Chinese people “conquer” overseas online shopping

By November 7, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

by Liliya Akhtemova – Intern at MooMu Media


Do you run your own online business? Would you like to attract more consumers, especially from the fastest growing market in the world – China? In this case, you should probably know more about overseas online shopping habits of Chinese people.


Why do Chinese people prefer to shop online abroad, and what are they buying?


China’s e-commerce industry has been growing rapidly, but Chinese shoppers don’t limit themselves to just an internal online market.  More and more consumers in China prefer foreign websites when searching for bargain prices and high quality merchandise.


Overseas online shopping in China is becoming so common that this practice has its own name – “hai tao”, which could be translated as “ocean search” or “overseas search”.  According to the China E-commerce Research Center, most Chinese e-shoppers prefer to buy clothes, bags, baby products, health care products, cosmetics and digital electronic devices on (from) the foreign websites.  Alipay estimates that over 60% of overseas online Chinese consumers are young urban women.


The main two reasons for the increasing popularity of overseas online shopping are: relatively high prices for goods of foreign brands in China and RMB appreciation. Products purchased from overseas are at least one-third cheaper than the same merchandise bought retail in China. Alipay estimates, it is because online shoppers escape tariffs, taxes and other possible costs. Chinese mothers, in particular, shop overseas because of the problem with food safety in China.


Usually Chinese consumers buy online name-brand merchandise from well-known websites like, or directly from the manufacturer.  Thereby, e-shoppers are able to avoid the problem of the prevalence of counterfeit goods in the Chinese domestic market.


According to the China E-commerce Research Center, the total value of overseas Chinese consumers’ transactions through agents (third parties like Amazon) in 2011 reached RMB 26.5 billion  (approximately $ 4.2 billion), and this figure continues to grow.



China overseas online shopping

Translation of this graph:

Title: The value of overseas Chinese consumers’ transactions through agents (third parties) in 2009-2013

Y-axis: the value of transactions (billion, RMB)

X-axis: Year

The graph was designed by the China E-commerce Research Center

The source of the figures:




What difficulties do Chinese consumers face in buying from overseas?


In spite of the growing popularity of overseas online purchasing among Chinese consumers, there are some difficulties e-shoppers in China have to face.

  1. International credit cards. Relatively few Chinese possess international credit cards, however most of them have bank cards, which allow the UnionPay payment system.
  2. Language.  Most foreign websites are not available in Chinese, so consumers have to know at least basic English.
  3. Delivery speed. One of the main problems is the processing speed of China Customs.
  4. Inconvenience to return goods.
  5. Unsafe online payment. 


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