E-retailers bank on Black Friday for more consumers, bigger sales

The Covid-19 pandemic and the rapid development of the digital economy had a profound impact on Chinese consumers' attitudes and buying patterns.


An Amazon employee promotes products via a cross-border e-commerce livestreaming platform during the fourth China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Nov 6. [Photo/CHEN BIN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

November 26, 2021

Cross-border e-commerce platforms are doubling down on the Black Friday shopping carnival, which falls on Nov 26 this year, as young Chinese consumers, especially those living in lower-tier cities, have shown vibrant purchasing power for cross-border online shopping, industry experts said.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid development of the digital economy had a profound impact on Chinese consumers’ attitudes and buying patterns, they said, adding the boom in celebrity livestreaming has spurred cross-border e-commerce purchases by domestic consumers.

US tech giant Amazon kicked off this year’s Black Friday shopping festival on Nov 19. The 12-day gala is offering over 32 million authentic commodities covering over 550,000 international brands. Products for sale are from four countries-the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany. There are also tailor-made discounts for Chinese consumers.

Li Yanchuan, head of the China Global Store and Prime, Amazon, said the “stay-at-home economy” has activated more consumption scenarios and needs, and shopping for health and quality life has become the new norm. “Beauty, personal care and clothing have been the most popular categories among consumers in cross-border online shopping.”

Moreover, products like tableware and kitchen utensils, small home appliances, and gardening tools are very popular, Li said. For example, Tefal frying pans, DeLonghi coffee makers, and Koizumi study desks have gained popularity among more and more Chinese consumers.

Although orders of cross-border online shopping are still mainly from first-tier cities, residents living in lower-tier cities have displayed fast-growing purchasing power, a report jointly released by Amazon Global Store and Baidu said.

The report said the post-1990s generation is emerging as mainstream consumers, and cross-border online shoppers are clearly getting younger. The proportion of post-1990 users among the overall cross-border online shoppers has been increasing over the past few years.

It also said the growth of products in the healthcare category was very eye-catching due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and categories related to outdoor activities, such as tents and outdoor cooking utensils, were also welcomed by consumers.

Black Friday, which marks the start of the Christmas shopping season in the West, is a manic shopping day featuring deep discounts and packed retail outlets. In recent years, it has evolved into a bonanza for brick-and-mortar retailers, e-commerce players and consumers around the world. An increasing number of Chinese consumers have participated in the global shopping festival in recent years.

Mo Daiqing, a senior analyst at the Internet Economy Institute, a domestic consultancy, said major online cross-border retailers still hope to grasp opportunities arising from the enduring enthusiasm of consumers, although China’s Singles Day shopping extravaganza just ended about a week ago.

“The cross-border e-commerce has played a vital role in enriching product supply, promoting the development of new business models, and meeting the needs of consumers,” Mo said.

Ymatou, a Shanghai-based cross-border e-commerce site, is banking on livestreaming and ramping up efforts in supply chain services for livestreaming platforms and key opinion leaders. It has established a livestreaming supply chain department, which is poised to offer abundant overseas products, bonded warehouses, cross-border logistics, Customs clearance and luxury product authentication.

Zeng Bibo, founder and CEO of Ymatou, said the pandemic has directly driven the integration of livestreaming and cross-border e-commerce, given that limitations on going abroad for overseas products are holding Chinese consumers’ steps.

Ymatou plans to cooperate with more livestreaming platforms, multichannel networks and KOLs, enhance the supply chain and the logistics and distribution efficiency, and further improve consumer services, Zeng said.

“The penetration rate of cross-border e-commerce in lower-tier cities and townships has been increasing in recent years. Chinese consumers show a rising demand for diversified, personalized and niche products from abroad,” said Chen Tao, an analyst with internet consultancy Analysys in Beijing.

Shoppers using overseas livestreaming service can have clear and detailed information on products. For hosts, the service can help them interact with customers in real time and better answer the queries, which can improve shopping experiences, Chen said.

The introduction of preferential policies has sparked a surge in cross-border e-commerce imports despite the pandemic, said Zhang Tianbing, head of Deloitte Asia-Pacific’s consumer products and retail sector.

Zhang said the overseas brands are moving to cross-border e-commerce as they can expand distribution channels despite disruptions on offline retail.

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