Surely then, UK retailers should be fighting tooth and nail for the loyalty and spend of these Chinese shoppers?
Surprisingly, this is not the case. While over half of UK retailers (55%) ship to China, our research - into the international shopping experience offered by the UK’s top 150 online retailers - shows a massive variation in the quality of shopping experiences offered to Chinese shoppers.
UK e-tailers are failing to accommodate a great number of Chinese shopping preferences and reducing the likelihood of conversions. For example, just over a quarter (26%) of retailers that ship to China offer shoppers the ability to pay in Yuan and present prices in local currency.
The remainder are leaving shoppers in China to estimate for themselves how much products will cost to buy, which means shoppers could be hit by sudden currency exchange fluctuations or fees from their bank.
Posting pricing in Yuan will make it easier for Chinese consumers
Similarly, only 22% of retailers that ship to China offer shoppers the ability to pay using local payment methods, such as e-wallets and bank transfers like Alipay or Tenpay, which account for more than 80% of ecommerce payments, or Chinese payments cards such as UnionPay.
Of retailers that do accept Chinese payment methods, 42% offer a single option, barring some prospective customers from making a purchase.
Added to this, just one in ten (10%) retailers that ship to China offer shoppers a Mandarin-language shopping experience. Since the majority of people living in China don’t speak English fluently, shoppers are likely to feel unconfident about making a purchase if they are expected to use an English-language checkout.
It’s clear from these customer experience shortcomings that the majority of UK retailers are failing to exploit the burgeoning Chinese ecommerce market fully. This puts them on the back foot when it comes to winning long term loyalty and purchasing preference.
Retailers simply can’t afford to offer shoppers a second rate experience, especially when failing to localise the online store can make shoppers nervous and can quickly sour a great online experience.
You could be missing out on custom from China's bullish middle class
So, how can retailers rectify this and improve the customer experience to grow sales in China?
Here are our top tips-
• Improve the experience for Chinese shoppers. The first rule of international trade is that, in order to be successful, customers must enjoy the same experience regardless of where they are in the world. Retailers should offer shoppers in China the same, high quality experience that shoppers in the UK and elsewhere expect to receive.
• Offer multiple shipping options at reasonable rates. To give Chinese shoppers the confidence to buy, retailers must offer greater choice as well as competitive prices. This is especially critical in China where clearance processes can be very lengthy for non-experienced carriers. Moreover, it’s important to have a simple and transparent returns process in place, so if something goes wrong, shoppers will be confident that it will be resolved quickly and easily.
• Display prices in Chinese Yuan. There are few things more off-putting than exchange rate uncertainty when buying from a retailer in another country, and this is particularly disconcerting at times of high currency fluctuation. Retailers should present shoppers in China with prices in the local currency, so that shoppers can feel confident about how much they are paying.
• Try to put the customer’s mind at ease. Most shoppers in China expect and prefer to pre-pay customs charges or handling fees when shopping online, so retailers should avoid any potential for nasty surprises, by being upfront about these charges and offering pre-payment.
With e-commerce sales in China set to exceed $1 trillion next year, retailers must pay more attention to China in the years ahead. However, delivering a localised shopping experience doesn’t have to require a dedicated Chinese website or months spent negotiating with the local supply chain.
With a specialist cross-border commerce partner, delivering a truly localised experience is even easier as retailers can start tapping into China’s e-commerce market in a relatively short timeframe and without huge investment.