Maybe you haven’t bought anything in Chinese e-commerce website, but you have more or less heard some interesting anecdotes about these e-commerce companies.
For example, when Alibaba was listed in the United States, its market capitalization even surprised many American companies. For example, JD.com ‘s boss, Liu Qiangdong, had a rape affair in Minnesota in the United States. Recently, the listing of Ant Financial Services Group, a subsidiary of Alibaba, has been suspended by regulators in China, which has once again attracted a lot of attention. These are all news that have something to do with Chinese e-commerce.
But how does Chinese e-commerce actually work? We’ll give you a brief introduction. You may need to experience the actual situation before you understand it.
It is undeniable that there are many well-known companies in Chinese e-commerce, many of which have been listed. But on the other hand, we should also see the gap in volume and strength between e-commerce platforms. Moreover, if you are a foreigner, when you come to China, the scope of activity is most likely to be in first-and second-tier cities. In this case, we also recommend that you choose the most mainstream and secure e-commerce platform, that is, Tmall and Taobao of Alibaba, and JD.com of Liu Qiangdong.
You may also have heard of some other e-commerce platforms, such as Pinduoduo, which is frequently mentioned by pandayoo.com. However, we do not recommend you to use these platforms, although there are many users and the trading volume is very large. To a large extent, pinduoduo is still an imperfect and immature e-commerce platform, a bit like Taobao 10 years ago. To a certain extent, this makes its operating costs relatively low, coupled with the large amount of subsidies received by pinduoduo through venture capital, the goods on pinduoduo will indeed appear cheaper. This also means that you may encounter risks in terms of commodity quality and after-sales service, which can be well avoided by a native Chinese, but not necessarily by you. Therefore, we still recommend that you use the most mainstream e-commerce platforms, that is, Tmall, Taobao and JD.com.
How fast can China’s delivery be?
Let’s first talk about the main differences between the three platforms. In fact, at the consumer level, the biggest difference lies in logistics. In other words, it is how long it takes you to receive the goods from the beginning of the order.
JD.com is an e-commerce platform famous for self-built warehousing and logistics, which is characterized by very fast delivery. Taobao is a website similar to ebay in the early years, where many independent small merchants operate on Taobao, and its logistics and services are usually chosen by the merchants themselves or specifically requested by consumers. Tmall is Taobao with only large suppliers such as brand official stores, so various services are usually more formal, but they do not use platform-built logistics like JD.com.
We can understand it this way: if you are in North America and have purchased Amazon’s prime, your receiving speed will be about the same as that of JD.com. On the other hand, if you do not buy Amazon prime, your delivery speed in North America will usually be slower than that of any platform in China. In other parts of the world, whether Amazon or other e-commerce platforms, receiving goods is usually much slower than Chinese e-commerce.
In JD.com, if the items you buy are in stock locally, JD.com can guarantee “arrival the next day”. In Tmall and Taobao, the logistics efficiency is about the same. In JD.com, generally speaking, if you place an order before 10:00 in the morning and they are local goods, you can receive your purchase on the same day. In Tmall and Taobao, logistics in the same city can generally be delivered before noon the next day.
In China, deliverymen usually have to make sure that the goods are delivered to you in person before the work is done. For this reason, deliverymen may make a wasted trip when you are not at home, but they usually work hard and do not leave the goods at the door at will. You don’t have to worry about the goods being left at the door and then inexplicably lost. In this case, the logistics company will certainly make compensation for you.
In fact, some deliverymen are unwilling to deliver the goods repeatedly and will put the goods at the pick-up point and let consumers pick them up-but in many cases, this will be poorly reviewed by consumers. In China, in most cases, receiving express delivery is an easy and pleasant process, which does not require consumers to go out on their own, which is both fast and safe. Even during the COVID-19 period, China’s express delivery is unimpeded.
Of course, these refer to your purchase of goods that are small and do not require special services. If you buy air conditioners, refrigerators, water heaters and other large household appliances, the merchant will communicate with you when it is convenient for you to pick up the goods. If you need it, the merchant will usually arrange delivery and install it for you, which is usually free of charge-or you can understand that the installation fee is included in the commodity price.
If you buy goods from other cities, the situation will be different. Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang in China are jokingly called “free delivery areas” because most e-commerce platforms set up warehousing and logistics centers within this area, and residents in these areas usually enjoy fast and free delivery. For example, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, is the center of Alibaba’s headquarters and is known as the “capital of e-commerce”.
