Tackling China—the World's Most Lucrative Ecommerce Market

Emilee Valken

July 24, 2020

China is an ecommerce goldmine—there are 800 million internet users in the country with over half of the population active on its most popular channels. That being said, China is also an intimidating unknown for brands considering international expansion outside the US.

In a recent webinar hosted by Pattern, experts from our international team dove into the fundamentals of the Chinese market and what brands should know as they think about taking their product there.

Why China?

The level of growth occurring across China’s ecommerce channels—even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic—is exciting. The area’s Gross Market Value in 2019 was $1,935 billion, and its biggest platforms are pulling numbers to rival Amazon.

China Ecommerce Logistics Specialists, GMV | Pattern

“I really think the top two players of China will eclipse all of Amazon Global in the next several years,” said John LeBaron, Pattern’s Chief Revenue Officer.

The ecommerce platform Alibaba, which encompasses Tmall, Tmall Global, and Taobao, is dominating the Chinese marketplace, accounting for 50.4% of online sales. According to Joanna Perry, Pattern’s Head of Global Marketing, Tmall grew by 10% in the worst of the pandemic and Alibaba at large has a GMV of $945 billion.

China Ecommerce Growth on Tmall During 2020 | Pattern

Consumers love these platforms, and the brands that are effectively using them are finding lots of success.

“If you’re not already selling into China and you want to start,” Perry said, “I think we would all agree that Tmall global selling crossborder is the best place to start.”

Alibaba Marketplace Growth in China Ecommerce | Pattern

Things to know about China

China’s approach to customer service and distribution differ from the US, and those distinctions are important to keep in mind as you consider if expansion is right for your business.

“You’ve got to understand that the culture is different and they might have a different paradigm when they’re dealing with you,” said Chris Vincent, Chief International Officer at Pattern.

The Chinese concept of face

According to Vincent, one of the most important things to keep in mind as your brand considers China is the idea of face.

“It’s almost like dignity and prestige wrapped up into one thing,” Vincent said. “Face really can stop people from giving you an honest answer about things if they think that it will diminish their face or make them lose face.”

Maintaining face is particularly important to keep in mind when building business relationships and partnerships within China. It can also impact your growth in the market.

Desiree Wong, Senior Consultant for Pattern, said Chinese consumers equate the brands they’re using to their social status. In previous years, affordable luxury brands have been huge business for just that reason, so focusing your marketing on face can help.

Customer service and delivery

Most customer service in China is carried out via live chat, and according to Vincent, 80 to 95% of all transactions for your brand will touch customer service in one form or another. This is because Chinese shoppers are very careful about what they purchase. They need to know that they can trust the businesses they’re buying from and that the products they see are the products they’ll get. That’s why brands need to offer stellar customer service.

Customer Service and China Ecommerce Trade Partner Team | Pattern

“A well-trained customer service function is worth its weight in gold in China,” Vincent said.

Chinese consumers need as much information as they can get before making a purchase. Wong says brands should use 360 images, videos, and live-streams on platforms like Tmall to provide that information.

“For each single product, you’ll need even more than the A+ content on the Amazon US to illustrate what the benefits of the products are and also how it would look if they received the products so they won’t have any surprises,” Wong said.

Chinese consumers also expect to get their products very quickly, said Vincent. With 1 day shipping being standard in the Chinese market, considering the logistics of your shipping as you enter that market is another thing to think about.

Sales holidays in China

Similar to Amazon Prime and Black Friday, sales holidays in China drive billions in revenue and can lead to lots of growth for brands who do them right. JD’s 618 festival, a sale occurring on June 18th, and Singles Day, China’s version of Prime Day, are great examples of major market holidays there.

In fact, Singles Day crushed Amazon’s US Black Friday sales numbers in the first 20 minutes of its launch. It goes to show the value in that market.

