5 reasons why retailers need to get mobile-ready for Chinese shoppers

Chinese tourists are having a huge impact on destinations everywhere, while the Chinese’ appetite for foreign travel shows no sign of slowing down.

For retailers, expecting this trend to boost sales isn’t just a matter of rolling up the shop shutters and expecting the shoppers to roll in.  Rather they need to observe how they (their new customers) like to spend, and for significant numbers that’s via a mobile device and an app.

Michael Lane, VP Channel Development, SafeCharge takes us through the Chinese ‘travel and shop’ phenomenon.


While exploring the world, Chinese travellers bring with them their unique habits of eating, travelling, shopping, and – of course – paying for these activities. Research has shown that three quarters of Chinese consumers prefer to pay via QR codes on a daily basis, through the likes of either WeChat or Alipay.

This preference for mobile payments over traditional cards or cash, means that businesses aiming to engage this market must rethink their approach to payment acceptance and fine-tune their infrastructure to ease the acceptance of the digital payment methods Chinese tourists are most comfortable with.

Businesses across the country are waking up to this increasingly lucrative market segment and gradually deploying measures to increase sales. In London, Camden Market was the first marketplace to properly welcome Chinese tourists in 2017, by offering the digital payment methods they are used to in China. Since then, some of the most prestigious brands in the capital have followed suit, from World Duty Free in Heathrow Airport to Beauchamp Place stores and The Ritz Hotel.

As documented in our Preparing your business to welcome Chinese shoppers guide, here are just five of the top reasons as to why merchants of all sizes should get ready to welcome Chinese shoppers:

Chinese tourism is only going to increase

The China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) forecasts that overseas trips by Chinese people will grow from 145m (2017) to more than 400m by 2030. 600 million additional trips in international tourism forecasted by The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), brings the total from 1.2 billion in 2017 to 1.8 billion by 2030.

In 20 years, China will generate a quarter of the whole international tourism.

In 20 years, China will generate a quarter of the whole international tourism. Furthermore, just 7% of Chinese citizens – 99 million people out of a population of 1.415 billion – currently possess a passport. It is a small percentage compared to around 40% of Americans, and 76% of Britons. Clearly the potential for further growth is immense.

Chinese tourists are amongst the world’s biggest spenders

Chinese are the world’s biggest spenders as tourists and far too important to ignore. In 2017, more than 130 million mainland Chinese citizens travelled around the globe, spending a total of $115 billion USD on goods and services overseas. It took less than 20 years for China to grow from a travel minnow to the world’s most powerful outbound market, stealing the thunder from the US.

UNWTO reports that Chinese tourists’ expenditures abroad now represents 21% of the global tourism spending. More importantly, Chinese travellers spend on average more per person per trip than tourists from any other country in the world.

Chinese visitors come with a clear penchant for shopping

Chinese people travel overseas mainly for leisure, but shopping is a big part of their experience. Shopping stands firmly in the top three categories of their expenses (25%), followed by hotels (19%) and meals (16%).

Chinese outbound travellers do not think twice when they get the chance to save money on food, accommodation and transportation, but they spend more freely when it comes to shopping. Their purchasing power is also much stronger than other tourists, with an average spend of 762 USD compared to 486 USD of their Western counterparts. Unlike Americans or Brits, Chinese consumers experience shopping as something fun rather than being a chore. A survey by Millward Brown pictures 68% of Chinese respondents as “happy or overjoyed” shoppers, while only 48% of American and 41% of British respondents feel the same way when it is time to shop.

Chinese tourists are amongst the most tech-savvy shoppers

Chinese tourists are much more tech-savvy than their Western counterparts and way more used to paying with their phones. Being equipped with Chinese mobile payment options provides an easy, familiar payment gateway for Chinese tourists and encourages them to spend more.

Chinese tourists are much more tech-savvy than their Western counterparts and way more used to paying with their phones.

Nielsen’s recent research found out that 91% of Chinese travellers would feel more comfortable in spending if Chinese mobile payments are accepted. 64% of survey respondents think it is more convenient to pay by using their mobile. Nearly half (48%) say it made them feel proud to see Chinese payment platforms accepted abroad, and 43% say they preferred mobile payments because they didn’t have to worry about exchanging money and were likely to get a better exchange rate too.

Data collected by Nielsen and Alipay also shows that 93% of Chinese tourists would consider using mobile payments when traveling overseas if more overseas merchants would accept them, while 91% would show greater willingness to spend and shop if overseas retailers accepted Chinese mobile payment brands.

WeChat is an additional marketing channel for merchants to be more visible

Even if it has some similarities with other social networks such as Facebook and Instagram, WeChat is in a game of its own and is known as “the app for everything”. It encompasses a much broader realm of possibilities, from messaging to registering official accounts, seeking friends and making payments. Businesses can set up official accounts on WeChat where they can create and customise their own mini-program within the WeChat application, together with launching exclusive WeChat promotions. This can put retail stores on the map and be visible to millions of visitors wanting to shop for specific products.


Michael Lane, VP Channel Development, SafeCharge

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