eCommerce in China 2017: Australian Retailer Guide

By: Nigel Ewart|LinkedIn Profile

China eCommerce

If you feel like you have a steady handle on your business in Australia, then you may be ready for something more. Perhaps you are wondering what’s next for your business and how to grow from here.

Have you ever thought of opening the doors of your business to the Chinese market?

Creating your own international brand may be exactly what you need to take your business to the next level. And, China is a great place to start.

Read on to learn more about China’s market and how you can become part of it!

Why the Chinese Market Is Good for Business

The Chinese economy is the world’s leading marketplace. In 2016, it produced $21.27 trillion dollars, ranking at first place.

China helps to maintain the currency value of other countries. It holds 27.9% of the public debt and over one trillion dollars in treasuries.

China is also a leading world importer, coming in at third. In 2016, China imported $1.6 trillion. Many of its “exports” are manufactured by other countries within China, because of its agreements with foreign manufacturers.

In 2013, the Chinese market held an amazing 10% annual growth rate. And, when skeptics began to weigh in, China quickly formulated a plan of economic reform to maintain its place in world trade.

When companies market to China, they are marketing to the largest population of any country. There are currently around 1.37 billion people living there.

The Chinese market creates an opportunity unlike other foreign economies. Because of its population, economic production and leading track record in recent years, it offers foreign businesses the chance to grow exponentially.

How You Can Sell to China

Selling your products or services internationally might seem a bit confusing and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to dissuade you.

Even amidst challenges, United States sellers have made billions selling to the Chinese market. And, European countries have been very successful in reaching Chinese consumers and increasing their profits in recent years.

If you are ready to expand your business’s horizons, there are steps that you should take so that you can break into the world’s largest economy.

Here are some helpful tips that you should know if you want to sell to the Chinese market:

1. Focus on creating brand awareness among Chinese consumers

In 2011, approximately one-third of companies selling in China, both national and international, focused on brand awareness as one of their business goals. Today, while there has been somewhat of a shift in business objectives to increase growth and profits, establishing your brand continues to carry weight in your projected success rate.

International brands must work even harder to overcome the people’s bias towards “homegrown” brands.

To establish your brand in the Chinese market, you should consider launching an aggressive marketing campaign. Television, mobile and digital advertising in the country tend to impact brand awareness. So, your marketing budget needs to include a variety of strategies that target your audience most effectively.

Within the last decade, research has indicated that 90% of consumers in China rely on mobile and digital advertisements. Mobile and digital marketing are especially important in reaching the younger consumer population.

In 2015, China had 659 million social media users, more than the United States and Europe combined. Make sure that your strategies take into account the power of social media. It can be an effective voice and less expensive option in establishing your brand among Chinese consumers.

Make sure that your strategies take into account the power of social media, as it can be an effective voice and less expensive option in establishing your brand among Chinese consumers.

2. Consider reaching second-tier countries

A 2011 survey of China-based senior executives revealed that 8 out of 10 respondents believed growth was expanding beyond first tier countries.

This is important for foreign businesses because it creates new areas of opportunity.

Therefore, you should not concentrate all of your energies on the countries that are most known for their consumer base. But, rather, you should also widen your efforts to include countries outside of Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin, which are likely to receive high attention from potential sellers. Tapping into the second-tier countries will prove to be a wiser strategy.

3. Choose the Best Payments and Platform to Sell Your Products

The largest platforms for selling in China are owned by the Alibaba Group. The major platforms that are under Alibaba are Tmall and Taobao.

Taobao allows anyone to set up an account to buy and sell their products. Tmall is specifically for businesses selling their products.

It is important to get registered as a Chinese seller. Not only will it ensure that your products are covered when you ship, but it is also necessary if you wish to sell your products on Tmall’s platform.

Unlike many countries that have a large variety of small platforms for retailers to choose from, the Chinese market is dominated by only a couple of major platforms.

Alibaba Group offers an attractive platform for international sellers, and the account set up and retail process is fairly simple.

You also need to consider which payment methods that you will accept. Almost 50% of online purchases in China are made using Alipay, so if you are going to have just one this would be the top recommended choice. Tenpay is the second most used payment method, used for just under 20% of online purchases there.

One thing to note is that Chinese consumers do not tend to use credit cards to pay for international products. This means that it is very important to set up one of the alternative payment methods, such as those listed above.

4. Abide by the Chinese calendar

The calendar has a major impact on retail trends all over the world.

Knowing the Chinese calendar will help you to know which days to expect high and low numbers in returns.

The calendar will also help direct your marketing efforts and guide prices and trends regarding your merchandise. For example, prior to gift giving holidays, you may want to increase your marketing techniques and launch sale campaigns. Whereas, after a major holiday, it may be time to cut your prices in order to make room for the next season’s merchandise.

It is impossible to know the Chinese market trends and expectations without the knowledge of their calendar. Your own calendar makes little difference when selling to Chinese consumers.

5. Make sure that your website is versatile and easy to access

When selling to the Chinese market, it is crucial that your website is top notch and geared towards a versatile audience.

This may mean adding an additional size chart or including merchandise that aims to please specific areas.

Another major consideration for selling to China is to make sure that your web site is accessible across major e-commerce platforms. And, be sure that your site is mobile savvy.

According to one source, there are 574 million mobile social media users in China. And, 20% of China consumers make mobile purchases per month. If your business is not mobile friendly, then you are likely to lose out on a substantial selling opportunity.


Selling to the Chinese market can help your business to grow and expand in exciting ways. However, in order to be successful, you should understand your consumer base and be willing to accommodate them as much as possible.

Selling internationally can present a few challenges. But, with a little research and effort, it can open a world of opportunity and help the success of your business reach new heights.

Ready to grow your business? Click here to learn more about e-commerce trends and opportunities for Australia-based companies!

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