Online shopping in China

Everything is social these days—we play games with strangers online, we post vacation photos on social media platform under the sun so that our friends can comment, and we check forums and reviews before splurging on a particular smartphone model. Even activities that used to be solitary—jogging for instance—have been given a social layer; now apps let us compare our mileage with other runners.

The power of social media is even more pervasive in online shopping. For example: Online Shopping Taobao English agent. How many times have we bought something just because we saw it featured in a blog somewhere last week, or overheard friends discussing about it on Facebook? We may not be aware of it, but a big deal of our purchases (whether online or from physical retail stores) are influenced by the social media we frequent.

Now, social wouldn't be where it is if it wasn't for the instant gratification we get from our mobiles. Whether it is posting pictures of your dinner or a new outfit on WeChat moments or being social through mobile apps, social and mobile are more connected than ever!

Just ask the Chinese—social media plays a big part on how they spend their money and mobile has increasingly become the "how" when it comes to online purchases.
What's So Special About E-commerce in China?

It's a different crowd in China, far different from Western shoppers. This can easily be concluded from an observation made early on by Jack Ma, former English teacher now mogul of China's most popular online retailer Alibaba which he started in 1999. Last May saw the company preparing to release its IPO, which analysts estimated would raise approximately $20 billion. At that rate, it might even beat Facebook's own IPO from back in 2012.

And to think that Alibaba began as a simple B2B website, facilitating transactions between Chinese manufacturers and small businesses.

So what were those observations about Chinese shoppers? Two things:

First is that many Chinese don't use credit cards, which naturally poses a problem for e-commerce sites. Ma's simple workaround was to create Alipay—a service which allows customers to deposit money in a bank account, after which the money is kept in escrow and released to the seller only after the customer has received the goods. The escrow system has cultivated a sense of protection among vendors and buyers, which has encouraged them to do more business.

The second observation is that Chinese are part of a culture that encourages and places a high value on savings. How do you convince shoppers to let go of money then? Again, Ma's simple solution was to offer the basic services of his website free for both buyers and sellers. Once customers realized the value they were getting from Alibaba, transactions came flowing in. And so did profit. In a 2009 interview, Ma was quoted saying:

"A lot of people thought I was stupid and crazy when I said customers are No. 1, employees are No. 2, and shareholders are No. 3, but that's our philosophy," he says. "Shareholders, I respect them, but they're No. 3."

By identifying the wants, needs, and special circumstances of its customers—both the vendors and the public—Alibaba has made itself an indispensable and trustworthy service, the default go-to for everyone who wants to buy or sell anything.

Through diversifying its customer base to cater to other segments in society, Alibaba has spread into other highly successful ventures—Tmall (B2C), and Taobao (C2C)—which have become the biggest players in the Chinese e-commerce market. Although not quite a worldwide household name yet, when Alibaba does achieve that status, Amazon and eBay are going to face some pretty intense competition.
  1. 2015/11/10(火) 10:38:42|
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