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Website Design & Usability of Top 5 Chinese B2C E-Commerce Sites

Today, I’d like to take a look at the webdesign and usability of  the leading E-Commerce sites in China and compare them to each other. Getting the look and feel and usability of a website right is a key to successful online marketing in China. Our focus within this post lies on B2C E-Commerce websites which are growing heavily (vs C2C E-Commerce which has been the driver of Chinese E-Commerce in recent years mainly by Taobao). Sites we are looking at are :

  1. Tmall, the B2C E-Commerce site from online giant Taobao and unquestioned leader in the B2C E-Commerce landscape. Open mainly for to big sellers, flagship stores and exclusive stores vs Taobao which is open for everyone.
    Marketshare: ~ 40%
  2. 360buy, the no.2 in the B2C market and considered as the BestBuy of China. Focus of 360buy is on consumer electronics (3C)
    Marketshare: ~ 15%
  3. Dangdang.com, focus on books and e-books
    Marketshare: ~ 1-2%
  4. Vancl.com, China’s biggest clothing e-tailer, selling its own-brand clothing very similar to H&M, Zara, Uniqlo
    Marketshare: 1~2%
  5. Yihaodian.com, China’s largest online supermarket with Walmart being a majority shareholder

China Internet Watch has a nice post about the total B2C market size, so check them out to know more about the numbers.

 Tmall.com:

360buy.com:

dangdang.com:

 

vancl.com:

 

yihaodian.com:

 

Observations:

General look and feel:

Tmall creates the most exclusive feeling of all 5 websites. It omits the classic link list style of Chinese websites and focuses very much on a picture-based content structure. Personally, I like it and it makes me feel comfortable. I guess because I am used to it from viewing Western websites.  Vancl.com on the other hand to me is closest to a traditional Chinese portal website with lots of categorized links. 360buy.com, dangdang.com and yihaodian.com are somewhere in between and remind me of a standard Western shopping cart website content-structure wise.

Color scheme

The classic Chinese red is part of each website except dangdang.com. All of the others have the navigation bar in Chinese red, Tmall stands out with having the whole header in red. It certainly is a key element in good Chinese website design which targets the general mass of people.

Navigation

All 5 five websites make heavy use of large javascript based top or sidebar navigation bars which popup on mouse over. As all of these heavyweight E-Commerce sites make use of this feature it is pretty much save to call this a best practice for webdesign of Chinese E-Commerce sites.
This kind of navigation makes a lot of sense though: The heavy text link navigation part which was static on each portal frontpage in earlier days is hidden until needed. Additionally, the usability of what Chinese website users are used to remains intact on mouse over.

Slideshow

Each of the 5 websites uses a promo slideshow on the frontpage with the slide navigation as dots or squares in the left or right bottom corner. At least one of the slides in the slideshow is in classic Chinese red. The others are not. Tmall has the most professional product pictures and photographs IMO.

Scrolling

No surprises here, the pages are as long as usual. Chinese Internet users like scrolling. No doubt about that.

Links are opened in new tab

Also no surprise here, it is common user behavior for Chinese to open each link in a new tab. An explanation for that was  the slow speed of the Internet connection in earlier days. By opening links in new tabs they could load in the back. If this is still valid nowadays may be questioned. However it is a learned behavior obviously.

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