Helen Wang
Helen Wang

In China social commerce has become the backbone of e-commerce, writes author Helen Wang in Forbes. Chinese internet companies offer services, their Western competitors only dream of. “China will lead innovation in mobile commerce”.

Helen Wang:

In China, social commerce has taken up a life of its own and become the backbone of e-commerce.

While the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has gone viral on Facebook, Chinese consumers use social media in a much more thoughtful way. Instead of posting some silly videos and pictures, they turn to social media to solve real life problems, to seek advice from friends and opinion leaders, and to decide what products to buy or not to buy.

For example, Tmall, China’s Amazon owned by Alibaba, integrated social media as a consumer-powered review and recommendation system. Consumers can rate the accuracy of product descriptions, the speed of delivery, and their satisfaction with customer service. Anyone who is interested in buying a product can see its scores. Tmall promotes products with higher scores by giving them more exposure. This has created a virtuous cycle that encourages better products and services, and consumers are at the center of it…

We are seeing many exciting innovations in China’s social commerce sphere. Already, WeChat, a mobile message board with over half a billion users, has gone far beyond a social media tool. Users on WeChat can order a taxi or book a hotel – right there while they are chatting with friends. It has digital ID (using QR codes), interphone, and a shake function to link contacts. There is nothing like it in the West. Early this year, more than 5 million people linked their bank accounts on WeChat within two days. It has the potential to become a mobile and social commerce platform with integrated e-wallet and location based services, and much more.

Moving forward, China will also lead innovation in mobile commerce. The country already boasts 700 million active smart phone users. The way people shop in China is very different from that in the West. In the West, e-commerce is very much computer-based, while mobile phones are merely a complementary tool to the personal computer. In China, mobile phones predominate people’s everyday lives. About 75 percent of Internet users browse it from their mobile phones. In 2013, 55 percent of consumers in China had used mobile payments, compared to only 19 percent in the US.

Chinese are far savvier with mobile phones than with computers. Ten years ago, Chinese used text messages to vote for their popular singers. Today, Americans have just begun to adopt this method of communication. Businesses have started to use text messages to get feedback from customers. Politicians have begun to tap into the ubiquity of mobile phones to advocate their political agendas.

In the past, many innovations originated in the West and spread to the rest of the world. But this is about to change. We expect to see more innovations in social and mobile commerce coming from China. And they will reshape the global business landscape.

More in Forbes.

Helen Wang is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers´ request form.

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