Press Room



Shanghai, China – May 14, 2015–  Nearly 50% of (46%)  of Chinese respondents say they are already ordering grocery products online for home delivery (compared to 25% globally) and more than half (52% vs. 55% globally) are willing to purchase online in the future, according to the new Nielsen Global E-commerce and the New Retail Survey released today. The survey polled 30,000 online respondents in 60 countries to understand how digital technology will shape the retail landscape of the future. The report looks at how consumers are using technology and offers insights into how retailers and manufacturers can use flexible retailing options to improve the shopping experience and drive increased visitation and sales across channels.


The good news for brick and mortar retailers is that clicks won’t be replacing bricks any time soon.

Online shopping has a number of benefits, but physical stores also have strong key advantages over e-commerce — especially for fast-moving consumer goods. In fact, the majority of Chinese respondents (67%) reported that going to the grocery store is an enjoyable and engaging experience. A similar percentage (69%) considers grocery shopping in a retail store as a fun day out for the family.

One important take-away for retailers and manufacturers, who must engage consumers early on the path to purchase, is that online browsing often does lead to in-store shopping and purchases. There are many touch-points along the path from online to offline, which includes finding a store, making shopping lists, checking prices, researching products, sharing reviews and viewing manufacturer and retailer content on social media before finally purchasing.

“The connected commerce era is here,” said Brian Negley, Vice President of Nielsen China. “Consumers are no longer shopping entirely online or offline; rather, they’re taking a blended approach, using whatever channel best suits their needs. The most successful retailers and manufacturers will be at the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds, leveraging technology to satisfy shoppers however, wherever and whenever they want to shop.”

Continued increases in mobile adoption and broad band penetration, particularly in developing regions, have helped boost online grocery sales. Though as another Nielsen global survey suggests, China leads in e-commerce maturity around the world. This survey indicates Chinese retailers still have a lot of room to grow when it comes to in-store digital enablement options, such as online or mobile coupons and shopping lists, self-service checkouts, and in-store Wi-Fi availability. Use of online order for delivery to home (46% vs. 25% globally), online automatic subscription (30% vs 14% globally) and online and mobile coupons (23% vs. 18% globally) are the top 3 most cited forms of in-store digital engagement in use today among Chinese respondents, with more than half willing to use them in the future. Using hand-held store scanners or self-service checkouts to reduce checkout time is cited by less than 20% of Chinese respondents (15% and 17% respectively), however nearly four out of five say they’re willing to use one when it is available.

Though only around one fifth of Chinese respondents say they log in to store Wi-Fi to receive information or offers (18%), scan QR codes to access more information (17%) or use in-store computers to view extended product ranges (16%), more than three quarters are willing to use these options in the future (75%, 78% and 79%, respectively).

In-store digital enablement options can bring the ease, convenience and personalization of online to brick-and-mortar stores. Bringing digital strategies into the in-store experience is not just a nice-to-have—these options can increase dwell time, engagement levels, basket-size and shopper satisfaction.

“At present, shoppers do all of the work putting the pieces together to arrive at their final purchase decision,” said Negley. “In a competitive retail environment, retailers and manufacturers can add value and differentiation by providing digital tools to help consumers take control of their shopping experience while also increasing sales potential. Mobile in particular can tip the scales in favor of increased shopper control, empowering them to shape the shopping experience more than ever before.”

“Time-starved consumers want to use technology to make shopping faster, easier and more efficient,” said Negley. “As we’ve seen with self-checkout, one of the more mature flexible retailing options included in the survey, as more retailers incorporate these options into their in-store and online offerings, adoption rates will likely increase.”


The growth of online CPG sales has been driven in part by the maturation of digital natives, the consumers who grew up with digital technology (Millennials and now Generation Z). These consumers have an unprecedented enthusiasm for and comfort with technology, and online shopping is a deeply ingrained behavior. Current usage of six e-commerce options (home delivery, in-store pickup, drive-through pickup, curbside pickup, virtual supermarket and automatic subscription) is greatest among the youngest respondents, and they are also the most willing to use all of the e-commerce options in the future. For example, 30% of Millennials (aged 21-34) and 28% of Generation Z (aged 15-20) respondents say they’re ordering groceries online for home delivery, compared with 22% of Generation X (aged 35-49), 17% of Baby Boomers (aged 50-64) and 9% of Silent Generation (aged 65+) respondents. Younger respondents are also the most willing to use all of the e-commerce options in the future.

