Street scene in China

Global Ecommerce

China: Getting ready for the big bang

By Georges Berzgal, VP & Managing Director, Global Ecommerce, EMEA, Pitney Bowes

Chinese consumers have an appetite for British brands for their perceived quality, heritage and uniqueness. Selling goods in China is highly complex. Here are expert tips for success.

The Chinese ecommerce market is enormous, and it’s set to get much, much bigger. Currently around 460 million of the country’s 1.3 billion population are buying goods online, accounting for a market value of approximately $899 billion. By 2020, this number is forecasted to rise to a staggering $1.7 trillion, which eclipses the UK, US, Japanese and German markets combined. Consumers in the region have an appetite for British brands as there is a perceived quality, heritage and uniqueness to the sorts of goods we produce. The challenge, then, is for British brands to wake up to the potential of the market, understand the complexities of selling via marketplaces, and effectively rollout the trade of their products into China at an extremely promising time for its ecommerce market.

The sheer volume of the population is the driving force behind China’s consumer market potential, but it is the way in which its culture of consumerism has developed over the past 50 years that has specifically led to its widespread adoption of ecommerce. Compared with the West’s heritage of consumerism spanning hundreds of years, China has entered the global stage at a very young age. It is heavily integrated with digital and online services because its Generation X has also experienced the digital revolution of the past 30 years at the same time. While many consumers in the UK still consider the ‘High Street’ as a fundamental element of the shopping experience, consumers in China do not have the same relationship with physical shops, and are happy to do the bulk of their purchasing online. As one ecommerce expert noted, “In other countries, ecommerce is a way to shop, but in China, it is a lifestyle.”

Certain digital platforms dictate the ecommerce culture in China. The likes of, Taobao, and TMall serve as hugely popular online marketplaces, drawing in hundreds of millions of users per site each month. Most consumers supplement these services with communications platforms such as WeChat to discuss their online experiences with fellow users in the community. Because Chinese consumers are much more vocal and reciprocal when buying goods online, this in turn drives higher retailer standards, as vendors know they stand the risk of being discredited by a highly active ecommerce community. Accordingly, China’s commercial logistics network is particularly advanced, with consumers in remote parts of the country expecting speedy delivery and pristine packaging.

While Chinese consumer standards for online purchasing may be higher than in the UK, the benefit for brands cracking the market and generating demand in the region is worth any business’s time and financial investment. With a voracious appetite for online buying, successful retailers to China must be ready to react quickly to developing trends in the market, and be able to meet considerable demand for their products.   

Ultimately, brands that currently distribute to key European markets and the US, or are considering doing so, need to factor China into their future ecommerce plans, otherwise they will lose market share to a global consumer power developing at a much more aggressive rate than anywhere else in the world. With almost a quarter of all ecommerce sales in China relating to apparel, footwear and accessories, Britain is well placed as a high-quality producer of these products to capitalise on online trade in the region. Pitney Bowes is a globally trusted partner that facilitates cross-border trade for companies to 220+ countries and territories. China should be on the radar, and we can provide the services to make your entry into the market a success.

You can also download the full 2016 Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Study report to learn more about the buying preferences of global buyers.

You may also like

USA: Realising the transatlantic trade opportunity

Transatlantic ecommerce between Britain and the U.S. is booming. What tactics should British retailers adopt to boost online sales from American consumers?

Learn more

Satisfying the borderfree shopper requires nothing less than a (R)Evolution

Pitney Bowes Commerce Complete™ for Retail is the first commerce platform to make global, unified commerce possible, Anywhere to Everywhere™.

Learn more

3 qualities missing from your cross-border ecommerce strategy

It’s one thing to enable cross-border ecommerce, another to actually find and sell to customers. Jonathan Kapplow of Pitney Bowes offers tips to help retailers.

Learn more