Standing out in China

There are many ways your brand can stand out in China. According to Wong, using capabilities like live-streaming and interacting with customers through microblogging are a few examples. Tmall has the ability to reward customers based on their engagement with brands, and that engagement can help you stand out. Providing marketing through local influencers who can spread the word about your product and increase its face value is one way you can increase engagement.

Marketing in China on Ecommerce | Pattern

Thorne, a supplements brand based in the US, made their entry into China with the help of Pattern by holding a sports event and inviting influencers and media to spread the word. This in addition to other marketing tactics brought Thorne $2 million in sales their first year. Read more about Thorne’s success in China here.

4 things to consider in a China ecommerce trade partner

Having a partner that's just as invested as you in your Chinese ecommerce store and growth is important, but it's even more important that you choose wisely when going with a China ecommerce trade partner.

We suggest you consider these four areas when evaluating a trade partner to do business with in China:

  1. Make sure you have access to data.
  2. Get someone with category and localized market expertise.
  3. Make sure they have on-platform and off-platform channel capabilities.
  4. Find experts in evaluating your product category ecosystem.

China ecommerce partner evaluation process | Pattern

Next steps

Pattern is launching a store in China for US supplement brands that are looking to sell their products in the Chinese market. As Chris Vincent stated, launching a store on your own can cost upwards of $100,000 and 25% of expected sales volume goes straight back to marketing. This can be difficult for companies that currently have no brand awareness in China.

Whether you’re a supplement brand wanting to launch in the Pattern store, a brand looking to expand into the international marketplace, or you already trade in China and are looking for a partner to help you succeed—we can help. To learn more, schedule a demo with one of our China ecommerce experts below.

