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The rise of digitization and technology has created a whole new landscape for businesses, and Chinese ecommerce market trends are leading the way. 

With over 45.3% of China's retail sales taking place online in 2022, the country has become one of the largest and most lucrative ecommerce markets globally, surpassing the nearest runner-up, the UK, by a margin of 10 percentage points.

With the increasing demand for online shopping and the emergence of new technologies, the Chinese ecommerce market is expected to reach new heights in the coming years. 

In this article, we will explore the latest trends in the Chinese ecommerce market and how they are shaping the future of online shopping.

Why Should Your Business Target the Chinese Ecommerce Market?

The Chinese ecommerce market provides an attractive opportunity for businesses looking to grow their market share and tap into a rapidly expanding consumer base. 

China's large market size, with over 900 million active Internet users, provides businesses of all sizes with a vast pool of potential customers. Despite the pandemic and the ongoing global economic uncertainties, the nation's middle class is growing. And with their purchasing power rising, they are more willing to spend money online and pay for quality products and services.

Additionally, China’s ecommerce market is highly developed, and online channels have replaced offline shopping and become the dominant force in the retail market. It is an effective and efficient way for businesses to reach broad audiences while also offering an unprecedented level of convenience for consumers.

Moreover, mobile commerce is particularly prevalent in the country, with consumers relying on their smartphones for the majority of their ecommerce activities. The widespread use of payment methods such as Alipay and WeChat Pay makes the purchasing process even more convenient and accessible. This highlights the importance of mobile optimization for businesses looking to succeed in the Chinese ecommerce market.

By targeting the Chinese ecommerce market, foreign brands can not only access a large pool of potential customers but also gain a competitive advantage in a market that is poised for continued ecommerce growth.

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The ecommerce scene in China is constantly evolving. Below are the four latest trends to help elevate your business growth in China and stand out from the competition in 2023.

1. Wealthier and savvier consumers

China is adding more middle-class households each year than any other country. 

However, McKinsey forecasts another 71 million upper-middle and high-income households (annual incomes USD $23,000 or RMB ¥160,000) will be added in the next three years. These consumers are willing to spend more on high-end products and services and seek a personalized and convenient shopping experience.

Chinese customers are also becoming increasingly aware of global trends and looking for high-quality international products, partly due to the abundance of information available on social media platforms such as WeChat and Xiaohongshu (Little red book in English). 

The trend has been observed by Sam Deacon, the Chief Commercial Officer at Samarkand Global. This UK-based cross-border ecommerce company specializes in launching international premium niche beauty brands in China. 

“There was a time when a small European beauty brand could achieve big success in China,” he notes. “But nowadays, because of the flow of information, usually international brands that grow fast in China often experience parallel growth globally.”

2. Decentralized ecommerce landscape

Alibaba Group was the king of online retailers in China’s ecommerce market, but this has changed drastically in the last decade. New social commerce players such as WeChat Mini Program, Red Store, Pinduoduo, and Douyin have disrupted the ecosystem as Chinese consumers embrace new methods of online shopping.

Some have risen so fast that they have even outperformed the established ecommerce giants like Taobao and Jingdong (JD.com), particularly in specific areas of service.

Pinduoduo, for example, has beat JD.com and became the second-largest ecommerce platform, just behind Tmall, in 2019. Its features, including group buying and ecommerce gamification to offer more affordable pricing, help boost its ecommerce sales and earn its biggest market share in lower-tier cities.

Deacon also thinks we will see “the continued growth of Douyin” in 2023. The platform has accelerated quickly since the introduction of the livestream shopping feature. It reached US$208 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) last year and is expected to drive more than 50% of industry growth in the coming years.

Samarkand has seen great success from the brands they work with on traditional cross-border ecommerce platforms like Tmall Global and JD Worldwide.

However, “Douyin has taken a lot of live streaming share away and become a growing force in ecommerce.” Deacon said. 

The online retail sales of their multi-brand ecommerce store on Douyin have enjoyed strong growth since launch. 

“I think it fits in a larger trend which is the decentralization and fragmentation of the Chinese ecommerce landscape—a decrease in the overall share of the traditional platforms like Tmall and Taobao and the rise of the challenging platforms like Douyin.”

3. Mobile commerce

Mobile commerce has become a mainstay in the Chinese ecommerce market with the widespread adoption of mobile devices. 

In 2021, the number of mobile shoppers in China reached 905 million, a figure that is expected to grow to approximately 1.14 billion by 2023.

The convenience and accessibility of mobile payment services like Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay, combined with its seamless integration with popular live streaming and social ecommerce, also allows consumers to complete transactions without the need for cash or traditional bank transfers. 

As a result, mobile-friendly websites and apps have been on the priority list for businesses to improve the buying experience and achieve their sales revenue goals.

4. AI & data innovation

Innovation is expected to play a crucial role in shaping the future of Chinese ecommerce. 

The integration of AI, big data, and IoT is changing the way consumers shop and interact with brands. According to Forrester, 20% of B2C brands in China are expected to use digital idols powered by AI to improve the shopping experience in 2023.

The metaverse has also become popular, with fashion companies using avatars, digital influencers, and virtual try-on services. In 2023, more retailers are expected to take advantage of these digital tools to engage consumers and create products. 

Burberry, for example, has already worked with Alibaba and set up a private digital salon for coat shopping on Tmall Luxury Pavilion.

The Chinese ecommerce market is a rapidly growing and highly competitive industry. To succeed in this market, foreign ecommerce businesses must stay informed and adapt to the latest trends and consumer preferences to thrive in the dynamic Chinese ecommerce market.

For those interested in delving deeper into China's ecommerce industry, be sure to come back for our next article about the Chinese ecommerce platforms you should target in 2023. 

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By Lin Yin

Lin Yin is a communications consultant and freelance writer specializing in connecting brands and organizations with Chinese-speaking audiences. With a Master's degree in Journalism from the University of British Columbia, her expertise stems from 20+ years of experience in writing and editing, media relations, marketing consulting and execution. In 2015, she founded linQreative and has worked with a diverse range of clients to deliver tailored solutions for effective communications in Chinese and empower businesses to thrive in the dynamic global ecommerce landscape.