The cross-border e-commerce imports in China have been rising due the demand of foreign goods in China and the development of cross-border logistics. Many cross-border online marketplaces have also come up in recent years to serve as a one-stop-destination for Chinese consumers to buy products from all over the world.
By the end of 2021, Tmall Global (Alibaba backed cross-border shopping platform) had over one-third of all B2C cross-border e-commerce retailers. In 2019, Alibaba had also acquired Koala, the second-largest cross-border e-commerce platform in China.
Due to this, Alibaba now has a dominance and occupies over 60 percent of China’s cross-border import online retail market.
China is also a key player when it comes to sourcing products and exporting them to the world. Due to Covid-19, the cross border commerce market in China went through a phase of uncertainty and instability. However, in 2021, the global logistics system recovered from expensive sea shipping and the price hikes in air freight.
The Chinese businesses also developed strategies to minimize delivery time and costs. They started transporting the products to warehouses in the destination countries instead of shipping directly to end buyers.
Key Statistics and Trends – Cross-border E-commerce
- In 2020, China’s cross-border e-commerce imports and exports reached 1.69 trillion yuan (about 260.9 billion U.S. dollars), which was up by 31.1 percent from the previous year.
- Over the past five years, China’s cross-border e-commerce has grown by nearly 10 times.
- About 68 percent of Chinese consumers consider foreign goods as better quality, particularly in the fashion and beauty industries. These industries make up the largest segment of e-commerce imports.
- In 2020, China’s cross-border e-commerce imports reached a value of $88.2 billion, which was an increase of 16.5 percent from 2019.
- The trade volume of China’s cross border ecommerce imports reached around 1.9 trillion USD in 2020
- In 2022, The State Council of China established 46 new cross-border e-commerce pilot zones where businesses benefit from preferential tax policies and streamlined customs procedures. The total number of such zones in China is now 105. When companies sell items to Chinese consumers from these zones, they benefit from a reduced import tariff, which lowers the overall tax for them.’
What Is Cross-Border Commerce?
The term ‘Cross border ecommerce’ is used to refer to any international sale of a product or service between two parties that interact through an online marketplace platform. There are four different types of Cross border commerce options.
The first is B2C which is a trade between a business and a consumer. Then, there’s B2B which is a trade between two businesses (brands or wholesalers). There’s also C2C which is trade between two individuals. It’s also referred to as non-formal business. And lastly, there is Direct to Consumer trade that a
B2B: Trade between two businesses, often brands or wholesalers.
C2C: Trade between two individuals (non-formal business, e.g. unlicensed Daigous)
D2C: Direct to consumer trade where the business sells to customers directly, through owned channels instead of selling through any online marketplace.
Cross-Border Commerce in China
Since there’s a huge demand of foreign goods in China, there’s another common way for Chinese customers to make purchases online known as Daigou. It’s an illegal activity in which Daigou shoppers purchase the desired goods from a region outside China and then either post them to China or bring it with them in their luggage when they return. Once the goods reach China, they are sold for profit.
In 2020, shopping through daigou shoppers contributed a remarkable 70 to 80 percent to the RMB 230 billion (USD $35 billion) spent by Chinese consumers in the overseas luxury market. The demand for these products grew further in 2021. Moreover, this trend of shopping is likely to continue till 2022 as fewer Chinese people are likely to travel to Europe during the pandemic.
However, with new Chinese E-commerce laws and the rise of cross-border Ecommerce platforms, the Daigou industry is facing challenges.
The law now requires them to pay taxes and to register as market entities. Moreover, cross-border e-commerce platforms are now well-integrated with payment tools like AliPay and UnionPay that have made e-commerce accessible and available to Chinese consumers. Due to this, Chinese buyers are able to trust these platforms.
This has created a huge opportunity for foreign businesses to start selling in China.
New Guidelines For Cross-Border E-Commerce in China
The new guidelines passed by the Chinese Ministry of Finance (CBEC) in 2019. Some of the important ones were –
- The single-transaction amount increased to 5,000 RMB (727 USD) from 2,000 RMB (291 USD).