China Ecommerce Data Trade Partner | Pattern

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Sept 27, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 27th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon drives renewable energy push with 71 new projects Amazon is planning to add 2.7 gigawatts of clean energy capacity through a couple of new projects as the company attempts to use 100% renewable energy by 2025. The ecommerce business will soon have a total of 329 renewable energy projects, generating 50,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy, which is equivalent to powering 4.6 million US homes every year. [Read more on Reuters](https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/amazon-drives-renewable-energy-push-with-71-new-projects-2022-09-21/) Amazon launches Prime Early Access Sale Amazon is launching a new 2-day shopping event for its Prime members only, beginning on the 11th of October. Across 15 countries, Prime customers will have access to the shopping event, with thousands of deals on offer globall, ranging from fashion to electronics to essentials. The event has the purpose of giving Prime users the chance to spread the cost of items over the winter months, 6 weeks ahead of Black Friday. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/26/prime-early-access-sale/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Shopify unveils new localisation tool Shopify is launching a new localisation tool, called Translate & Adapt, which works with Shopify Markets to offer localisation for sellers who are looking to expand into new markets. The tool translates a user’s online store into different languages, including product pages and information pages. Merchants are also able to create different shipping terms for each market using the new tool, which allows international expansion and offers a more localised consumer experience, unveiling new potential. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/shopify-launches-new-localisation-tool/) Etsy is set to invest hundreds of millions into its marketing platform Etsy CEO claims that the company is on route to spend more than $570 million USD on marketing this year. Even during a time of macroeconomic pressure, inflation and rising interest rates, the company is preparing itself and its sellers for the upcoming holiday season and is focused on retaining interest from buyers. [Read more on Yahoo News](https://uk.news.yahoo.com/etsy-600-million-on-marketing-ceo-154054219.html) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Meta looks to cut costs by 10% in the coming months Meta employees are facing job redundancies as the company plans to cut its costs by 10% over the next few months. Meta reported a 22% YoY increase in costs and expenses, totalling over $20 billion USD. The cuts are expected to come in the form of job redundancies as a result of department reorganisations rather than formal layoffs. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/22/meta-to-slash-costs-by-10-over-coming-months/) DHL teams up with Quadient to offer smart locker deliveries in the UK DHL and tech company, Quadient, have partnered to offer smart lockers parcel pick-up throughout the UK. The new contactless, secure locker stations will give recipients more choice and flexibility to receive their parcels at a time and location best suited to them. The partnership plans to install 500 locker stations across the country by the end of 2022. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/21/dhl-partners-with-quadient-to-offer-smart-locker-delivery/) The online fashion market is set to be worth nearly $170 billion USD in 2025 The European online fashion retail market is set to grow 50% by 2025, with an online turnover of $170 billion USD, which is 33% of the retail branch’s total. Cross-border marketplaces prove to be the largest drivers of this growth, with online websites and apps like Vinted largely pushing the market’s online growth. Zalando recently became the largest cross-border fashion retailer/marketplace, responsible for 11.7% of the online market’s share. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/online-fashion-market-worth-e175-billion-in-2025/)
Sept 20, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 20th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon to raise pay and add extra work benefits for delivery drivers Following the rise in fuel prices and protests by Amazon workers, the ecommerce giant is raising its delivery drivers’ pay and adding more work benefits. Amazon has mentioned that it will be investing $450 million into rate increases along with an education program and a Delivery Service Partners program. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/14/amazon-to-raise-delivery-drivers-pay-and-add-more-work-benefits/) Amazon announces it will give away shipping software to merchants at no cost Amazon has recently announced that it will be giving ecommerce merchants free software to manage shopper orders on and off its platform as it extends its reach. The ecommerce giant will be ending monthly costs for sellers using Veeqo, a shipping software it recently acquired and instead offer to them a new, free shipping software. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/16/amazon-to-give-away-shipping-software-to-merchants/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Walmart unveils new virtual fitting rooms In an effort to drive clothing sales, Walmart has launched virtual fitting rooms while competitors reduce spending amid the cost of living crisis. The virtual try-on tool can be used by Walmart customers to virtually measure the clothing items and see how the products would look on them. Shoppers will now be able to see how over 270,000 clothing items on Walmart’s ecommerce site would look on their bodies. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/15/walmart-launches-virtual-fitting-rooms-to-drive-clothing-sales/?utmsource=Retail+Gazette+Subscribers&utmcampaign=2da7f0f8f8-EMAILCAMPAIGN202209150742&utmmedium=email&utmterm=0d23e2768b6-2da7f0f8f8-61040615) THG slashes sales and profit expectations The Hut Group has slashed its forecasts for 2022 as rising interest rates, inflation and energy costs take a toll on consumers. Previously, THG estimated its sales growth to be between 22-25% but after a recent evaluation, has lowered this prediction to between 10-15%. Initial predictions did not take into account the negative effects of ceasing sales in Russia and Ukraine along with the impact that the cost-of-living has had on consumer spending. