UK retailers fail to capitalise on burgeoning e-commerce in China

Although 71% of the UK’s largest online retailers are selling internationally, almost half (45%) are completely ignoring China’s burgeoning e-commerce market, new research has found.

China’s total e-commerce market is expected to increase by 50% to $6.5 trillion by 2020, with online transactions accounting for nearly half of that growth.

China’s Centre for International Economic Exchanges predicts the nation’s international online retail will account for 30% to 40% of total world trade by 2025.

Meanwhile, recent research by Worldpay revealed that 44% of people in China shop on overseas websites.

>See also: 5 critical requirements for surviving and thriving in e-commerce today

But while many UK retailers, such as Selfridges and John Lewis, have taken steps to make the shopping experience in-store more welcoming for high-spending visitors from China, relatively few retailers have made similar improvements online.

Just 55% offer shipping to China – and among those that do, the shopping experience offered to shoppers varies wildly.

New research by Global-e, which assessed more than 150 of the UK’s largest online retailers, found that just one in ten (10%) retailers that ship to China offer shoppers a Mandarin language option.

Across all retailers, just under a fifth (17%) offer non-English language options, with retailers that offer international language options offering 5.7 languages on average.

And while more than a third (36%) of retailers offer prices in other currencies, just 26% of UK retailers that ship to China present prices in Chinese Yuan, and only 22% accept Chinese local payment methods, such as AliPay, UnionPay and TenPay.

Of retailers that do accept Chinese payment methods, 42% offer a single option, barring some prospective customers from making a purchase.

Furthermore, almost all (98%) retailers that ship to China do not provide full duties calculations and prepayment, which means that shoppers may be stung by unexpected charges or taxes.

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Not only does this put the retailer’s reputation at risk, but these companies will also be unlikely to generate brand loyalty in China.

“Shoppers expect more from the online retail experience but very few retailers can claim to offer ‘global shopping’,” said Nir Debbi, co-founder and CMO at Global-e. “Our research shows that retailers are falling short in serving both Chinese shoppers and others overseas by not providing the seamless shopping experience they offer here in the UK.

“To boost conversions abroad and harness untapped opportunities, retailers need to remove the frictions in the customer experience by providing effective shipping and returns, localised pricing, local currencies, and payment methods with guaranteed landed cost.”

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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