Propelled by a rapidly expanding consumer market and the development of digital technologies, China’s ecommerce continues to grow all the rage across the country. Being ranked 1st worldwide by its online retail sales, with its ecommerce market contributing more than half of the country’s retail sales in 2021, China ecommerce appears to be a zesty delicacy for brands to taste a tip. Coupled with the accelerating consumers’ online migration in the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses could reach Chinese consumers by selling online.
The China ecommerce market is brimming with endless opportunities. Whether you’re looking to expand your present business or start a new one from the ground up, read on for tips that will make your launch successful in the China ecommerce market!
China Ecommerce Landscape in 2022
China ecommerce value (CNY trillion) from 2017 to 2025
Thanks to the technological advancement in payment systems, including Alipay and WeChat Pay, which collectively account for 57.6% of total ecommerce value, Chinese consumers have increased their confidence in online transactions. This had led to an increase in ecommerce purchases. Last year, nearly half of Chinese consumers made online purchases or pay bills online.
China’s ecommerce growth by category
Top China Ecommerce Platforms in 2022
Alibaba Group (Taobao & Tmall)
Xiaohongshu RED store
JD.com is China’s leading one-stop ecommerce platform, holding a commanding 16.7% of all Chinese ecommerce sales. Partnering with Google, Tencent, and Walmart, JD.com’s expansive reach caters to over 550 million Chinese consumers, offering direct access to a wide range of authentic and premium products. Over 20,000 brands are listed on JD.com. Each day, the ecommerce site produces $48.7 billion in revenue, not to mention the 900 warehouses across China, supported by a comprehensive delivery and supply chain infrastructure.
Before diving straight into JD.com, it’s worth noting that JD.com offers three types of stores: Direct Sales for B2B & B2C transactions, JD Marketplace for third-party sellers, and JD Worldwide for cross-border prime goods. Similar to other China ecommerce platforms, JD Worldwide allows international brands or retailers who are legally registered outside China to build JD stores and sell directly to Chinese online shoppers. Trendy and recommended products are displayed on the search result pages. To ensure your JD store gains considerable traffic, brands should make their JD storefront appealing and presentable. It’s also a good idea to use eye-catchy banner ads and offer discounts to draw attention to your product’s features and functionalities, accordingly, boosting sales.
China Ecommerce Trends in 2022
3.1 China Social Commerce is the Next Frontier
See it, click it, and buy it. Isn’t that convenient? Initially created as venues for interpersonal connections, social media has since expanded to the ecommerce space. And, while it’s part of the ecommerce umbrella, social commerce is all about online selling that takes place on social media platforms. The entire shopping experience — from product discovery and research to the checkout process — takes place right on a social media platform.
Recognizing the power of social commerce, many Chinese social networks have integrated ecommerce functionality into their platforms, including Taobao and Tmall’s Weitao, Douyin store, and WeChat Mini Shop. Not to mention Xiaohongshu and PinDuoDuo, two well-known China social commerce platforms. Reaping off fully the benefits of social commerce, brands see significant revenue growth.
Lancôme, for example, has set up a WeChat Mini Program Mall. Apart from launching mini-program exclusive products and sending out samples, Lancôme also built a WeChat community where it provides beauty advice, skincare science, point-burning privileges, etc. In 2020, Lancôme sent out 400,000 samples, with a repurchase income of more than 10 million yuan. Through a constant social presence on , Lancôme managed to retain customers’ loyalty and reinforce their sense of belonging and recognition. As a result, the GMV of Lancôme’s mini-program official store climbed by 97% year over year.
Lancome WeChat community
Without a doubt, social commerce is seen to be an effective means for broadening brand reach, connecting brands with consumers, piquing their interests, and enhancing engagement. Together with the conversational augmented reality (AR), and voice technology emerging into social commerce platforms, social commerce is well placed to be an essential element of China ecommerce.
3.2. China KOL Livestreaming Ecommerce Poised to Grow Further
As viewers tune in, comments flash across the screen. In a matter of seconds, items left sold out. That’s the power of livestreaming ecommerce. Chinese people usually watch livestreaming ecommerce three to five times a week. Inherited with the high level of interactivity and ability to alleviate FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), livestreaming ecommerce continues to win in connecting markers and Chinese audiences. The livestreaming ecommerce sales in China are even expected to skyrocket to 624 billion yuan by 2023!
