The Difference of E-commerce between China and the West

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e-commerce in China

A huge population, continually ascending number of internet users and widespread mobile payment make China one of the world’s biggest e-commerce market. The industry was always destined to transform retail, and COVID lockdowns accelerated its trajectory further. While it has its similarities to the west, the e-commerce landscape in China shows distinctive characteristics in terms of the shopping experience, marketing approach and technical support.

Shopping experience

Black Friday is a traditional positive boost in retail sales started in the late 1980s in the United States, and later grew worldwide. The biggest shopping festival typically stretches from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. Retailers extend beyond normal hours and offer cut-throat pricing and deals to increase traffic.

Meanwhile, in 2009, China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba launched Singles Day as a kind of “anti-Valentine’s Day”, promoting the positives of being single. It is now one of the busiest online shopping days of the year and continues to grow in size and scope. Rather than simply offering deals in brick-and-mortar stores, Alibaba takes one step further and kicks off Singles Day with a gala event. The nationwide broadcasted show features numerous celebrities every year including Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey and others, while viewers can interact with the show through mobiles, getting coupons and voting in polls.

Marketing channel

Days before the annual shopping festival, US merchants usually start to send advertising emails with offers and discount codes or create Pop-ups on social media in order to stand out in the advertising chaos.

Similar to the Home Shopping Network, e-commerce players in China utilise live streaming to promote and sell products through influencers, known as KOL (key opinion leaders), on their own social media channels. Hosts demonstrate and critique the products and answer call-in questions while customers can interact with comments, likes and click the link of the product. Livestream influencers are not celebrities or models, but it is their authenticity that customers enjoy. Manufacturers pitch the KOL and let them choose the products that they want to feature. Elite Asia’s professional copywriting team creates the down-to-earth and informative script for influencers to better explain the features of the products and urge viewers with calls to action.

Technical support

With the different regulatory environment and market conditions, companies in the west tend to develop individual app for their own business. Customers have to use several apps to complete a purchase, one for viewing products, one for making payment, and another for sharing information with friends.

The rise of a super app in China has blended the best of the physical and digital world, facilitating anytime, anywhere commerce. A super app plays host to a wide variety of different services and features under one roof, providing seamless convenience on the path to purchase. Evolved from a simple messaging app, Tencent’s WeChat app is now encompassing everything from e-commerce to payments to health services. From discovery to purchase, it simplifies all aspects of transaction without the need to exit the app, making shopping virtually effortless.

China is a tantalizing prospect for any e-commerce company in the world. Thus, understanding the differences between the two e-commerce landscapes is the first step towards building a successful strategy for the China market. Elite Asia’s China localisation and digital marketing teams are here to help break through barriers to international expansion.

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