China’s e-commerce giants are reaching for the wallets of overseas Chinese

May 2, 2018
Industry News
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Zen Soo
zen.soo@scmp.com

E-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com expand global shipping options to target overseas Chinese as online consumer spending at home slows 

When Dongguan native Joanne Fang wanted to buy a dish steriliser for her home in Brisbane, Australia earlier this year, she quickly found that many of the country’s retailers did not carry the cupboard-like appliance that is common in China.

For the uninitiated, the dish steriliser is a Chinese invention about the size of a small fridge, equipped with dish racks and heating elements to eliminate germs or nasty odours. In a country racked by hygiene scandals, dish sterilisers soon gained popularity and are now common in Chinese restaurants and homes.

After contacting several stores in Brisbane to no avail, Fang turned to Chinese e-commerce platform Tmall, where she was able to purchase the dish steriliser and have it shipped directly to her home from China. A search on Amazon.com found that no such products were listed.

“The lifestyle habits in Australia are very different from China,” said Fang, who has been living in Australia since 2011 and works as an accountant. “An appliance like a dish steriliser can only be bought in China – there is no market for something like this here.”

For China’s leading e-commerce companies like Alibaba Group and JD.com, overseas Chinese like Fang represent an increasingly lucrative consumer segment, especially as online consumer spending growth at home is expected to slow as e-commerce penetration plateaus in major cities. However, in lower-tier Chinese cities, online platforms such as Pinduoduo have seen phenomenal growth by selling cheaper products to users with lower spending power. 

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