China livestreaming ecommerce sales trend
That’s why picking the right livestream host is so important. Often, livestreaming ecommerce is hosted by a China KOL or KOC that works with brands to introduce your products to Chinese audiences. KOLs are often regarded as experts in their fields and hold a unique status within their crowd, especially within the China livestream sector. Engage China KOLs who have comparable demographics and interests to your target Chinese audience. During livestreams, KOL comes across as a trustworthy peer to audiences, recommending niche-specific products. Generally, people tend to listen to words from people they like or admire. Finally, they will be more receptive to learning about and buying your products, resulting in increased sales and brand awareness.
On the first day of Alibaba’s Singles Day 2021, China’s “Lipstick King” Austin Li sold $1.9 billion in goods on Taobao livestream within 12 hours, ranging from Shiseido lotions to Apple AirPods, earning over 250 million views. Speaking in a husky tone, Austin is always enthusiastic, humorous, and of course, stylish. His distinctive personality and charisma let him become the apple of brands’ eyes, especially cosmetic brands. This highlights the power of choosing a suitable China KOL to assist brands in transferring brand messages, raising brand awareness, and boosting sales volume via livestreaming ecommerce. In AsiaPac, we have our self-developed KOOLER AI, which leverages the 200K+ cross-platform database in Asia to match your brand with the most ideal KOL. Keeping the China audience glued to the screen is no longer unreachable!
Austin Li livestreaming ecommerce
3.3 Omnichannel Retail may Lead China Ecommerce
Alibaba’s Freshippo supermarket allows customers to view the product information by scanning QR codes on their phones and arranging their orders to be delivered directly to their houses.
You might be wondering how to incorporate omnichannel retail into your marketing strategies. Thanks to technological advancements, optimizing China omnichannel retail is no longer a pipe dream. Virtual shopping, which seamlessly blends online and offline buying, has recently been a popular example. It reimagines the online shopping experience by utilizing 3D reconstructions of the real-life in-store environment, using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Customers can ‘walk’ around a store, see product displays, and make purchases just like they would in person — all from the comfort of their own homes. It provides customers with a holistic immersive and engaging online shopping experience. A digital dressing kiosk using 3D technology is also found in some retail locations, allowing shoppers to swiftly «try on» a variety of outfits and find the ones that suit them. Besides, smart sales assistants and touchless payment are also suggested to increase consumer convenience and loyalty.
Virtual try-on in a retail store
China Ecommerce Challenges
4.1 Fierce Competition in the China Ecommerce Marketplace
The Chinese ecommerce market is a hotbed of rivalry. Despite the presence of the aforementioned main ecommerce sites, the China market still has a plethora of online platforms. Thousands or millions of brands are listed on each ecommerce site. To stay ahead in China’s highly competitive ecommerce marketplace, you’ll have to put in a lot of effort.
Going back to the very first step, you must select the right ecommerce platform to engage in. Analyze your target audience’s demographics, look into your product types, and research the functionalities and features of different ecommerce platforms. Choose the most effective ecommerce platform for reaching your targeted Chinese audience. Ultimately, you have to keep in mind that simply registering and listing products on the platform will not magically lead to success. Don’t be anxious. In AsiaPac, we have a team of with 15+ years of experience, keeping you ahead of the global online competition.
4.2 Counterfeit Consumer Goods on China Ecommerce Platforms
Consumer products counterfeiting has always been a severe obstacle for brands on China ecommerce sites. Online shopping platforms provide convenience and flexibility for Chinese consumers to shop anywhere and at any time. However, it has also been a platform for illegal and unscrupulous firms to distribute counterfeit items, infringing on intellectual property rights and causing brand dilution, as well as loss of sales.
China Ecommerce Summary
- Table of Contents
- Frequently Asked Questions
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China E-commerce Market Analysis
The China E-commerce market is expected to register a CAGR of 11.3% during the period 2022-2027. The primary factors driving the growth of the E-commerce market in the region are smartphone-driven M-commerce culture, innovative digital payments systems, and rising live -commerce platforms, among others.
