China’s economic growth and increasing wealth have made it an attractive market for non-Chinese businesses. China presents enormous opportunities for businesses but how big is the market? How digitally savvy are Chinese consumers? How can businesses reach them online?
How big is the Chinese market?
Below is a map of China and we have labelled the provinces with countries that have similar nominal GDP in 2016 to highlight the size of the Chinese market.
A recent report by BCG and AliResearch shows that China’s consumer economy is growing faster than any other country in the world. The country will add $1.8 trillion in new consumption by 2021. A larger middle class population, thriving e-commerce through innovative digital platforms and a younger generation that is hungry for consumer goods are drivers for the growth. In addition, smaller cities are also catching up and making more purchases.
A different playing field – digital technology
It is well known that China is a difficult market to navigate due to political factors, language and cultural barriers. Traditionally it’s expensive to engage with the market. The obstacle of language and cultural differences is still there today but the capital and risks involved are lower thanks to advancement in digital technology.
We’ve prepared an infographic below showing how digital savvy the Chinese population is. There are 751 million Internet users in China (as of June 2017), which is the same size as the European population. The half-year period between Dec 2016 and June 2017 saw an increase of 19.9 million Internet users. 514 million people shop online and 502 million people use mobile payment methods. China has the biggest e-commerce market in the world and sales are expected to pass $1.13 trillion in 2017. Smartphone use is also very common in China – 96.3% of the internet users are mobile netizens.
The Chinese population has embraced the Internet with open arms. They are comfortable buying goods and services online and sharing their personal details with online companies. It is also easier than ever to reach them via social media apps and platforms. This is good news to non-Chinese companies that want to sell to Chinese clients/customers because there are now more market entry options for every budget.
For example, if you offer bespoke travel tours in London, you can work with China’s online travel platform, Ctrip, to list your services online to get more Chinese clients. If you sell cosmetic products, you can work with cross-border e-commerce platform, xiaohongshu, to attract Chinese consumers. If you want to sell or let your property to Chinese clients, you can list your property on online real estate websites such as fang.com. If you run a restaurant in Paris, you might want to create a profile on dianping.com (similar to tripadvisor) to make sure Chinese tourists know how good your restaurant is. If you run an online tutoring agency, you can reach out to Chinese education companies to offer your services. The list goes on and on.
For guidance on how to sell consumer goods into China, you can check out our detailed guide here.
The increasingly digital savvy Chinese population makes it possible for businesses of any size to engage with them without having to set up a physical office. Selling to Chinese clients and consumers has never been easier. The playing field has changed and this presents new opportunities for both the Chinese population that is seeking higher quality services and consumer goods and for non-Chinese businesses that are looking to diversify and expand their target market.
We’ll update this article soon with more information on Chinese cross-border e-commerce platforms and also looking at some case studies.