The 7 Key differences between Chinese and Western ecommerce

06 Dec 2017

B2C: Amazon vs Tmall and JD.com

Unlike in the West, Amazon has a very small (less than a 1%) share of the $378 Billion a year B2C ecommerce market in China, where Alibaba’s B2C giant Tmall (56%) and JD.com (24%) dominate. On Tmall and JD, thousands of brands have a platform to sell their products, much like a department store. These purchases pass through the marketplaces but are then fulfilled by the brands themselves. Much like Amazon, Tmall and JD.com also have a supermarket section and its growing quickly.

Ebay vs Taobao

Whilst eBay is struggling to stay relevant in the West, Alibaba’s C2C platform, Taobao is going from strength to strength. Taobao’s founder Jack Ma, has credited the platform for creating millions of jobs across China as it allows sellers to create niche and innovative products and ship and sell them across China at low costs. Unlike eBay which is widely considered as the place to pick up second hand or niche products in the west, Taobao is widely used as a reliable marketplace that provides cheap products and great customer service.

Paypal vs ALIPAY/WeChat Pay

Paypal ate up much of the digital payments market during the early 2000’s driven by the use of its parent company eBay, but when comparing it to China’s two key payment tools, Paypal clearly failed to reach its potential as the go to digital wallet it could have been. Whilst, it’s still the payment tool of choice for many western online shoppers, ALIPAY (Alibaba) and WeChat Pay’s (Tencent) integration to both online and offline merchants in China is near ubiquitous. Anything that consumers want to buy online or offline in China can be paid for using these digital wallets, meaning they’re quickly coming the payment tool of choice and have reduced the need for Chinese smartphone users to carry any cash at all.

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Vs Single’s Day

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have quickly become the key dates in the western Ecommerce as brands and retailers scramble to cash in on the rush to spend around Christmas. Singles day 双十一as its widely known, has become the largest digital shopping event in human history. Last 11th of November, Alibaba’s sites and JD.com are thought to have sold $44 billion of product. According to Bloomberg, buyers from 192 Countries around the world at the pace of 256.000 transactions per second have attended the Single’s Day 2017.

Delivery Times

Whilst the west is improving on its delivery times for ecommerce shipments, the majority of shipments still take much longer than in China. On the major ecommerce marketplaces such as JD and Tmall, free next or 2 day delivery is considered as standard.

Customer service

Customer services on Chinese marketplaces put western sites to shame. Whilst many ecommerce providers have recently recognised the value in having digital customer service teams and bots that interact with users whilst they’re browsing and paying, the user experience is still far from what shoppers experience on JD and Tmall. A user who has a question about a product on these sites in china would expect to interact with a digital customer service assistant within seconds, if they don’t get the level of service they expect, they’ll shop elsewhere.

Cross border Ecommerce

Whilst consumers in the West aren’t against buying from overseas, they generally prefer to buy from domestic stockists who import the product in advance and ship it out of their own warehouse. In Britain, for example, you’re unlikely to order products direct from the US unless it’s incredibly niche or special. However, in China, cross border ecommerce is the fastest growing section of the ecommerce market with many high-quality products unavailable from local stores. With high-end Chinese consumers showing a penchant for luxury goods from around the world such as Canadian Salmon and Italian cheese this phenomena is only set to grow.