“Millennials are at the beginning of their careers and are starting to form households, while the oldest members of Generation Z will soon be graduating college and joining the workforce,” said Negley. “These generations will shape our economy for decades to come. Therefore, it is critical that retailers and manufacturers understand how these consumers are using technology and include digital touch points along the entire path to purchase.”

A smaller number of consumers are using “click and collect” services in which consumers order groceries online for pickup at a store or other location. Around 18% of Chinese respondents say they order groceries online and pick them up in-store or by drive-thru (20% each). More than six out of ten, however, are willing to use these online options in the future (65% for in-store, 69% for drive-thru).


 Consumers are embracing the idea of buying certain packaged goods online, but some categories are simply better suited for e-commerce than others, according to Nielsen data.

 “Understanding what consumers are buying, both on and offline, allows you to prioritize digital initiatives and take action with the categories that drive in-store trip count and basket size,” Negley said.

So which categories have the most potential for digital success and which are best suited for in-store?

Generally, stock-up categories like personal care and household products are prime selections for e-commerce inventory. Body wash (48%), toothpaste (42%), paper towels (37%), shampoo/conditioner (37%) and laundry detergent (36%) are the top five most cited items which Chinese respondents are willing to buy online, along with cosmetics (36%). According to Nielsen, for skin care category, offline channels, including brick and mortar, cosmetic specialty stores and grocery stores, still make up more than half of total sales. However, online sales are also quickly increasing in importance. Online now accounts for 42% of the total sales within the category, with a robust growth rate of 56% vs. last year.

Within food categories, Nielsen’s data shows that brick-and-mortar remains the most important channel, making up 62% of total food sales. This is followed by grocery stores (32%), while online sales still only make up a small share of total sales at 6%. Nielsen’s survey suggests strong growth potential online for food and beverage. About 36% of Chinese respondents say they intend to buy milk and nuts online in the next 6 months, a slightly lower percentage were willing to purchase cookies/biscuits (30%) and breakfast cereal (29%) online. More than 20% intend to buy beer, yogurt and coffee online.

Food categories have been the primary growth engine for the growth of online FMCG purchase within China. Between 2013 and 2014, online sales of liquid milk and chocolate grew by 91% and 59% respectively. In addition, there is tremendous opportunity among niche consumer segments. Health and natural food concepts are showing strong growth, as well as other categories that may be more difficult to find on in-store shelves.


For all three categories included in the study (food and beverage, household products and personal care), the largest trade channel was not the one with the highest growth rate, indicating that global share of trade is becoming more fragmented.

In the food and beverage category, traditional stores are growing fastest (+5%). Supermarkets and hypermarkets are still important to these categories, but consumers are increasingly relying on smaller formats such as traditional stores and kiosks, which fulfill their needs for convenience and speed. Take the liquid milk category for instance, though brick and mortar still dominates by taking up 60% of total sales, both online and grocery stores also show strong growth of 91% and 17% respectively. The story is similar for skin care and baby care categories. Brick and mortar still claim a very important share of trade, but cosmetic specialty stores and baby specialty stores are growing quickly for some categories.

“Large supermarkets and hypermarkets are important players in the global retail landscape and this will continue well into the future,” said Negley. “But smaller formats claim considerable share in some categories and are growing in others. Distribution efforts must rely on a mix of both. Understanding where consumers are shopping and for what categories gives you the insight to develop more precise, market-by-market distribution strategies.”

While digital is here to stay, the majority of consumers will continue to shop for the bulk of their purchases in store—even If the channels they’re using are changing. Shoppers will use whatever format best suits their needs for convenience, choice and value. Therefore, it is critical that retailers and manufacturers leverage physical and digital assets to optimize the in-store experience.


The Nielsen Global Retail Format Preferences Survey was conducted between Aug. 13, 2014, and Sept. 5, 2014, and polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on its Internet users and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers. It has a margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005. To download a copy of the full report, please visit Nielsen’s website at

                                                                                                                                                                         ABOUT NIELSEN

Nielsen N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers Watch and Buy. Nielsen’s Watch segment provides media and advertising clients with Total Audience measurement services across all devices where content—video, audio and text—is consumed. The Buy segment offers consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers the industry’s only global view of retail performance measurement. By integrating information from its Watch and Buy segments and other data sources, Nielsen provides its clients with both world-class measurement as well as analytics that help improve performance.  Nielsen, an S&P 500 company, has operations in over 100 countries that cover more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit

Sue Feng,, 010-5912-9195