China is the country with the most e-commerce activity in the world today. With an online consumer spend of $750 billion (2016), it has established its dominance over the Western markets, surpassing the spending of the UK and the US combined. What are the key trends and practices that have come to define the Chinese ecommerce market and how can they be implemented into the organization of Western ecommerce businesses? This still young but highly-developed market can provide valuable insight on the latest developments within the fast-growing ecommerce industry.
1. Mobile commerce dominates the marketplace
The digital revolution has brought about changes in both the consumer habits and the retailers’ selling strategies. While, prior to that, China’s physical retail market had not been sufficiently developed, the country managed to develop its e-commerce platforms at a rapid pace, with online shopping becoming the norm for consumers. What’s more- mobile e-commerce has shown larger signs of growth in China than in any other Western country- predicted to reach sales of $1,17 billion by 2020.
2. Increased purchasing power within rural markets
People with restricted access to physical retailers, coming from lower income households, are increasingly adopting e-commerce as a way to obtain the products they want. The middle-class consumer has been increasingly targeted by advertisers and product developers alike, as it has been found that those lower-tier consumers tend to spend more while shopping online. Their share of the national Gross Merchandise Value comes to 50.1%, almost identical to the 49.9% share of Tier 1 and 2 consumers.
3. Rise of the social e-commerce
Within the past few years, there has been a shift in the relationship between social network platforms and ecommerce businesses- online companies have come to realise the importance of building a loyal community around their brands. This trend has become especially advanced in China, as e-commerce website begin to include more editorial content and offer features similar to the ones of a social media site. Such social e-commerce hybrids are Little Red Book and Dealmoon, which aim to provide customers with unique additional content , creates a memorable shopping experience and allowing companies to build comprehensive profiles of their target clients.
4. Emphasis on the shopping experience- a brand is increasingly related more to the customer experience it provides than to the actual products they sell; the Chinese consumer has developed a sophisticated taste when it comes to choosing a retailer to purchase from, since shopping has become synonymous to entertainment and social interactions. E-commerce is not an exception, even though it does not occur in the physical space- on average, the Chinese consumer spends 30 minutes a day shopping on the leading platforms like Alibaba’s Taobao.
6. Targeting Global Sales
Considering the rapid pace with which the Chinese ecommerce industry is expanding, companies’ attention is turning towards the prospect of internationalization and harnessing the buying power of Western consumers. As an increasing amount of global retail giants, both in the luxury and mass markets, have been focusing on expanding within the Chinese markets, local companies feel the increasing pressure of establishing their influence on international grounds as well. If the predictions are true and, by 2020 the Chinese E-commerce’s worth surpasses that of the major Western countries, such as the US, UK, France and Germany, then we would experience a flood of Chinese retail giants entering the market.
7. International SEO- eCommerce businesses looking to expand from the East to West are facing a challenge in terms of accurately targeting the needs and interests of internationall consumers. Many businesses have already realised the need to improve their expertise on global search engine optimisation, in order to gather more comprehensive knowledge about the international consumer’s buying habits. Having an international webpage which successfully combines customised content with carefully selected products is the formula to success within new territories. In order to achieve that, companies can benefit from the services of translation and localization experts, whose cultural expertise will allow for targeting the local consumer.
The vast expansion and continuous development of the Chinese e-commerce market is a prerequisite for its future expansion within the Western consumer markets. That being said, there are still some challenges the new e-commerce leaders are expected to face when establishing their presence overseas. Cultural and linguistic differences are a major challenge for businesses looking to integrate into foreign markets. With the help of experienced translators and linguists, however, those factors will no longer be a barrier between customers and companies, allowing for a seamless and smoother localization process. If the Chinese e-commerce businesses succeed in capturing the major pain points of the Western shopper, their market power will truly be unsurpassable.