- With a vast population, the Chinese E-commerce market is the world’s largest E-commerce market. Chinese E-commerce market evolved rapidly during the past few years, primarily driven by high internet and smartphone penetration, increasing consumer confidence in online shopping, the emergence of e-commerce platforms, and the availability of various alternative payment solutions.
- Furthermore, an inconvenient and often confrontational in-person shopping culture helped motivate shoppers in the region to embrace the straightforward reliability of E-commerce platforms, mainly the ease it offered in various shopping activities for making returns and securing refunds for online orders. Moreover, the supply of low-cost delivery services provided by China’s millions of migrant laborers enabled companies like JD.com and AlibabaGroup to provide same-day delivery anywhere in the country.
- However, stringent rules and regulations related to local E-commerce law and Intellectual Property Enforcement for E-commerce platforms can create problems for E-commerce companies which can hamper the market’s growth. For instance, the E-Commerce Law in China is designed to address rampant online infringement of intellectual property rights. The law included requirements related to notice-and-takedown mechanisms for the region’s e-commerce platforms. The notice-and-takedown tools allow individuals to request that platforms take down links offering products that infringe on established IP rights. As different E-commerce platforms have varying procedures for accepting takedown notices, E-commerce companies in the region must familiarize themselves with takedown procedures for various e-commerce platforms.
- The COVID-19 outbreak has further driven e-commerce activities in China, as concerned consumers are increasingly using the online channel for their purchases to avoid getting exposed to the disease. Although the COVID-19 pandemic decreased overall consumer spending, it has resulted in growth in e-commerce purchases. While sectors such as travel and restaurant services were affected due to lockdown across the country, strong growth is seen in online purchases of groceries and physical goods.
China E-commerce Industry Segmentation
E-commerce refers to any form of business transaction conducted online or over the internet. The most common example of E-commerce is online shopping, which is defined as buying and selling goods or services via the internet on any device.
The China E-commerce Market is Segmented into B2C E-commerce (Beauty and Personal Care, Consumer Electronics, Fashion and Apparel, Food and Beverage, Furniture and Home), and B2B E-commerce.
China E-commerce Market Trends
This section covers the major market trends shaping the China E-commerce Market according to our research experts:
Livestream E-commerce to drive the Market
- Livestreaming is a very popular form of E-commerce in China where Key Opinion Leaders conduct live video broadcasts of themselves while they market different goods and products to their audiences. The pandemic has led to the rapid advancement and adoption of live streaming in the E-commerce market in the region.
- The most significant advantage of live streaming E-commerce is its ability to reach a large number of people spread throughout the country, especially those outside of major cities. By targeting live streams to more rural areas and lower-tier cities, companies can increase brand awareness and expand their audience to all parts of China.
- Many E-commerce giants like Alibaba’s Taobao, JD.com, and newer competitors from the entertainment side like Douyin and Kuaishou, are promoting E-commerce products live via digital video in the region. Live commerce quickly established itself as a fixture in sales campaigns for Singles’ Day, a major shopping event in China, as a reliable digital tool for driving customer engagement and E-commerce sales.
- All of the aforementioned factors are further expected to boost the growth of the E-commerce Market in the region.
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Growing Penetration of Online Shoppers to Boost the E-commerce Market
- The rising popularity of online shopping resulted in an increase in the number of online shoppers in the region, supported by high mobile internet penetration and the accessibility and speed of the internet in China. For instance, as reported by the China Internet Network Information Center, the number of online shoppers rose from 466.7 million in 2016 to 842.1 million in 2021. The rapid increase in online shoppers is further expected to boost E-commerce sales in the region.
- Along with this, the online shopping penetration increased in the region, supported by the rise of smartphone-driven M-commerce and innovative digital payment solutions offered by various market players in the area. For instance, the China Internet Network Information Center reported that the online shopping penetration was 60% in 2015, which grew to 81.6% in 2021.
- Furthermore, the Singles Day shopping event in China, November 11th or 11/11, is the busiest online shopping day of the year. Brands offer discounts and potentially generate a significant percentage of their annual revenue. This type of event further attracts consumers to shop online, which results in an increase in the number of online shoppers driving the E-commerce market in the country.
