Big name main­land e-com­merce re­tail­ers walk the ex­tra mile in global push, pil­ing heat on HK’s on­line play­ers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK | BUSINESS - By LIN WENJIE in Hong Kong cher­rylin@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

“At last, I can now get my child­hood snacks eas­ily at Tmall Su­per­mar­ket with­out hav­ing to give up the com­fort of home,” ex­claimed So­phie, grin­ning nos­tal­gi­cally, as she opened a food pack­age she had or­dered on­line a day be­fore.

It was a plas­tic bag full of la­tiao — a spicy red-hot snack m a d e f r o m g l u t e n t h a t ’s par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar among young­sters and which has been driv­ing a multi-bil­lion­dol­lar busi­ness on the Chi­nese main­land.

So­phie, who hails from Jilin City in the north­east­ern prov­ince of Jilin and has been liv­ing in Hong Kong for al­most a decade, cheered the rapid pen­e­tra­tion of main­land e-com­merce en­ter­prises in the SAR, say­ing they’re do­ing a great ser­vice in meet­ing the needs of over­seas Chi­nese.

T h e k i c k - o ff o f A l i b a b a G r o u p’s T m a l l S u p e r m a r - ket in Hong Kong has made it eas­ier and con­ve­nient for cus­tomers like So­phie to lay their hands on their fa­vorite home­town prod­ucts within a day, just with a click on their smart­phones with­out hav­ing to trudge all the way north to Shen­zhen.

Main­land e-com­merce be­he­moths have been step­ping up their push to tap the “blue oceans” with the do­mes­tic mar­ket hav­ing come of age. Hong Kong, with its ge­o­graph­i­cal ad­van­tage, has be­come a ma­jor bat­tle­field for main­land on­line re­tail­ers “go­ing out”. Be­sides the tra­di­tional e-com­merce busi­ness, they’re seek­ing to up­grade their pay­ment modes, as well as lo­gis­tics prow­ess — de­ci­sive fac­tors in tak­ing on over­seas mar­kets.

Alibaba launched the world­wide ex­pan­sion of its B2C (busi­ness to cus­tomer) m a r ke t p l a c e T m a l l Wo r l d last month, with Hong Kong among its pri­or­ity mar­kets. The group aims to help mer­chants and brands on its plat­forms to ex­tend to the global C hi­nese marke t, al­low­ing some 100 mil­lion over­seas Chi­nese ac­cess to 1.2 bil­lion prod­ucts, with Alibaba pro­vid­ing “end-to-end” solutions, in­clud­ing lo­gis­tics, pay­ment mode and lo­cal­iza­tion sup­port cater­ing to the needs of each mar­ket.

For Hong Kong cus­tomers, Tmall of­fers one-day ship­ment ser­vices and var­i­ous pay­ment meth­ods, such as us­ing Ali­pay, credit cards and even Oc­to­pus cards.

JD.com — an­other ma­jor on­line B2C re tailer on the main­land — is also in the fray, ex­pand­ing its global foot­print with the launch of JD Global, cov­er­ing 200 coun­tries and re­gions. The ser­vice en­ables di­rect ship­ment of se­lected goods to Hong Kong in March. The com­pany, say­ing it will fur­ther en­rich its prod­ucts and ex­pand di­rect ship­ment des­ti­na­tions, ac­cepts only PayPal as the method of pay­ment, while Tmall does not ac­cept PayPal.

Mag­gie Wu Wei, chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd, said in Hangzhou the com­pany ex­pects to see a top-line growth rate of 45 to 49 per­cent for this year, push­ing up its an­nual rev­enue to be­tween 229.4 bil­lion yuan ($33.9 bil­lion) and 235.8 bil­lion yuan.

De­spite the grow­ing pres­sure from the big strides made by their main­land peers, Hong Kong’s e-com­merce plat­forms aren’ t de­terred, say­ing they still re­main com­pet­i­tive.

HKTV­mall — a Hong Kong­based on­line shop­ping plat­form set up by me­dia en­tre­pre­neur Ricky Wong Wai-kay — doesn’t see Tmall as a ri­val, stress­ing it wel­comes more e-com­merce play­ers in the lo­cal mar­ket in pro­vid­ing fine op­tions for con­sumers and de­vel­op­ing the city’s on­line re­tail mar­ket to­gether.

Stan­ley Lee, chair­man of the E-Com­merce As­so­ci­a­tion of Hong Kong, is on the same page.

“Tmall and HKTV­mall fo­cus o n d i ff e r e n t c a t e g o r i e s o f prod­ucts, so the lo­cal re­tailer will not be much af­fected by Tmall’s emer­gence in Hong Kong,” he said.

“Tmall ’s strength lies in their in­ex­pen­sive qual­ity goods, while HKTV­mall of­fers a wider range of lo­cal brands and over­seas prod­ucts, such as Dyson’s elec­tric ap­pli­ances, which are much cheaper than Tmall’s. The two cat­e­gories of prod­ucts cater to cus­tomers’ dif­fer­ent tastes.”

Al­though Lee sees un­in­ter­rupted growth in the lo­cal o n l i n e s h o p p i n g i n d u s t r y, he be­lieves it won’ t be easy for it to be on par with the main­land’s as the Hong Kong mar­ket is rel­a­tively small and ware­hous­ing and lo­gis­tics costs are high. “Above all, it’s too easy to buy any­thing in this shop­ping par­adise.”

HKTV­mall is up­beat about t h e c i ty ’s o n l i n e s h o p p i n g busi­ness, not­ing the wide­spread use of mo­bile de­vices which have been the driv­ing force be­hind the us­age of the in­ter­net.

“Ma ny p e o p l e i n Ho n g Kong are so­phis­ti­cated and ex­pe­ri­enced in on­line shop­ping . T hey ’re even able to source prod­ucts from all over the world with larger va­ri­eties than re­sellers. Our cus­tomer base had ex­panded by 73 per­cent from 2015 to 2016, and the growth con­tin­ues,” HKTV­mall told China Daily.

As of De­cem­ber last year, HKTV­mall’s on­line shop­ping turnover had hit HK$185.8 mil­lion — a whop­ping 410.5-per­cent in­crease over 2015. The plat­form, which was set up in early 2015, ex­pects con­tin­ued high growth po­ten­tial in the com­ing years.

the num­ber of prod­ucts on­line mar­ket­place Tmall World aims to make avail­able to over­seas cus­tomers

BLOOMBERG QILAI SHEN /

Em­ploy­ees work at a snack bar in front of the Tmall Cat mas­cot for Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd’s Tmall on­line mar­ket­place.

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