In the UK many people talk about how they love how cheap everything is in China, from food and drinks to cigarettes and taxi rides. But when it comes to big, global brands – particularly electronics and fashion clothing and accessories – you could be paying up to 30% more than you would here. These hikes in prices in China are one reason why so many Chinese people go abroad to do their shopping, sometimes spending higher amounts than other international visitors, despite being outnumbered by them. And as the number of rich Chinese tourists coming here increases, so does the number of them buying online.
The UK is currently the world’s third largest market for online shoppers behind the US and China, according to a PayPal survey last year of 17,500 adults in 22 countries and around 25% of cross-border consumers buying from the UK are from China. This makes China the UK’s top international consumers for online goods, with clothing, footwear and accessories being the most popular products – and this is the same for other countries such as the US. Cosmetics and beauty products followed by electronics are the second and third most popular types of products being purchased from international buyers in China.
In the UK, online shopping has long been a popular alternative option for British netizens. More and more of us do our grocery shopping online, buy our clothes and order electronics online in a bid to cut down the hassle of going out to the shops ourselves where sometimes things are more expensive, even without the delivery charges. And even with them we are not so bothered paying that bit extra so we don’t have to leave the comfort of our own home.
In China, with 642 million internet users (as of 2014), online shopping is still a relatively new concept, but it appears many are beginning to see the benefits of saving time and hassle. On top of that, e-commerce is becoming more social than just a hard sell as buyers are increasingly wary of the number of fake items that are so readily available in China, so genuine sellers are keen to make sure there is a good amount of trust between them and their current and potential buyers in order to grow their business.
E-commerce in China has already seen a rapid growth over the past few years. Alibaba and Taobao are currently the largest and most popular sites but internationally renowned ones such as Amazon and eBay are also becoming well known. Tmall is a Taobao spin-off website owned by Alibaba that acts as a B2C platform for local and international businesses to sell brand name goods to consumers in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan and retailers such as Adidas, Burberry, Ray-Ban, Lenovo, Phillips, Samsung have already jumped on board.
Many online British fashion retailers have begun to cater to the Chinese market too, by setting up separate Chinese domains, translating their websites or simply offering the option to deliver to China, and targeting the Chinese in the UK. These “extra mile” steps being made by companies is similar to physical shops who hire Chinese speaking staff, put up signs in other languages and even do special offers that appeal to Chinese shoppers, such as Chinese New Year promotions.
And as China’s love for buying goods online from the UK is on the up, the British government sees it as another positive step forward for Sino-British relations and encourages British retailers to reach out more to the Chinese buyers market. This huge, growing opportunity could potentially be on par with the number of visitors who come to the UK from China and the amount of money they pump into the economy. VisitBritain reported that the average Chinese visitor spends a whopping £2,688 per trip, which is more than four times the global average of £636 per person.