China E-commerce Industry Overview
*Disclaimer: Major Players sorted in no particular order
China E-commerce Market Report — Table of Contents
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China E-commerce Market Research FAQs
The China E-commerce Market is studied from 2018 — 2028.
What is the growth rate of China E-commerce Market?
The China E-commerce Market is growing at a CAGR of 11.3% over the next 5 years.
Who are the key players in China E-commerce Market?
JD.com, Pinduoduo Inc, Suning.com, Alibaba Group, Vipshop Holdings Ltd are the major companies operating in China E-commerce Market.
China E-commerce Industry Report
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What’s more, the vast majority of Chinese eCommerce transactions (around 80%) occur on eCommerce marketplaces, which offer merchants simple tools to manage their stores and customers a convenient and safe shopping experience. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this fascinating landscape and explore the top 15 Chinese eCommerce websites, most of which are marketplaces, along with a few examples of brand eCommerce websites.
Note about the data: in the previous iterations of this article, we used Alexa Rating to benchmark these platforms. Unfortunately, Alexa Ranking discontinued its service in 2022. So since 2021, we used SimilarWeb’s data.
While the absolute numbers from SimilarWeb should be taken with a grain of salt, the relative size of the eCommerce platforms should be quite accurate. It’s worth noting that SimilarWeb’s metrics only measure website performance, and do not account for traffic from mobile apps or mini-programs. So, although SimilarWeb provides valuable insights, we must keep in mind that it may not provide a complete picture of an eCommerce platform’s overall performance.
Estimated monthly traffic: 240 mln
Overall rank: 136. Rank in China: 9
Taobao is the largest C2C platform in China, having been founded in 2003 and solidifying its position as the nation’s biggest marketplace in 2005 after a fierce competition with eBay. Taobao’s significance in the Chinese e-commerce market was cemented by the introduction of AliPay, one of the country’s two major payment systems.
Taobao also transformed the “Singles Day” shopping event into China’s largest shopping festival, and indeed the largest in the world. However, rapid expansion came at a cost: for years, Taobao was the “Wild West” of Chinese e-commerce, plagued with a plethora of counterfeit goods, dubious quality, and even fraudulent activity.
Thankfully, Taobao recognized the severity of the issue and implemented a series of measures to successfully tackle the majority of these problems. As a result, Taobao remains a major player in the Chinese e-commerce market and a trusted platform for millions of shoppers.
Estimated monthly traffic: 150 mln
Overall rank: 190. Rank in China: 10
Another big contender on the Chinese market is JD.com. JD has been around for almost thirty years, starting as a computer equipment seller. The SARS epidemic of 2003 forced the company to take significant losses and shift their business model to online – something that would define their current success.
Gradually expanding into CD, DVD, electronic appliances and finally into a wide range of goods, JD became one of the biggest retail platforms it is today.
JD is keen on exploring new technologies, including autonomous, AI driven vehicles and drones. While most of the innovations are still in development, JD already owns the biggest drone delivery infrastructure in the world.
On our website we have a detailed guide on An Alternative to Tmall: How to Sell on JD.comIn this third article about TMO’s China eCommerce Insights 2018 we will dive into the Ins and Outs of JD.com and for who it will be an alternative to Tmallhow to start selling on JD.
Estimated monthly traffic: 160 mln
Overall rank: 263. Rank in China: 16
Douyin, also known as “TikTok for China” in Western countries, was originally a short video social platform, developed and launched by the company ByteDance in 2016. In March 2018, Douyin introduced a shopping cart feature together with live streaming and live stream sales functions.
During the pandemic, the “live streaming + eCommerce” new retail format took China by storm. In October 2020, Douyin announced that third-party products are no longer eligible to be used in the live streaming shopping.
Estimated monthly traffic: 168 mln
Overall rank: 383. Rank in China: 21
Pinduoduo is a vibrant platform that has introduced a number of eCommerce innovations, such as team purchases, social commerce programs, and a C2M business model, which allows consumers to directly influence the manufacturers and products they offer. It is also the largest marketplace for agricultural produce in China, connecting Chinese farmers with urban consumers.
However, as Pinduoduo has entered the space near the top of the Chinese eCommerce market, it has faced intense competition from established players like Taobao and JD, and its growth rate has slowed down. It remains to be seen how this monumental standoff will play out in the coming years.
