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China, South Korea Lead World in Mobile Commerce Adoption

Over half of internet users in China have made a mobile purchase

A report on global online consumer behavior underscores the significant role mcommerce plays in the Asia-Pacific region. The study of over 152,000 internet users in 31 markets, conducted by GlobalWebIndex, found that 55% of internet users in China made a purchase via a mobile phone in Q4 2012, making China the country with the world’s highest mobile purchase penetration rate.

For an idea of just how dominant the mobile purchase channel is in Asia, consider the case of North America. There, just 19% of US internet users and 13% of internet users in Canada made a mobile purchase in Q4. In other words, China’s mobile purchase penetration rate is nearly triple that of the US.

eMarketer estimates that 270.9 million internet users in China will make an online purchase this year—counting purchases made through mobile devices. By 2016, eMarketer projects that number to rise to 423.4 million, and mobile will clearly play a significant role in that transition.

A similar dynamic is playing out across Asia. In South Korea, where 37% of internet users made a mobile purchase in Q4, the rate of mobile purchase adoption was nearly double the rate in the US. Internet users in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan were all more likely than those in the US to rely on mobile purchasing.

Given that higher percentages of internet users in Asia-Pacific countries are buying via mobile devices relative to their counterparts around the world, it stands to reason that they are more reliant on mobile shopping as well. A separate study of smartphone users worldwide, conducted by Nielsen, confirmed this conclusion.

From mobile shopping to mobile banking to mobile wallets, Nielsen found that smartphone users in China and South Korea were significantly more likely to engage in a variety of mcommerce activities than smartphone users in any other country it studied in 2012.

According to the study, 43% of smartphone users in China and South Korea were mobile shoppers. Since not all shoppers are buyers, the Nielsen study would seem to imply a lower mobile purchase penetration rate than the GlobalWebIndex study. Differing methodologies and sample populations likely account for this discrepancy, but the trend in both cases shows Asia-Pacific as a region on the leading edge of mcommerce adoption.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Online, Offline Marketing Budgets Worldwide to Rise in 2013,” “CPG Brands Bridge the Gap Between Ecommerce Shoppers and Buyers,” “In the UK, Girls Surpass Boys for Smartphone Ownership, Usage,” and “Canada's Smallest Businesses Struggle to Get Online.”

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