Shop­pers look to net bar­gains

China Daily (Canada) - - TORONTO - By CHI­NADAILY

Online shop­pers were rush­ing to buy tasty seafood treats for last Sun­day’s Mid­dle Au­tumn Fes­ti­val.

But Wang Lim­ing, an ac­coun­tant in Bei­jing, started tuck­ing in early when a de­liv­ery of prime Ja­panese salmon ar­rived just 24 hours af­ter she or­dered it on the shop­ping site, Tmall.com, which is owned by Alibaba GroupHold­ing Ltd.

“It was still frozen when it ar­rived. Even the ice cubes were rock hard,” Wang, 26, said, adding that her consignment was shipped from a Bei­jing sub­urb ware­house.

A big fan of Ja­panese food, she of­ten eats sashimi in restau­rants. But this was the first time she had bought the main in­gre­di­ents online.

“It tastes bet­ter than lo­cal prod­ucts,” she said. “More im­por­tantly, the salmon (400 grams) online is 63 yuan ($10) cheaper than the av­er­age price of 100 yuan in su­per­mar­kets.”

Wang has joined a grow­ing army of shop­pers surf­ing the In­ter­net for del­i­ca­cies.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey in June by Pen­guin In­tel­li­gence, a re­search agency linked to online gi­ant Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd, seafood was the sec­ond most pop­u­lar fresh pro­duce on the In­ter­net.

About 33 per­cent of the more than 9,600 shop­pers polled said they wanted to buy fish prod­ucts online, with im­ported fruit top­ping the sur­vey on 40 per­cent.

A search re­sults anal­y­sis pub­lished by re­search en­gine com­pany Baidu Inc in July pro­duced a sim­i­lar story. In the first six months of last year, seafood and other fish prod­ucts were the sec­ond most pop­u­lar food items. Even so, be­cause the mar­ket is rel­a­tively new, there are no de­tailed sales fig­ures for a sec­tor which is grow­ing rapidly.

“Although they were less pop­u­lar than fruit, this trend of buy­ing fish, shrimps and crabs online is open­ing up promis­ing com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Zhang Xian­gli, an e-com­merce an­a­lyst at iRe­search Con­sult­ing Group in Bei­jing, said.

To tap into this “grow­ing trend”, ma­jor online play­ers such as Alibaba and e-com­merce com­pany JD.com Inc are launch­ing spe­cial­ized “su­per­mar­ket sites” to cater for online seafood shop­pers.

“We will fo­cus on ex­pand­ing our in­ven­to­ries of im­ported seafood in the next half of this year,” Tmall.com re­ported in a state­ment. “So far, aquatic prod­ucts ac­count for 60 per­cent of all our fresh pro­duce sales.”

China’s big online com­pa­nies are also rush­ing to line up for­eign sup­pli­ers with the help of over­seas gov­ern­ment agen­cies. In June, JD.com launched an online seafood fes­ti­val with the help of Canada’s agri­cul­ture depart­ment and the coun­try’s em­bassy in Bei­jing.

The fes­ti­val was aimed at pro­mot­ing Canada’s seafood and fish prod­ucts to Chi­nese con­sumers. Sim­i­lar events have been rolled out by Alibaba and gov­ern­ment agen­cies from the United States and NewZealand.

Although they were less pop­u­lar than fruit, this trend of buy­ing fish, shrimps and crabs online is open­ing up com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Apart from the In­ter­net heavy­weights, tra­di­tional com­pa­nies are start­ing to move into the online-to-off­line, or O2O, seafood busi­ness.

“Un­like cloth­ing and shoes, seafood is not a stan­dard­ized prod­uct. It is dif­fi­cult for con­sumers to gauge the qual­ity of prod­ucts online,” Wang Peng, who is in charge of O2O busi­ness at Wuhan Liang Zhi LongMar­ket­ing Man­age­ment Co Ltd, said.

“Be­sides, most or­di­nary Chi­nese con­sumers are un­fa­mil­iar with im­ported aquatic prod­ucts, so online stores are not enough to at­tract mid­dle-age shop­pers. These con­sumers trust tra­di­tional out­lets.”

In ad­di­tion to its online plat­form, lzl98.com, the com­pany has eight tra­di­tional WuhanLiang ZhiLong­stores in Wuhan, cap­i­tal of Hubei province. “Peo­ple can first buy im­ported seafood at the stores. If it tastes good, they can then pur­chase the same prod­ucts online,” Wang said.

“If cus­tomers are not sat­is­fied with the prod­ucts, they can also re­turn the food to our tra­di­tional stores.”

Ma Si con­trib­uted to this story

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