Distribution Characteristics and Influencing Factors of Invisible Consumption Space: A Case Study of Nanjing Old City


  • Jinyi Wang Southeast University
  • Shijie Sun Southeast University


invisible consumption space, mobile Internet, distribution characteristics, urban regeneration




With the development of the 5G mobile communication technology and mobile Internet industries in China, urban space and people behavior presented a trend of OMO (online-merge-offline), which has facilitated the creation of new consumption spaces, including the invisible consumption spaces that have recently emerged in metropolitans in China.

Different from traditional consumption spaces on the streets or in shopping malls, the invisible consumption spaces are mainly located in high-rise buildings and rely on online platforms to operate. The invisible consumption spaces mainly include life services, entertainment, leisure, sports and other formats. Consumers obtain information through the online platform and then arrive at the physical space under the guidance of the online map. As game changers, mobile Internet and online platforms complement the visibility and accessibility required for consumption spaces, transforming the invisible spaces with weak publicity in the traditional sense, such as spaces inside high-rise buildings or communities, into urban public spaces.

Taking the Nanjing old city as a case study, by processing consumption space POI data, this paper recognizes a total of 1919 invisible consumption spaces that are not located on the streets or in shopping malls, but connected with online platforms. Through GIS analysis, the distribution of invisible consumption spaces presents characteristics of central agglomeration and multi-polar clustering at the scale of the old city. Although the invisible consumption spaces are operated through online platforms, it indicates that as physical spaces, they are still affected by geographical location. Multi-polar clustering formed by high-rise buildings is a spatial distribution pattern driven by economic factors due to the fact that in the central area the cost of operating a store in a high-rise building is significantly lower than on the street or in a mall. Based on decision tree model, selecting typical central area to analyze the locational factors of invisible consumption spaces, it proposes that the explicit and implicit spatial relationship, space cost, and building management are the main factors influencing space distribution, while commercial and residential buildings are important carriers of spatial clustering.

The production of invisible consumption space originates from the everyday life and consumption practice of grassroots people, which engenders the autonomous spatial adjustment and functional reorganization of existing space and therefore, serves as a catalyst for urban regeneration. This kind of micro and gradual regeneration avoids demolition and construction of buildings, which is more sustainable. This paper argues that the emergence and development of the invisible consumption spaces is a manifestation of the diversification of old city consumption spaces and an important bottom-up regeneration approach in the mobile Internet era. However, it also poses new challenges to urban planning and governance.


Carpio-Pinedo, J. and Gutiérrez, J. (2020) ‘Consumption and symbolic capital in the metropolitan space: Integrating ‘old’ retail data sources with social big data’, Cities, 106, p. 102859.

Farag, S., Weltevreden, J., van Rietbergen, T., Dijst, M. and van Oort, F. (2006) ‘E-shopping in the Netherlands: Does geography matter?’, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 33(1), pp. 59–74.

Lu, Z., Wang, W. and Zhang, Q. (2013) ‘The impact of experiential online group-buying on the urban commercial spatial organization’, Human Geography, 28(5), pp. 101-104, 138. (Chinese)

Lyons, G., Mokhtarian, P., Dijst, M. and Böcker, L. (2018) ‘The dynamics of urban metabolism in the face of digitalization and changing lifestyles: Understanding and influencing our cities’, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 132, pp. 246–257.

Zhen, F., Du, X., Cao, J. and Mokhtarian, P. (2018) ‘The association between spatial attributes and e-shopping in the shopping process for search goods and experience goods: Evidence from Nanjing’, Journal of Transport Geography, 66, pp. 291–299.