As more and more Chinese consumers shop online and travel overseas, many are interested in buying foreign products online. Mintel’s new report Haitao Retailing reveals that almost three in five (58%) consumers bought foreign products online from domestic shopping website in a six month period ending November 2015, with quality of products (63%) and pricing (38%) as the prime concerns when shopping for imported products online.

In fact, cross-border online retail is already a significant part of total online retail sales. Mintel research indicates that the cross-border online shopping market value grew at a CAGR of 63.3% in 2015, faster than the 48.8% CAGR growth in the total online retail market during the same period. Also, Mintel forecasts the market will achieve 18% CAGR from 2015 up to 2020, compared with total retail sales growing at a rate of about 6.3% CAGR over the same period.

Comparing Chinese domestic and overseas online shopping websites, Mintel research reveals that foreign sites are perceived by shoppers to do better in terms of product quality (57% foreign vs 21% domestic) and providing language options (40% vs 35%), while domestic websites do better in most other areas, such as good value for money spent (47% domestic vs 34% foreign), and fast delivery (65% vs 16%).

Matthew Crabbe, APAC Research Director at Mintel, said:

“The continued growth of online retail, backed by increased consumers interest in spending time online, especially in rural areas, combined with the government’s support of online sales and an uptake of m-commerce and online payment systems, indicate that online retail will continue strong growth in the near future. Indeed, the future outlook for ‘haitao’ shopping looks good. However, it is an increasingly competitive market. Brands need to stand out by offering something different. Chinese consumers want top quality, and they need to have that quality proven through good information and good service.”

Mintel research indicates that Chinese consumers tend to buy certain products from certain countries. South Korea (47%), Japan (29%) and France (27%) are the top three countries for sales of beauty and personal care products, while Taiwan (33%), Hongkong/Macau (25%) and New Zealand (24%) are the top three choices for food and drink product purchases. Japan (29%) and the US (25%) are the prefered countries when people shop for imported personal electronic appliances.

However, Mintel research also shows that one quarter (23%) of Chinese consumers hadn’t bought imported products in the previous six months ending November 2015; especially for household electronic appliances or baby food/products (24% and 33% respectively).

“Not all Chinese consumers feel the need to have foreign products or services. However, food and drinks and fashion and furniture are much more significant online shopping categories, representing opportunity for online retail market growth. And we are seeing there is another great opportunity for niche brands, with specialist products having the potential to make an initial market entry into China via overseas online retail channels.” Continued Crabbe.

Over half (51%) of urban Chinese consumers agree that reviews and/or recommendations are important to them when choosing where to shop for imported products online, while two in five (40%) agreed that sharing new overseas purchases brings them a sense of achievement. Meanwhile, almost three out of five (58%) Chinese consumers agree that it is important to buy from online shopping websites that are recommended by those around them.

“Consumer attitudes to cross-border online shopping can be summarised with the ‘Three Rs’: reputation, reviews and recommendations. Helpful advice and information about products, a good return policy and a variety of delivery options are important in building reputation. Good service and good products are the key areas where online retailers must learn to compete in the future.” Crabbe concluded.

Press review copies of the research and interviews with Matthew Crabbe, APAC Research Director at Mintel, are available on request from the press office.

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