eCommerce in China vs. the West: The Top 3 Differences

ecommerce in ChinaOver the last two weeks we’ve been discussing the uniqueness of China’s ecommerce industry. Hopefully you’ve found them useful, and if you need a refresher you can go here to access the archive. Today we wrap up our ecommerce in China topics with our final blog post of the series, discussing the 3 prevailing differences in ecommerce between China and the West. Our following opinions and insights will hopefully help you avoid common mistakes that most Western companies make when they start selling to China.

  • Customer Service – China’s online consumers expect flawless customer service from etailers; much higher compared to the regular brick-and-mortar stores. Some of what these customers are looking for are attitude of the customer service representative, speed of delivery, and quality of the products. The attitude of the online representative is rated based on responsiveness and politeness, the speed of delivery is expected to be within a day, and an elevated quality of product are all now necessary to satisfy the consumer’s expectations.

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  • Product Research – Unlike Western consumers who will exhaustively research products online before buying, China’s consumers usually do not. This has quite a bit to do with Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent being what is called “Walled Gardens”, trying to be a one-stop-shop online. A good example of this is searching products on Google that have direct links to purchase on Amazon (which ends up being a huge revenue driver for Google); however, Alibaba blocks search results on Baidu that would direct consumers straight to a purchase through Baidu, meaning the customer would have to leave the Baidu environment and enter the Alibaba environment to purchase, cutting Baidu out of the deal. Obviously the user experience of this journey is less than ideal so product research overall suffers. They will however, search for reviews within the ecommerce platforms they shop. Whether it is a social media giant like WeChat or huge marketplace like Tmall, the consumer’s buying decision will be highly dependent on the reviews of the previous customers.
  • Trust – The counterfeit or “grey” market in China has created large trust issues between sellers and consumers. It is not uncommon for consumers to simply re-purchase products that they have tried or tested beforehand. As you’re soon to understand well when entering China, developing brand loyalty is incredibly difficult, however, once you have it, it’s very difficult to lose. As a global company, we heavily advise you market your products in china well in advance of your planned entry date. And never, ever, forget about WeChat. This huge social media platform is a great place to build community and do brand building, where you will be able to share everything about the products and meet and greet potential consumers. BTW, have a look how to register a WeChat account.

We hope that everything listed above will help you understand the unique aspects of the largest market in the world.

Beijing-based Web Presence In China (WPIC) is an independent, full service digital marketing and IT development agency. WPIC helps businesses with eCommerce platforms set up and management. Having over 13 years of on the ground experience in the China digital sector, the firm has worked with over 300 global companies and leads a team of 120 people between their global offices. WPIC supports China and the greater APAC region in digital and IT solutions.