0aaFranklin Chu Azoya

Amid today’s period of retail disruption, far too many U.S. retailers miss growth opportunities — namely those in the massive China retail market — due to an apprehensive attitude toward foreign expansion.

Yet as the U.S. retail market continues to contract, retailers are now forced to consider new avenues of growth, starting with targeting increasingly affluent Chinese tourists who visit retail stores in America, seeking products “Made in the USA.”

As the world’s biggest spenders, Chinese tourists are too important to ignore. For light integration into the prosperous China market, U.S. retailers can focus on the domestic market first to connect with Chinese tourists visiting America, which mitigates risk and minimizes costs.

Why Chinese Tourists Matter In U.S. Retail

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the number of Chinese outbound travelers rose 6% to 135 million in 2016, and Chinese tourists spent 12% more on tourism abroad last year. By 2020, experts estimate that 186 million Chinese tourists will travel overseas and their total overseas spending will reach $349 billion U.S. per year.

Among Chinese tourists, the most popular overseas shopping categories are:

  • Fragrances and beauty products (purchased by 67% of travelers);

  • Clothing, footwear and accessories (63%);

  • Health supplements and vitamins (25%);

  • Watches (25%); and

  • Electronics (19%).

U.S. retailers selling products in these popular categories should consider targeting Chinese tourists in their business strategy to test their company’s success among this attractive foreign audience.

Why Omnichannel Matters

Omnichannel service is essential because Chinese shoppers are increasingly mobile-first and mobile only. According to MIIT, the number of Chinese mobile users reached 1.29 billion in March 2015, with the 4G users accounting for 162 million. Chinese consumers embrace e-Commerce, including mobile shopping and mobile payment.

To enhance the customer experience and attract more Chinese shoppers, U.S. retailers should integrate their systems with China’s popular mobile payment options, including Alipay and WeChat Pay. These payment options let shoppers directly pay by RMB, China’s currency, eliminating the hassle of foreign exchange.

Chinese tourists often do extensive research and plan their entire trip several months in advance, including their shopping destinations. Their diligent foresight means U.S. retailers need a multichannel strategy — including language-friendly online marketing — to reach more Chinese tourists before they arrive in America, to encourage these shoppers to visit their U.S. stores.

Chinese shoppers have also expanded their shopping habits beyond China’s borders. They shop online to actively seek American-made products, which they perceive as higher quality, safer and more prestigious than Chinese products. Most importantly, they expect to shop however and whenever they like, so offering omnichannel or online-to-offline (O2O) service is essential for U.S. retailers to succeed among discerning Chinese shoppers.

How To Attract Chinese Tourists

The following tips can help U.S. retailers attract Chinese tourists before, during and after the consumers’ travel journey:

  • Find the right channels: Before Chinese tourists’ actual holidays,…