Trends in internet use – China

To celebrate the year of the monkey we have compiled some Chinese internet trends for you to enjoy.

Published by 

Alexis Pratsides


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In the first quarter of 2020, it was reported that nearly 940 million people in China have access to the internet, so we decided to review the current trends in internet use in China and look into the benefits of this.

Over 50% of the population is online

Back in 2016, China reached a milestone in the number of netizens, for the first time over half of the population are online. The country has seen the number of internet users steadily growing, almost doubling since 2009.

In 2020, internet users in China spent an average of 6.1 hours more on their mobile devices than last year, and they opened 25.1 apps, which contrasts with last year’s figures (24.7 apps were opened in 2019).

Moreover, 99% of China’s internet users are performing searches on their mobile devices. These numbers are larger than the population of the US, Russia, Mexico, Germany, and the UK altogether. Comparing figures from 2019 to 2020, China’s mobile internet population rose by 80 million, while in the US grew just 8 million. We can say that China is the largest internet community in the world.

china vs US internet usage

Growth in internet wealth management

With internet usage growing, wealth management has become a key area of growth in China. In 2016, stocks trading experienced 54% growth, online payment 37%, and banking 19%.

Figures from Nielsen’s Financial Tracking Report indicate trust in online finance tools in the Chinese market. Only 12% of respondents were investing in products offered by traditional banks but 45% in internet-based wealth management tools.

Top 5 Chinese internet companies in 2020

Tencent, Alibaba, Ant Group, Meituan-Dianping, and ByteDance have a value of 1.6 trillion US dollars. Following the mobile trend, these top companies have modernised their shopping experiences, from messaging to online education. 

The effects of COVID-19 on China’s IT sector

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 in 2020, consumer behaviour in China has changed exponentially, with records on internet and app usage. In the pre-COVID era, Chinese users spent an average of 5.6 hours per day on the Internet. Now during this pandemic, users spend an average of 7.2 hours per day.

Today, more than 308 million users are connected to apps, while short-form video apps record a total of 123 million users. in China. Video platforms such as Douyin (TikTok) and Kuaishou increased their levels of traffic from January-February, while government organisations experienced the highest growth during the pandemic.  

Looking at social media trends, Weibo has seen an increase in traffic caused by users daily use of the platforms for news and updates. On the other hand, WeChat has been very useful in terms of tracking people’s COVID-19 rates infections via QR codes. By 2025, China is predicted to have 40% of the world’s 5G users.

Do you want to make the most of your TikTok account? Get in touch today.

China's 5G subscriptions

Most internet users are on a mobile

Of these new users, seven out of 10 users love mobile and are accessing the internet for the first time on their phones. This shows that the Chinese internet population is predominantly mobile native, which explains the huge amount of success that mobile commerce is experiencing in the country.

Instant messaging

Chinese internet users love instant messaging. WeChat has an extremely well developed mobile commerce offering, monetising on the popularity of messaging in China.

Chat platforms are the most installed on Chinese phones. WeChat is number one, with 81% of mobile phone owners using it and a staggering 700 million monthly active users. QQ, another chat app, sits in the number two spot, having been installed on 76% of mobiles in China.

Ecommerce is huge

China is a mobile-first, lucrative market in terms of ecommerce. PWC found 14% of Chinese people shop online every day and Export.Gov projects that China’s ecommerce market is set to reach 634 million users by the end of this year. China’s ecommerce market is predicted to be larger than those of the U.S., UK, Japan, Germany, and France combined, according to Dezan Shira & Associates.

By 2020, China’s ecommerce market is forecast to be larger than those of the US, Britain, Japan, Germany, and France combined.

Dezan Shira & Associates

Singles’ Day

Online giant Alibaba – which holds 80% of the Chinese ecommerce market – started promoting China’s Singles’ Day as a shopping day in 2009 and it is now the biggest online shopping event of the year. It takes place on 11th November each year and started as an obscure anti-Valentine’s Day celebration for singles.

Since then, it has become the biggest 24-hour online shopping event in the calendar and has been replicated at home and abroad, with Singles’ Day promotions found at rivals such as China’s and Pinduoduo as well as South Korea’s 11thStreet and Singapore’s Qoo10.

There was a 60% increase in Alibaba’s online sales in 2016 on Singles Day and more than $17.79 billion in sales came from gross merchant volume (GMV). What’s particularly interesting about the sale, is the high volume of money being spent on mobile. By 1 pm CST on Singles’ Day, mobile purchases represented 84% of all sales of the day. That rate has slowly decreased as the day has gone on, probably because of a surge in people using their smartphones when the sale opened at midnight.

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Created by

Alexis Pratsides

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