Trust is still the primary driver in cross-border ecommerce (but not for long)

Mistrust in domestic product quality is still deciding the popularity of import products, but new imports have uptrended sharply over the course of the last 12 months.
China market research: user behavior consumer trust 2019

Tmall Global, Alibaba’s e-commerce import platform, reports that Chinese consumer tastes are changing, with several new overseas product categories uptrending sharply over the course of the last 12 months (CBN Data).

According to a joint report issued by CBN Data and Tmall, traditional cross-border consumption categories such as beauty, mom and baby, and health and medical products maintained solid growth in 2018, but emerging categories such as pet care, electronics, and personal care products showed explosive expansion.

Why it matters

For most of the past decade, market research out of China has consistently showed that Chinese consumers choose import products over domestic products primarily due to concerns about quality and product safety; that’s why products perceived to impact health and wellness — like makeup, skin care, and baby formula — have consistently performed well.

So the relatively slower growth in these categories is not necessarily due to an improvement in consumer trust for local products, but rather that:

  1. A series of recent government policies designed to facilitate cross-border trade are making it easier for online merchants to import a wider variety of foreign goods, like pet care products and electronics.
  2. The increased availability and affordability of foreign imports is sparking consumer interest in a wider variety of foreign products for a wider variety of reasons.

These regulatory changes mean that the variety of consumer imports into China will continue to diversify, and the drivers behind foreign import consumption will become increasingly nuanced, as well.


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