August 23, 2013

Tapping into China’s e-commerce market

It’s time for Australian businesses to start thinking more about how they can tap into China’s booming e-commerce market. Lisa Goodhand, Director at China Blueprint Online shares some steps businesses can take to help boost their sales.

It’s no wonder all eyes are on China. With 580 million online shoppers – all with a taste for a good deal -China has one of the largest online shopping markets in the world. In the third quarter of 2012,China’s online retail market exceeded US$53.81 billion. While the numbers are already staggering, Chinese online shoppers don’t tend to buy from overseas sites. They’re not familiar with Australian web tools and purchase platforms, and in the majority of cases they’re not able to actually make a purchase.

Speak the right language

So what would it take for an Australian e-commerce site to open its shopping cart to the millions of online shoppers that China has to offer? First and foremost – say it in Chinese!

While more and more Chinese are now learning English, the majority still search and read in traditional Chinese. Shopping is a leisure activity, so why would Chinese consumers want the hassle of having to do it in a second language? By having all your business and product information mirrored in Chinese you’re potentially welcoming a much larger audience. And don’t forget your call to action. Once you convince your shopper to buy, make sure you have a Chinese language shopping cart.

Get busy

When you start looking at .cn (China) websites you’ll notice that ‘more is better’. Typical Chinese sites are very content heavy, loading up the home page with lots of links and information. While the trend in the West is to have concise and to the point content with lots of nice white spaces and borders, if you want to appeal to Chinese shoppers you need to get busy.

Video is good in any language

One of the most popular activities for Chinese online shoppers is streaming video content. So include plenty of video content on your site and make sure it’s featured on Youku or Tudou -China’s answer to YouTube (which can’t be viewed there).

Offer a solution they can actually use

The two single biggest issues for Western sites offering an e-commerce experience to a shopper located in China are payment and freight. The ordinary household citizen can’t simply pay you in Renminbi (RMB) and let the bank do the maths and send you Australian dollars.

You need to offer your Chinese customers a suitable payment platform that can receive Chinese currency. The solution is UnionPay Online Payments (UPOP). NAB has enabled UnionPay eCommerce on its NAB payment gateway for business. Once you integrate with NAB, you can accept UnionPay, which is China’s equivalent to EFTPOS, and your site can start accepting payments in RMB. Around 50 percent of cards in China are UnionPay cards – that’s just over 1.5 billion cards!

Freight can also be a challenge. While Chinese shoppers love a good deal, sometimes the cost of freight to deliver your goods can change their mind, as it’s generally quite expensive to express ship goods to China from Australia. There’s no point express shipping a lip gloss that costs $6 to China when the freight will cost you $30. This is where you should negotiate with your freight company and strike a deal.

You should also think about what goods have the highest perceived value so your shoppers feel they’re getting quality and value for money.

Go social

Finally, explore social media – the Chinese kind. Facebook and Twitter are banned in China, but there are plenty of others to choose from, such as Weibo and Renren. Chinese shoppers look to online communities and forums about new products and may rate new brands based on a business’s social media activity. So if you’re not social you may be rated poorly. Having an e-commerce site that appeals and is practical for mainland shoppers in China is possible. With a few tweaks, some Chinese language lessons and great products or services, you may be well on your way to boosting your sales.


This article was originally published in Talking Shop Winter 2013.  Read other Talking Shop articles.


*Market Monitor Report, Enfodesk 2012