September 26, 2017
The e-commerce world descended on Los Angeles this week at Shop.org, the annual digital event presented by the National Retail Federation. On its first day, a half-day of panel discussions were devoted to expanding into China. Global e-commerce sales totaled around $2 trillion last year and China alone accounted for about $700 billion of it. In other words, about a third of all online spend last year was made by Chinese consumers. So, the opportunity presented by China as a market for card-not-present merchants is unparalleled anywhere else on the globe. According to Shop.org panelists, however, finding the right partners is essential to navigating a retail culture completely unlike the West.
From the perspective of the U.S. and Europe, where convenience is everything in e-commerce, it’s important to remember that price and authenticity are most important to Chinese consumers, said Angela Kapp, a former executive at Estée Lauder and now a consultant helping e-commerce businesses get into China. Kapp stressed leveraging online chat and social platforms—especially WeChat—that have become lifestyle hubs for Chinese consumers and include payment. And from a payment perspective, she stressed the importance of accepting third-party digital wallets like Alipay over credit cards and how the experience of Chinese consumers in the physical world reinforces the behavior online.
“Traditional credit cards as we think of them do not exist in China as a way to pay,” Kapp said. “What’s happening now in a place like Shanghai is you have restaurants, you have salons, you have all kinds of businesses that only accept cash or a third-party payment. They’re no longer accepting any kind of international card. It makes it a very different way to think about consumers and what they want.”