Social media is set to become a major gateway to shopping rather than a mere communication portal, as the younger generation of buyers are inclined to make purchases while watching livestreaming shows, according to a latest survey.
Around 70 percent of those aged between 19 and 22 in China said they would place an order online via social networking sites, global consultancy Accenture revealed in research based on 10,000 consumers in 13 countries including China.
Calling them "Generation Z", Accenture found that 31 percent cited social media as a popular source for product inspiration, while 58 percent have increased their use of social media for purchase decision-making in the past year.
One-third of the respondents in China claimed they prefer video and livestreaming sites as avenues for bargain hunting. This contrasts with just 12 percent among those between 23 to 28 years old and 8 percent among those in their 30s.
"Social media has emerged as a real disrupter in targeting true digital natives," said Koh Yew Hong, managing director and retail lead for Accenture Asia Pacific. "Internet celebrities are gaining traction because they grasp what customers want."
This is reflective in the daily operations of e-tailor sites such as Taobao and Mogujie, both of which introduce online hosts or influencers for product endorsement that are broadcast live in a bid to improve traffic and boost sales.
Social media magnet Tencent Holdings Ltd is also empowering e-commerce players through a Mini Program function that incentivizes users to share their beloved goodies with online contacts.
Meanwhile, Generation Z are seeking a sophisticated shopping experience. Over 40 percent said they would search information directly from the brands' indigenous websites rather than third-party platforms, a percentage significantly higher than the millennials who are mostly 30 and older.
It also came as a surprise that young consumers are equally embracing in-store shopping. Compared with virtual shopping, 31 percent reported they prefer brick-and-mortar stores but heavily rely on digital means, such as chat tools and social media reviews, to facilitate the purchase.
Koh said physical stores are projected to enjoy remarkable renaissance as long as they are digital-ready. "It's because Generation Z values the shopping experience over the utilities of merchandise per se. Omni-channel sales are therefore critical to harness that trend."
China's internet giants including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and JD.com Inc have ramped up efforts to deploy offline channels as pure-play e-commerce growth starts to stagnate. Alibaba has completed a series of buyouts including retail chain Intime Retail Group Co, while JD backed Yonghui Superstores and announced plans to open 1 million namesake convenience stores in five years.