On­line ven­dors seek niche for­eign brands

Shanghai Daily - - CIIE - Ding Yin­ing

On­line shop­ping has been a driv­ing force in in­tro­duc­ing im­ported goods into China’s main­land mar­ket. The pur­chase of re­tail mer­chan­dise on China’s cross-bor­der, e-com­merce sites reached 1.5 tril­lion yuan (US$217 bil­lion) in 2017, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by West­win and Nielsen. Trans­ac­tions are fore­cast to hit 1.8 tril­lion yuan this year and 2.2 tril­lion yuan by 2019. The av­er­age per­con­sumer spend in the past 12 months was 13,000 yuan.

Do­mes­tic In­ter­net giants are spar­ing no ef­forts to par­lay their vast con­sumer bases into chan­nels for for­eign niche brands that may ap­peal to smaller, se­lec­tive buy­ers.

Tmall In­ter­na­tional, the im­ported goods sec­tion of Alibaba, is bring­ing more than 200 for­eign brands to the first China In­ter­na­tional Im­port Expo.

It has also made a com­mit­ment to help­ing im­port US$200 bil­lion worth of goods from more than 120 coun­tries and re­gions over the next five years.

Liu Peng, general man­ager of Tmall In­ter­na­tional, said six pro­cure­ment cen­ters have been set up around the world to help boost the pro­file of these brands. After the expo, some of those prod­ucts will be­come a part of a long-term ex­hi­bi­tion to al­low con­sumers to get a closer peek at the lat­est im­ports.

About 80 per­cent of for­eign brands have made their China de­but on Tmall In­ter­na­tional.

On­line shop­ping sites are striv­ing to at­tract con­sumers who want to be the first to try out new im­port prod­ucts.

Beijing res­i­dent Jas­mine Wang said she of­ten searches for new prod­ucts on Tmall. “I can read through users’ com­ments and see if these new of­fer­ings suit me,” she said.

Beauty prod­ucts are among the topselling for­eign brands, and it isn’t only women’s cos­met­ics that are at­tract­ing at­ten­tion. The men’s groom­ing mar­ket in China is ex­pected to reach 16.04 bil­lion yuan by 2022, com­pared with 10.4 bil­lion yuan in 2013, Euromonitor says.

House99, a pre­mium male-groom­ing brand launched by foot­ball star David Beck­ham, of­fi­cially hit the Chi­nese mar­ket at the end of Septem­ber.

The brand’s mois­tur­iz­ers, beard oils and styling gels went on sale here through Tmall and JD.com.

JD has long been strong in con­sumer elec­tron­ics, but now it is mov­ing heav­ily into the beauty and per­sonal care sec­tor.

JD.com said the num­ber of shop­pers for im­port goods added 37 per­cent in 2017 from a year ago, and that the to­tal amount of im­port brands added 1.5 times in the first half of this year com­pared with two years ago.

Nielsen data also shows that sales of im­port beer, bis­cuits and liq­uid milk through on­line chan­nel grew much faster than those sold through phys­i­cal stores.

On Tmall, Boots, Al­bion and footwear re­tailer Foot­locker are among some 500 brands open­ing flag­ship stores this year in China.

Ahead of the im­port expo, Tmall is also launch­ing a se­ries of events in col­lab­o­ra­tion with se­lec­tive na­tional pavil­ions and to turn off­line ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces to in­ter­ac­tive zones fea­tur­ing im­ported prod­ucts from coun­tries and re­gions that in­clude Den­mark and In­done­sia.

Tmall In­no­va­tion Cen­ter, the re­tail in­no­va­tion arm of Tmall, is help­ing brands tap into the Chi­nese mar­ket, us­ing pre­cise mar­ket anal­y­sis, real-time con­sumer in­sights and prod­uct con­cept test­ing.

More than 12 mil­lion types of new prod­ucts have been launched through Tmall last year. The num­ber is ex­pected to top 20 mil­lion this year.

On­line, off­line

In­ter­net com­pa­nies are us­ing their deep con­nec­tions with over­seas mar­kets and the do­mes­tic con­sumer bases to seek out prod­ucts that dif­fer from or­di­nary re­tail mer­chan­dise.

And they no longer serve as sales chan­nels, but mar­ket­ing tools for those who have lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of the do­mes­tic mar­ket when they first en­ter the lo­cal mar­ket.

Even com­pa­nies more associated with brick-and-mor­tar stores are ea­ger to mar­ket im­ported goods. Sun­ing Com­merce Co has pledged to spend more than 120 bil­lion yuan on over­seas pro­cure­ment dur­ing the CIIE, ey­ing to bring 5,000 over­seas brands to China.

Its most re­cent plan for the next three years aims to spend 10 bil­lion yuan to in­tro­duce Euro­pean af­ford­able lux­ury items, ac­ces­sories, health and nu­tri­tional food, and home in­te­rior decor mer­chan­dise.

It’s also open­ing over­seas of­fices in Italy, France, Ger­many and Aus­tralia.

“The im­port expo is a good op­por­tu­nity for Sun­ing to con­nect with high-qual­ity brands and bring Chi­nese con­sumers a wider choice of goods,” said Xu Hailan, general man­ager of Sun­ing Shang­hai.

“We will con­tinue our strat­egy to forge a long-term and mu­tual ben­e­fi­ciary part­ner­ship with com­pa­nies from all over the world,” said Sun­ing Hold­ing Group Vice Pres­i­dent Sun Weimin.

Shang­hai-based, cross-bor­der shop­ping site YMa­tou, which al­lows over­seas mer­chants to sell on its plat­form, will also be seek­ing new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties at the expo.

Be­sides show­cas­ing prod­ucts cur­rently avail­able on its plat­form, it’s plan­ning to source 100 mil­lion yuan of mer­chan­dise, with a fo­cus on per­sonal care and beauty prod­ucts and leather goods.

Lo­cal star­tups are also keen to get into the mar­ket.

“We hope to seek part­ners at the im­port expo to bring in prod­ucts that are pop­u­lar over­seas but rel­a­tively un­known here,” said Al­bert Shen, co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of BorderX Lab.

The com­pany’s on­line shop­ping ap­pli­ca­tion Bieyang cur­rently con­nects with the shop­ping sites of for­eign de­part­ment stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Bar­neys.

Sales of Ever­lane, a US-orig­i­nated ap­parel brand, ex­pe­ri­enced a 10 per­cent jump in sales in the two years since its web­site was first con­nected to Bieyang.

Bieyang doesn’t own any of its own ware­houses.

Mer­chan­dise is di­rectly shipped from over­seas, but con­sumers are spared the prob­lems of reg­is­ter­ing on for­eign shop­ping sites and deal­ing with for­eign lan­guages. The com­pany said it also is look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties at the expo to share re­sources such as cus­toms clear­ance and lo­gis­tics ca­pa­bil­i­ties with for­eign ven­dors.

Alibaba has made a com­mit­ment to help­ing im­port US$200 bil­lion worth of goods from more than 120 coun­tries and re­gions over the next five years. — Ti Gong

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