No one does World Consumer Rights Day quite like China
What is it all about?
March 15 is World Consumer Rights Day. While the vast majority of shoppers around the world will not be aware of this day, it is in fact a big deal in China where it is referred to as ‘315’. This is primarily due to a 2-hour TV special (315晚会) in which brands are exposed for their malpractices, that has been aired by CCTV since 1991. No brands are spared, with big names including Starbucks, Nike and Apple having been called out in previous editions. Many companies are now known to pre-empt any negative publicity through promotions and freebies ahead of March 15 and have their PR teams on standby during the broadcast.
What happened last year?
The 2018 edition of the show included segments on Volkswagen, which was accused for engine defects with its Touareg SUV, as well as China’s bike-sharing industry, where a number of smaller players have collapsed and have taken consumers’ deposits with them. Poor quality imported toothbrushes from Japan and South Korea also came under fire.
However, this was a fairly subdued showing compared to previous years, when for instance Nike was found to have misled consumers over the Zoom air cushions in its Hyperdunk basketball shoes (an autopsy of said footwear found no such cushions present). Japanese retailer Muji was found to have sold food products from an area in Tokyo where there had been a radioactive contamination in 2015. The issue of counterfeits also reared its head, with vulnerable consumers warned about the dangers of fake medicines, while Alibaba was targeted for struggling to keep counterfeit goods off of its websites.
What brands need to know
There is no denying that consumer rights issues are rising up the agenda in China and this has been reflected in research that Tofugear has conducted among Chinese consumers. For instance, the biggest frustration that shoppers have when they make purchases online is the inaccurate representation of products, which was mentioned by 70% of all respondents. This is much more of an issue in China as the average for Asia stands at 46%. Meanwhile, two-thirds of Chinese consumers say that they will not shop with brands that have negative product reviews.
While imitation is often called the most sincere form of flattery, the reality is that consumers expect brands to protect them from counterfeits. And this needs to be more than simply cracking down on rogue listings on online marketplaces. A number of brands are realising that blockchain technology can be utilised to build relationships based on trust with consumers. Examples include having consumers check products for authenticity via built-in NFC chips or using apps to track and trace a product across its manufacturing lifecycle.
Particularly in a country like China, where discussions on social media can have devastating consequences, it is important for retailers and brands to control their own narrative and look at ways to strengthen trust. If you are interested to learn more about how blockchain can be utilised to protect the integrity of your brand click here.
As Head of Research at Tofugear, Philip provides insight on how retailers are adapting their digital strategies to target the connected consumer. Prior to relocating to Hong Kong, he led Retail Week’s research team in London, researching the tech and ecommerce strategies of the UK’s leading retailers.