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/15/thg-slashes-forecast-as-cost-of-living-crisis-hits-consumers-wallets/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- DHL and Post Office team up to provide click and collect services Through a partnership between delivery company, DHL and Post Office, a new click and collect service is to be tested at Post Offices before rolling out to over 1000 branches across the UK. Online shoppers will now have the option of choosing their local Post Office as a collection point, and DHL will fulfil the delivery aspect, opening up networks for both parties. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/14/post-office-partners-with-dhl-express-to-provide-click-and-collect-services/) US consumer watchdog plans to further regulate the BNPL sector The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has raised concerns regarding the collection of consumer data and the fast-growing nature of the BNPL sector, which includes companies such as Affirm and Klarna. The CFPB is worried that these companies could be negatively impacting consumers’ financial health and aims to put better regulations in place to ensure consumers are safe and empowered. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/16/us-consumer-watchdog-to-start-regulating-bnpl-sector/) Japanese ecommerce market estimated to grow by 6.9% in 2022 The ecommerce market in Japan, largely dominated by domestic online retailers including Reakuten and Mercari, is set to reach $194.3 billion USD in 2022, after seeing an annual compound growth rate of 5.2% between 2018 and 2021. This makes Japan the fourth leading ecommerce market globally, following China, the US, and the UK. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/13/japan-ecommerce-market-to-grow-by-6-9-in-2022/) Ecommerce brands are spending more on TikTok ads TikTok may soon be surpassing Facebook and Google as the most lucrative advertising channel, with ecommerce brands spending 60% more on TikTok ads in Q2. Facebook is still ahead as the top choice for ecommerce advertisers but only grew by 5.6% from Q1, while Google grew 20.5% in Q2, and Snap declined 10.8% in Q2. [Read more on SearchEngineLand](https://searchengineland.com/ecommerce-brands-spent-60-more-on-tiktok-ads-in-q2-387876)
Sept 13, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 13th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon scales back on US warehouse facilities Amazon is shutting down two facilities with 300 employees, discarding plans for 42 facilities, and delaying plans to open a further 21 buildings across the US. The ecommerce giant is scaling back on hiring as well as the expansion of its vast delivery network, as it was left with an excess of space following its rapid expansion during the pandemic. [Read more on Business Insider](https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-closes-2-facilities-scraps-plans-42-new-buildings-report-2022-9?r=US&IR=T) --- Other Marketplace News --- JD.com is ‘betting’ on ecommerce grocery market Amidst a slowing economy and a decline in ecommerce, Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com has increased its urgency to seek new growth engines. The company is looking to boost its online grocery business through offline partnerships and expansion into lower-tier cities, where it may be able to unleash more consumption power. [Read more on The Star](https://www.thestar.com.my/tech/tech-news/2022/09/08/chinese-ecommerce-giant-jdcom-bets-big-on-online-grocery-lower-tier-markets-amid-slowing-economy) Shopee shuts operations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico Sea’s ecommerce arm, Shopee, has shut local operations in some LATAM countries but will continue to maintain cross-border operations in a few markets. Latin America is Sea’s most important region following South-east Asia, accounting for close to 19% of its revenue in 2021. The move away from these countries is largely due to increased levels of macro uncertainty and rising interest and inflation rates, and rather putting a focus on its core operations. [Read more on Straits Times](https://www.straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/seas-shopee-shuts-operations-in-argentina-chile-colombia-mexico-sources) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Instagram scales back in-stream shopping elements Instagram is re-examining its approach as it hasn’t been able to make ‘fetch’ happen. ‘Fetch’ in this context being the online shopping trends which have become all-consuming in China, and what Western social platforms have been hoping to add into their apps to make them more addictive and revenue-generating. Consumers have not been swayed by the latest shopping tools on TikTok and Instagram, leading to Instagram scaling back its in-stream shopping program. [Read more on SocialMediaToday](https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/instagram-scales-back-in-stream-shopping-elements-as-it-re-examines-its-app/631276/) FedEx Express supporting the growth of cross border ecommerce FedEx express has expanded its international commerce shipping service to four more markets across the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (AMEA) region in an effort to support the strong development of ecommerce in this region. Three of the fastest growing markets, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam are leading Southeast Asia’s ecommerce sales, which is set to reach $100 billion by 2023. [Read more on Post & Parcel](https://postandparcel.info/149889/news/e-commerce/fedex-express-supports-the-growth-of-cross-border-e-commerce-within-the-amea-region/) India ramps up hiring as companies prepare for shoppers Ecommerce companies are getting ready for the festive season by rapidly expanding their temporary workforce. As ecommerce in India grows, the country is predicted to have 372 million online shoppers by the end of 2022. The festive season this year, running from October to December, is expected to see a two-fold increase in logistics and delivery alone. During this period, companies are predicted to add 20% more to their existing workforce base, with a 8-10% higher pay scale compared to last year. [Read more on Business Insider India](https://www.businessinsider.in/business/ecommerce/news/the-great-indian-festival-of-hiring-e-commerce-companies-gear-up-for-indias-shoppers/articleshow/94000346.cms)