Demand for imported goods grows among cross-border shoppers
Consumers view ski equipment at a shopping center in Beijing on Jan 2, 2023. [PHOTO by ZHAO JUN/CHINA NEWS SERVICE]
Chinese consumers have shown vibrant purchasing power for exquisite and premium consumer goods, with their spending on imported and foreign-branded products becoming a key driver for upgraded consumption, according to industry insiders.
Li Yanchuan, head of Amazon China Global Store and Prime, said,"Young Chinese consumers, especially Generation Z, use independent thinking and judgment when choosing brands, and they prefer to pursue niche lifestyles and personalized products."
The "stay-at-home economy" has activated more consumption scenarios and needs, and shopping for healthy quality-of-life products has become the new norm, Li said.
"Beauty, personal care and clothing have been the most popular categories among consumers in online cross-border shopping," he added.
Sales of fishing, skiing, camping and other outdoor sports products have witnessed rapid growth, while virtual reality equipment, hand-drip coffee products, and tableware and kitchen utensils with unique designs have seen increasing demand from Chinese shoppers in recent years, Li said.
He added that orders for online cross-border shopping are still mainly being placed in first-tier cities. However, residents in second-and third-tier cities have shown rapidly growing purchasing power. Amazon will further enrich cross-border shopping scenarios based on consumers who share similar interests and hobbies, Li said.
Amazon Global Store's first front-end bonded warehouse will start operating in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, this year to better serve Chinese consumers' demand for imported products.
In 2021, China became the largest market among Amazon Global Store businesses worldwide, with sales surging more than ninefold compared with 2015.
The company stepped up its localization push in China by launching its WeChat mini program in 2019. This program is specially designed to build a social commerce experience for Chinese consumers, and covers fields such as livestreaming, social media networks and content.
Cross-border e-commerce in China has grown exponentially in recent years. Statistics from the General Administration of Customs show the import and export scale of such e-commerce reached 1.98 trillion yuan ($292.8 billion) in 2021, a rise of 15 percent year-on-year.
Chen Tao, an analyst at internet consultancy Analysys in Beijing, said: "The penetration of cross-border e-commerce in lower-tier cities and townships has increased in recent years. Chinese consumers have demonstrated rising demand for diversified, personalized and niche products from abroad."
Online shopping via livestreaming is highly popular among the post-80s and post-90s generation of consumers, Chen added.
According to a report from Chinese e-commerce platform JD's Consumption and Industry Development Research Institute, imported brands, including mobile phones, personal care products, cosmetics, watches, eyeglasses, infant and maternal goods, nutrition and healthcare products, have gained popularity among Chinese shoppers.
People in the 26 to 35 age group are the main consumers of imported products, accounting for nearly 50 percent among all age groups. In addition, consumers aged from 46 to 55 have contributed to the fastest growth in purchasing imported products.
Imported items gained traction among consumers during the Singles Day shopping carnival last year. In the first 10 minutes of the promotional campaign, which began at 8 pm on Oct 30, turnover of products in JD's virtual national pavilion, covering overseas brands from more than 90 countries, rose more than 12 times year-on-year.
Liu Hui, director of JD's Consumption and Industry Development Research Institute, said overseas brands should pay more attention to lower-tier cities, speed up digital transformation, and design and launch more different products to better meet consumers'diversified needs.
Market consultancy iiMedia Research said that with China's further opening-up, gradual improvement in logistics and deliveries, and people's rising incomes, demand for imported goods will continue to increase and provide a big boost to upgraded consumption.
Zhang Tianbing, head of Deloitte Asia-Pacific's consumer products and retail industry, said: "With expanding domestic demand and advances in emerging retail technologies, China has introduced preferential policies, such as lowering import taxes and expanding the range of goods allowed to be imported. This has prompted a surge in cross-border e-commerce imports despite the COVID-19 pandemic, underlining a period of rapid growth for the nation's imported goods market."
The boom in celebrity livestreaming has spurred cross-border e-commerce purchases by domestic consumers. Moreover, overseas brands are moving to cross-border e-commerce platforms as they expand their distribution channels following disruptions to offline retail, Zhang said.
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