China’s duty-free shopping mania is still heating up

Alibaba’s new duty free e-commerce portal, “Fliggy Buy”, allows Chinese travelers to start shopping before they hit the airport.
China Travel Market Research: Fliggy Duty Free Online Shopping China

Online retailers are seeking new channels to satisfy China’s appetite for duty free shopping. Alibaba’s travel services portal Fliggy 飞猪 announced the launch of Fliggy Buy, an e-commerce platform allowing Chinese travelers to make duty free purchases before they ever hit the airport. Customers will choose and pay for products online and pick them up in person on arrival.

Why it matters

Cross-border e-commerce has exploded in China over the last couple of years (Jing Daily).

According to a study released on July 31 by marketing and consulting agency Westwin, 67% of Chinese e-commerce buyers made a cross-border purchase last year, up sharply from 34% in 2017.

But despite the boom, China’s import channels are far from optimized for cross-border trade. The primary challenges include:

  • High import duties
  • Long, arduous customs clearance procedures
  • Arcane custom clearance laws
  • Foreign merchants unable to accept China’s most common payment methods

China’s government is pushing through laws to clear the way for smoother trade procedures, but in the meantime, major online retail platforms are scrambling to find alternate pathways to meet the demand.

Fliggy Buy serves as yet another conduit for getting overseas products to Chinese consumers, allowing shoppers to avoid customs clearance issues via in-person pickup and to make payments via Chinese payment platforms, even when the merchants themselves may not have Chinese checkout methods enabled at their retail locations.


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