China’s Online Population Adapts Internet with Speed

While China’s general population has been online for less time than the U.S., online social media and research are quickly becoming a purchase decision tools in the world’s most populus country. A report, “Netpop China,” released this month by Netpop, look at Internet usage in China, and key differences with the U.S. Internet population.

User-generated content plays a role in purchase decisions in China, as 58 percent of purchases are influenced by consumer reviews and ratings sites, forums and discussion boards, blogs, and other social media sites. In contrast, about 19 percent of purchase decisions in the U.S. are influenced by user-generated content.

“We see China surpasses the U.S. in looking to content that’s been uploaded by individuals, and also with regards to shopping, the number of hours spent researching shopping in the U.S. on average is 2.9 hours. In China it is 3.4 hours spent online for a particular purchase,” said Josh Crandall, managing director of Media Screen, the research organization that released the Netpop report.

A higher percent of Internet users in China use search engines to make purchase decisions. Forty-six percent of Chinese broadband users look to search engines, versus 25 percent of American broadband users, when making purchase decisions. “Search is used more in China than in the U.S. but we’re also seeing a much larger impact of user generated content having an impact on product purchases,” said Crandall.

The average age of a broadband Internet user in China is 32 years old, 10 years younger than his U.S. counterpart. Seventy-five percent of the online population accesses the Internet from work, compared to only 41 percent in America. “It is an expense that people in China are more willing to distribute to their work or by publicly-accessible computers in a café,” Crandall said.

The average tenure of an Internet broadband user in China is about 6.5 years, versus nine years in the U.S. “It’s less mature than the U.S.,” Crandall said. Still, Netpop found that the Chinese broadband population has been quicker to adopt a diverse number of Web 2.0 technologies for daily use than the U.S. population.

The Netpop China study is the first of an ongoing study to compare online consumer behavior in the U.S. and other countries. Data were derived from surveys.

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