Technological advances, an expanding sharing economy and the growing importance of convenience and data-driven personalised experiences, are shaping future trends for citizens in China, according to the Where the World’s Moving Global Report.
The report indicated that amongst all global markets, China is more open to adapting to new trends and innovative technologies and went as far to suggest that “they could potentially be a pioneer in where the world is moving in the next five years”.
Investing in a greener future
The focus on implementing sustainable practices is intensifying and will continue to do so in the future, according to the Where the World’s Moving Global Report. This sentiment particularly holds true for China’s global citizens, with 83% of respondents saying sustainability plays a role in where they choose to live. As Thomas Milburn, Associate Director of Corporate Citizenship, accurately points out in the report, “China is the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy because sustainability challenges are so “real”.
Sustainability in China is a complex problem, encompassing more than solar panels, hybrid cars and green buildings. The factories and power plants that have driven its economic growth have also polluted its air, water and soil. In a bid to respond to years of heavy industrialisation and tackle the environmental challenges that have come as a result, China’s government has started introducing several green initiatives and China’s technology giants are also playing a role in helping accelerate the pace of change.
In China’s Five-Year Plan for green building development, 50% of new urban buildings are now required to be sustainably certified. It’s an ambitious target, but an important step to addressing some of China’s environmental challenges and one that’s already being rolled out in certain cities.
In the city of Changsha, a 57-storey skyscraper made of prefabricated steel sections rose up in less than 20 days. These ready-made modules, which fit together like Lego, are being regarded as the green building solution to China’s chronic pollution. From offsite mass-production, expected to yield energy savings, to being able to recycle and re-use the steel modules, this initiative demonstrates this necessary shift towards sustainable methods and a more circular economy.
Development of the “World’s First Forest City” has also begun in the city of Liuzhou, in an innovative and ambitious attempt to fight pollution and improve the local biodiversity in the region. The futuristic city aims to host nearly one million plants, 40,000 trees and collectively absorb almost 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide and produce approximately 900 tons of oxygen annually. If it succeeds, it will set an example for the future of green city design.
Online meets offline
Digital technology and e-commerce have revolutionised the way the world does business and paved the way for a more convenient and personalised consumer journey. Gradually we’re entering a generation of on-demand, ushering in seamless payment experiences, where transactions can be made anytime, anywhere.
China has been leading the world in online payments for a long time now and have adopted new methods of cashless payments at a much faster rate than any other economy. The two big players, Alipay and WeChat Pay, have led the way in this revolution and helped dethrone the concept of ‘cash as king’. In turn, they have allowed consumers to go straight from cash to smartphone, leapfrogging the use of credit cards and cheques.
The iResearch Consulting Group forecasts, which measures online audiences in China, predict that annual online transactions in China will reach 116.7 trillion yuan this year. This equates to almost 50 times Hong Kong’s domestic growth product.
Here are some other key facts to highlight the prevalence of digital payments in China:
- Two-thirds of smartphone users in China now pay via mobile
- In 2017, mobile payment transactions in China reached 81 trillion yuan (US$12.8 trillion)
- Alipay and WeChat Pay dominate with 54% and 40% market share of mobile payments
Not surprisingly, citizens in China are now readily embracing the prospect of payment implant technology. Contrastingly, this is an idea met with scepticism in Australia, with only 26% of respondents saying they would consider a chip implant. To further highlight this enormous regional disparity, 62% of Chinese respondents (compared to 33% in Australia) are comfortable exchanging their data for more personalised experiences and products.
The ‘New Retail’ model in China, a blend of online and offline, further reflects the growing sentiment towards more enhanced and integrated consumer experiences. Alibaba’s Hema supermarket, for example, is not your typical grocery store. Instead it’s characterised by experiential retail and retail entertainment, using technology to redefine every touch point of the customer journey. Customers can scan a product bar code and instantly receive product information, payments are made through cashless methods, and if you live within a 3km radius of the supermarket, your items can be delivered to your home in less than 30 minutes. With new innovations comes heightened consumer expectations; according to the report, 88% of Chinese respondents now expect online purchases or courier services to be delivered in 24 hours or less.
The sharing economy spreads
You only need to notice the different modes of transportation, from ride-sharing to bike-sharing, to see how the sharing economy has ignited in China. In response to a longing for social connectivity, and the burgeoning problem around lack of space and affordability, shared housing arrangements are also gaining increasing momentum. Whilst the concept of co-living may be a new term for some, this type of living arrangement was first welcomed in China in 2012, with the launch of You+.
The demand has only picked up speed in the past few years, with two new co-living spaces, Mini Co-Living Destination and Get Social, popping up last year in Shanghai alone. According to the report, 71% of Chinese respondents agree or strongly agree that ‘co-living or shared living arrangements is a good idea for society’. However, the regional differences in the report; 48% in the UK, 45% in the US and 41% in Australia, indicate there’s still a variation in attitudes towards home ownership and communal living amongst global markets.
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