Ant Financial report: China’s online spending shifts to services and leisure


The most telling statistic is online consumption of food and entertainment grew by 70X over five years

On Saturday, online payment services provider Alibaba’s Ant Financial published China’s first online consumption index. The data is primarily taken from Alipay, Alibaba’s online payment platform. The index, growing 12.1 times from January of 2011 to April of 2016, shows that the contribution of online shopping to China’s GDP in 2015 is twice that of its contribution in 2012.

The focus of online shopping in China is shifting from goods to services. Data shows that online consumption of foods and entertainment grew 70.2 times over five years, an average monthly growth rate of 7.0 per cent. Online consumption on services accounted to 4.3 per cent of total online shopping expenditure in 2011, a figure that has skyrocketed to 25 per cent by this April. Additionally, luxury needs, rather than basic needs are now driving this transformation in online shopping patterns.

Chinese consumers’ discretionary spending, focused in areas like cosmetics, jewelry and sports products, are feeding markets that are outgrowing the online markets for basic consumer commodities and foodstuffs in many cities and provinces.

The top five regions for online spending are Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Guangdong. The last five places on this ranking are comparatively poorer, confirming a link between the local economies and their rate of online spending.

Male and female consumers also have their respective online shopping patterns. In terms of scale, 2016 Q1 saw a higher number of women than men shop online. Nevertheless, the consumption level of men is higher due to the gender differences in consumption structure: individual men tend to spend more on products or services including office supplies, education, healthcare, sports, automobile-related products, entertainment, flights and travels, and dining.

This reflects how a traditional Chinese family works: women are more likely to emphasise the basic needs of the family, while men demonstrate to their other half that there is more to life than this, spending more on leisure.

Ant Financial is a financial affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, from which it was spun off in 2011. The company secured a Series B financing of USD 4.5 billion this April.

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