Business / Technology

Online retailers without borders

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-12-06 10:34

BEIJING - During this year's Thanksgiving shopping spree, which ended this week with Cyber Monday in the United States, China's online retailers helped the country's shoppers enjoy the same deals as people on the other side of the Pacific.

Data from Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, show Chinese customers spent twice as much on American shopping sites through Alibaba's Alipay this Thanksgiving and Black Friday than during the same period last year.

Big borders in business have been crossed. China's massive market is being opened to US companies in a more straightforward manner and a richer pool of products is accessible to Chinese consumers at better prices.

Future business opportunities are huge. Reports show China already has more than 18 million or so customers shopping on overseas websites, and China is the second-largest overseas destination for American online shoppers.

In addition, Chinese online retailers are also expanding their networks to make it easier for overseas customers to purchase Chinese products. During this year's Singles' Day shopping spree, which fell on Nov 11, Alibaba launched a sales campaign on both its domestic and overseas platforms for the first time.

Through these efforts, customers from 217 countries and regions outside the Chinese mainland were able to join their Chinese counterparts in enjoying the day's massive sales. Shoppers from Hong Kong, the United States and Russia were the biggest overseas spenders through Alibaba on Singles' Day, which saw the company take in record sales totaling $9.34 billion.

This is the beginning of something big. On the micro-economic level, both consumers and business people are happier. From a larger perspective, these new efforts to expand will bring forth major changes on the modern trade landscape.

However, online retailers still face many challenges. Language barriers and shipping issues may hinder their growth and prevent both retailers and consumers from fully enjoying the freedom to buy and sell across borders.

For instance, how can a Chinese shopper with limited or nonexistent knowledge of English correctly read product descriptions and choose the right size or model for a product? Can prices still remain attractive after adding in shipping fees and customs taxes?

There is also the environmental aspect to consider. One must ask: are the goods one is purchasing made in China? Does shipping to and from the United States or elsewhere result in excessive waste of energy and other resources?

Despite these challenges, it is clear that this trend is unstoppable. Online businesses are going truly global.

Lu Wei, chairman of China's State Internet Information Office, said this week in Washington, that the Chinese and US online spheres have become interdependent and inseparable. This notion applies to all countries that engage in business online.

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