Estimated monthly traffic: 64 mln
Overall rank: 361. Rank in China: 25
TMall is a well-known online marketplace in China that specializes in business-to-consumer (B2C) sales. It was created as a spin-off of the C2C platform Taobao in 2011 and quickly established itself as one of the largest e-commerce platforms in China and globally. According to previous benchmarks using Alexa ratings, TMall was once the most popular website in China and the third most popular in the world.
One area in which TMall differentiates itself is its strict approach to counterfeit goods. To combat this issue, TMall requires a relatively high entry deposit and annual fees, with stores that maintain high ratings eligible for partial refunds.
Estimated monthly traffic: 120 mln
Overall rank: 512. Rank in China: 30
We have a more detailed article about Revealing the Strategy Behind Chinese Social Commerce App XiaohongshuHow can eCommerce companies use the Chinese app Xiaohongshu for their business? What is the best strategy? Read on to learn the answers!Xiaohongshu’s strategy on our website.
Estimated monthly traffic: 32 mln
Overall rank: 1914. Rank in China: 74
SMZDM – the name is a Chinese phrase that can be translated as “What’s Worth Buying” (什么值得买) was created by Beijing company Worth Buying Technology in 2015. The website is a combination of eCommerce and a “consumer encyclopedia”, building content the same way Wikipedia does. Portal provides real-time information on quality online shopping deals and original shopping guides. Its goal is to become the “first stop for quality consumption” in the minds of consumers. The content represented on the platform covers multiple areas from electronics, home life, fashion and sports, to tourism, cars, and credit cards.
1688 (Alibaba, 阿里巴巴)
Estimated monthly traffic: 25 mln
Overall rank: 1537. Rank in China: 84
1688 (when said in Chinese, these numbers sound similar to Alibaba) is a platform, service domestic B2B sales. Most of the merchants on the platform are factories and manufacturers, selling their product in bulk. 1688 is the largest wholesale platform in China.
Technically, one does not have to be a big enterprise to buy in 1688 – it is used by small businesses and even individual buyers who are looking for good deals and are ready to buy in a relatively larger amount.
Estimated monthly traffic: 6 mln
Overall rank: 7268. Rank in China: 210
Vip.com (previously vipshop.com) started operating in 2008 and based its success on the model “Deep discounts – limited time offers – Quality guarantee”. Up until a few years ago, it was getting closer to the top of Chinese eCommerce, getting to the third place after TMall and JD.
Estimated monthly traffic: 10 mln
Overall rank: 7390. Rank in China: 218
Technically not an eCommerce marketplace, Dianping still plays an immense role in the Chinese online ecosystem as the biggest review website. Every service that can be reviewed – from restaurants and spas to pet shops and wedding services (although food is by far the most popular topic).
Estimated monthly traffic: 7 mln
Overall rank: 7926. Rank in China: 232
Meituan started as a group buy site that was founded in 2010. After a series of successful consolidations with other services, Meituan became the biggest deal-of-the-day group buy company in China, accounting for about 60% of the market.
Company diversifies its offers into all kinds of services: from hotel and ticket bookings to bike rentals. It also places a huge importance on customer service, and a convenient refund policy.
Meituan merged with Dianping in September 2020, securing its position on the top even more. Company was renamed to Meituan Dianping.
Amazon China (亚马逊中国)
Estimated monthly traffic: 5 mln
Overall rank: 6906. Rank in China: 233
Amazon’s history of trying to enter the Chinese market goes back as far as 2004, when the Chinese branch was established. Fast forward 15 years – the international giant announced its withdrawal from the Chinese domestic market.
Amazon still keeps its presence in China with regard to the cross-border market, electronic books, logistical and cloud hosting services (AWS).
Estimated monthly traffic: 6 mln
Overall rank: 13756. Rank in China: 436
Suning started as a chain of domestic appliances stores, but ended up expanding its offer to all sorts of everyday items – from babycare products to books.
Suning has one of the stronger logistical systems in China with 10.000 physical stores, and 100.000 employed truck drivers. It also operates the country’s biggest state-of-the-art warehouse served by fully automated unmanned robots.
