailers.

Jeju Tourism Organisation (JTO) is set to team up with local casinos, hotels and tourist attractions when it opens its new downtown duty free store on Jeju Island, South Korea*****. The objective is to offer shoppers – Chinese shoppers in particular – a new kind of travelling experience, which is more specialised than ever before.

This is an appealing prospect for tourists, as they feel part of the experience from the moment they book their trip. Brands and retailers are likely to benefit from this as shoppers embrace the additional value of such integrated tourism campaigns, which makes them more inclined to spend.

For travel retail, successfully connecting with the Chinese traveller is both a customer and a cultural journey.









If unspecified: CiR database.