• Exploring new markets

China: why it’s your biggest opportunity

China is now the world’s largest ecommerce market, with consumers spending a record-breaking $750 billion online last year1 – more than Britain and the US combined. And with a growing demand for foreign goods, and 200 million2 new customers predicted by 2020, if you haven’t gone east yet – now’s the time.


It’s safe to say that Chinese ecommerce is booming. The latest statistics say it all.

  • 40% of the world’s ecommerce spend comes from China3
  • In June the government reported 41% year-on-year growth in online sales4
  • Sales are expected to top $1.7 trillion by 2020 – 80% bigger than the US5
  • In three years’ time the Chinese ecommerce market will be larger than that of the US, the UK, Japan, Germany and France combined6
  • The market is set to grow by 27% a year for the next three years6
  • There are now 731 million Internet users in China - more than the entire population of Europe7
  • 467 million of these Internet users shop online and the figure is growing daily7

Why there’s never been a better time to sell to China

Chinese consumers are richer and better connected than ever

Bigger incomes, greater connectivity in rural areas and a burgeoning middle class are three key reasons for the explosion in ecommerce in China. Put simply, the Chinese population, which currently stands at almost 1.4 billion8, is becoming richer, more connected and more aware of the joys of online retail.

Luckily for businesses outside the country/territory’s borders, it’s not just an appetite for home-grown products that is fuelling the ecommerce fire. Foreign products are in hot demand. This is partly because they’re often perceived as being better quality and more trustworthy.

In fact, cross-border ecommerce is so popular that there are even some new words to describe it: for example, “haitao” means buying imported items from online sites, and “daigou”, is when you have a buyer physically in a foreign country/territory buy items on your behalf9.

What do Chinese consumers want to buy?

Clothes, footwear and accessories are among the biggest sellers

As in all retail sectors, some products fly faster off virtual shelves in China than others. Clothes, shoes and accessories are hugely popular, as they are worldwide, and make up 25% of all China’s online sales10. And there’s a big trend towards choosing overseas brands. Other top sellers include:

  • foods and beverages
  • baby and maternity goods
  • wellness products such as vitamins
  • sports clothes and equipment
  • exotic health foods like acai berries and chia seeds

Top tips for success in China

Multi-device owners dedicate more time to online shopping than mobile-only consumers

1. Make sure your online shop is mobile friendly: mobile accounts for well over half of all ecommerce sales in China, and by 2021 this is expected to rise to 75%11. Make sure you offer a smooth user experience.

2. But don’t neglect your other channels: a report on Chinese ecommerce by the management consultancy firm McKinsey reveals that though China is a mobile-first market, multi-device owners - those who use laptops, smartphones and tablets - spend 17% more time shopping online than those who just use mobiles12.

3. Make good use of social media: it’s vital you have a strong social media presence. More and more Chinese consumers are using social media to buy – and 14% more are using social platforms to interact with retailers13.

4. Consider popular online sites: sites like TMall Global make it easy for foreign sellers to sell their wares in China. They take care of the paperwork and help with marketing and branding.

5. Use a professional translator: nothing is more off-putting to potential buyers than a site riddled with grammatical errors. Make sure you have a native speaker, preferable someone who knows the market, translating your copy.

There’s no doubt that making a move east – even if only virtually – could do wonders for your online business. And with FedEx Express by your side, helping you navigate customs and meeting your delivery deadlines, China really could be your oyster.


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