- The annual amount of cross border purchases increased from 26,000 RMB (3,782 USD) to 20,000 RMB (2,909 USD) per individual.
- The positive list now has 63 new items categories for purchases under the cross border ecommerce in China.
- These new categories include health care products, sparkling wine, beer, and fitness equipment.
- CBEC tax-rebate expanded from 15 cities to 37 cities which also include Beijing and Shanghai.
- The one-man businesses (Daigus) need an official business license to sell their products.
Retail Marketplaces: China Cross Border Ecommerce
There are several platforms for cross border ecommerce in China. The list is led by Tmall and JD.com. With 48%, 25-34-year-olds are the largest user segment. Besides, cross border online shoppers are highly educated with a high income. But we don’t want to keep the full list from you. So, without further ado, here are the main players.
1. Tmall & Tmall Global (Alibaba)
Alibaba’s Tmall is an impressive leader of successful online businesses: it is the 3rd most visited website worldwide!
Alibaba is one of the top wholesale websites in the world. It offers B2B transactions from China to the whole world. Aliexpress is Alibaba’s non-CBEC and B2C platform, offering products from China to the whole world. Another non-CBEC platform by Alibaba is TaoBao. Payment on all of Alibaba’s platforms is Alipay.
Whereas there are several trading opportunities within the Middle Kingdom, Tmall China (天猫) refers to the CBEC trade from the world to China.
Tmall Global is competitively expensive and getting your foot in the door comes with a certain risk, as Tmall may reject products that don’t fit their strategy, and you might even lose your deposit.
Since August 2019, Tmall Global offers TOF (Tmall Overseas Fulfillment) – a consignment solution that allows brands to sell a small number of products on the Tmall Global platform. It is ideal for businesses, which are new to the Chinese market, to test their products and modify them to the taste of the Middle Kingdom.
The main difference between Tmall and Tmall Global is that Tmall only accepts businesses that have an offline presence in China.
2. JD Worldwide
JD first specialized in electronics and today offers a wide variety of products on JD.com B2B (China – China) and JD Worldwide B2B (Worldwide – China). Since JD’s major stakeholder is Tencent (WeChat, QQ), the JD products are displayed on WeChat when searching for products. They can be purchased via WeChat Pay.
This player also massively invests in high tech to realize drone delivery and delivery by autonomous trucks. Compared to Tmall, JD Worldwide is cheaper.
3. Kaola (Alibaba)
Kaola was originally founded by NetEase and purchased by Alibaba for 2 billion USD in 2019. It focuses on selling high-quality “western” products to middle-class Chinese consumers. Brand awareness is essential for success in the Chinese market. Therefore, non-exclusive brands are advised to set aside a budget for marketing and brand building.
VIP.com specializes in online discount sales. Although it is not yet well-known outside of China, it is one of the world’s fastest-growing retailers.
5. RED (Xiaohongshu)
The “Little Red Book” has over 85 million monthly active users, who post and share product reviews, travel blogs, and lifestyle stories via short videos and photos.
Pinduoduo is a popular channel for group-buying deals, in which Tencent (WeChat, QQ) invested. Collective buying enjoys great popularity in China. Amazon.com is currently in the process of opening a pop-up store on Pinduoduo. With this, it is only a matter of time until collective buying arrives in Europe and America.
7. WeChat Stores
A WeChat Store – either connected to your webshop or using a native WeChat shop – is your own free mobile platform that connects to the menu of an official WeChat account. You can custom-design your content, layout, and prices.
In the menu of your WeChat account, you can add links to your shops – through an H5 app, a mini-program, or an external website. The store visitors can do the quick and easy checkout via the “one-click-payment” function of WeChat Payment, as long as the shop owner implements the WeChat gateway. And as WeChat is becoming the do-it-all super platform, more and more businesses create WeChat stores.
Most larger global brands have a presence on one or several of these platforms since it provides high exposure to the market and allows them to benefit from the great quality and exposure of these platforms.
China Cross Border Ecommerce: What’s the Best Option for me?
Are you curious about how to leverage this seemingly endless potential of the Chinese cross-border business? AdChina.io can help your business to start selling in China.
Get in touch with us to find out more.