Estimated monthly traffic: 3 mln
Overall rank: 19110. Rank in China: 611
Similar to JD, Dangdang started its path to success with selling electronics and digital goods. Later it moved to include other categories – from snacks to apparel.
Estimated monthly traffic: 2.5 mln
Overall rank: 23870. Rank in China: 819
VMall is an example of an eCommerce platform developed and operated by one brand – in this case, Huawei. Obviously, it is focused on Huawei products – mobile phones, laptops etc, but also partners with smaller, less prominent brands, who do not compete with Huawei directly, but can enrich the catalog.
With this we conclude our list of top 15 prominent Chinese eCommerce marketplaces eCommerce websites. The Chinese landscape is very dynamic. Even if the list of players is more or less settled, the battle for the few several lines is not over – we witnessed an amazing rise of Pinduoduo almost to the very top a couple years before and similar success story from Douyin this year. We will keep updating this list regularly to keep you up to date with the latest developments in this exciting ecosystem.
eCommerce in China is estimated to exceed 1.5 trillion USD in 2022 – which is about a third of the global eCommerce market. The growth rate of eCommerce in the world is quite fast, about 9-fold in the last decade, but the Chinese staggering growth rate eclipses even that – in China the eCommerce market increased 34 times in the same ten years.
You would know this if you spend half an hour browsing the internet in China: websites hosted outside of mainland China can take a VERY long time to load. There are a few exceptions and caveats to this rule, but from an eCommerce perspective, just accept it at face value. Simply reusing your international website for the Chinese market is a no-go.
Any website that wants to be successful in China (and especially an eCommerce website) has to be hosted in China. This is pretty much a prerequisite to getting any traction with Chinese search engine Baidu or with the main Chinese social app WeChat.
There is a bit more of red tape in setting up a website with Chinese hosting, compared to other countries – for example, you have to get something called “BeiAn certificate”, a government registration. And to get that, you need to set up a legal presence in China, as your business license is required for BeiAn application.
Good news is that the IT infrastructure in China is very well developed, with hosting solutions offered both by international players like Amazon and local tech giants like Tencent.
Last few years have been an explosive time for the development of logistics services in China. Local providers have set up a complex network of transportation hubs, warehouses, and last-mile delivery solutions that completely transformed the delivery process. For Chinese customers, next-day delivery is the norm for most of the goods and for popular items it is not uncommon even to expect delivery in a few hours.
Luckily, there are a multitude of local companies that offer eCommerce businesses their services. Virtually all of them offer delivery across the whole country, providing convenient API interfaces for tracking so your customers would be at ease, knowing the exact whereabouts of their purchases.
Advent of the internet made it easy for everybody to shop virtually, hunting for a better price with just a few clicks. China is no exception. Combined with historical traditions of bargaining, it makes Chinese customers take great pleasure in finding the best deal, navigating their way through numerous discount schemes.
Offering discounts became almost an art as there are many schemes to entice the customer to make the decision: buy X get Y free, get X discount when you reach Y amount, get discount if you buy in the next hour and so on.
For an eCommerce business, it is important to understand the value of this customer trait and use it to your advantage.
Chinese buyers do not use Paypal or any other foreign online payment systems. Cash on delivery, use of bank cards and bank transfers are usually supported, but not very popular. Main online payment options include two competing payment systems: Alipay and WeChatPay. These are the two ways you definitely want to be implemented in your eCommerce project.
If you have never seen one of the Chinese websites, you may be a little taken aback when you see one. And it is not only about the CHinese characters. Design conventions used in a typical website can seem strange for a western viewer. For instance, Chinese websites often use smaller typography, have more information on one page, and present larger variations in color schemes.
To be fair, in recent years exposure of Chinese customers to different, more western, design styles changes the overall websites’ style in China too. Currently, it is a rather unusual combination of Chinese “information overload” approach and western clean visuas. At any rate, it may not be the smartest idea to simply copy and paste a Western version of your website with some translation.
Same goes for the visuals used in the design. While seeing Chinese faces on the ad will definitely project familiarity and acceptance, use of foreign faces is the staple of premium and luxury items. Perfect visual solution, of course, heavily depends on the nature of the product you are selling and often is a combination of these two approaches.
UX and the purchase processes