In other areas, you generally have to pay a certain postage according to the distance, the difficulty of transportation (such as the weight of the goods) and the logistics service party of your choice. For example, when you choose SF Express, which is generally considered the safest and fastest logistics company, the postage will be slightly more expensive. On the other hand, many merchants have designed a “free mailing” scale between mailing weight and commodity prices. For example, “goods with a total weight of 10kg will be mailed free of charge if you spend more than 500 yuan.”
In this case, the logistics itself usually takes only 2-3 days. If you encounter weather obstacles such as torrential rain, the time may be longer, but it can usually be delivered to most parts of China within a week.
In the actual purchase process, some other factors will also lead to longer receiving time. During particularly busy periods, such as the “11.11” and “6.18” shopping festivals, logistics may become congested due to the surge in the number of package. This was particularly evident in the first few years of the “11.11” shopping festival, but now such congestion is rare.
In addition, some small merchants (mostly on Taobao) deliver goods slowly, or need time to replenish goods, or will accumulate a certain number of orders for unified delivery. In this case, the goods themselves will not enter the logistics system until a period of time, and the receipt of goods will naturally become slower.
It has to be admitted that China’s land area is too large and its economic development is not very balanced. Therefore, when you live in some very remote areas relative to the southeast coast of China, many logistics companies have not yet extended their services to these areas. In this case, the mainstream logistics company will fail, but you still have a way to receive goods, that is, EMS, China Post Express.
China Post is generally regarded by the Chinese as a poor level of logistics because of its slow speed-compared with the mainstream logistics companies in China’s developed areas. But the advantage of EMS is that even in remote and underdeveloped areas, high accurate delivery rates can be guaranteed. This style is very similar to that of most of China’s state-owned enterprises: they are large, inefficient and unsatisfactory, but insist on providing affordable services to everyone in China, even the poorest consumers in the poorest areas.
However, there are some things that are not available in remote areas, such as aquatic products that need to be strictly kept fresh. In this case, although EMS can provide delivery services, the vast majority of merchants will choose to refuse delivery. These merchants worry that the goods will have gone bad when they are delivered to consumers, and even if EMS is responsible for this, it is clear that consumers’ shopping experience will not improve as a result.
Of course, you don’t have to worry about the above problems in most parts of China. If you live in a “free mailing area” or in Beijing, Guangzhou and other big cities, generally speaking, you can easily buy goods from all over the country without leaving your home.
Merchandise, payment and after-sale
There was a quarrel over cosplay on Weibo, a well-known social network in China. Some people say that the most popular cosplay photos on Weibo are all sexy beauties. These beauties are not careful enough in costumes and props and lack respect for the original works. Relatively speaking, cosplay with successful props is the most popular overseas.
However, some veterans of the Chinese cosplay industry soon came out to retort: in China, props are not highly respected, the biggest reason is not that Chinese props are too bad, but that they are too strong.
Taobao can easily explain this problem. Relying on the variety and number of factories and craftsmen along China’s southeast coast, Taobao can not only provide a wide variety of goods-including branded goods, non-brand standardized goods, and non-standard goods-but also provide customized services at will. In terms of services, large service brands may be able to provide better service quality, but it is difficult to meet a variety of needs at very low prices like Taobao.
In other words, you can buy authentic products from big brands and even luxury brands in the official brand store of Tmall Mall. You can also buy a variety of small brands in Taobao, but these prices are usually cheaper. As for those goods that have no brand at all, such as small sausages made by farmers and chili sauces made by Internet celebrity chefs, they can also be bought on Taobao, of course, the quality needs to be controlled by yourself.
What else can Taobao do? For goods that cannot be bought through general channels in China, such as audio-visual products and games that are only distributed overseas, limited edition models that have not yet been manufactured in Japan, and even vintage collectibles that are quite old, search Taobao. You can usually find the right merchant.
The most important thing on Taobao is to provide a variety of services. From writing speeches, writing resumes, fixing pictures, etc., to helping with homework, papers, designs, presentations, and even forging medical records and invoices. Some of these services are immoral or even illegal, but you can also find merchants who provide these services on Taobao.
The most famous customized service on Taobao may be “blessing from Africa”. For example, in a video, a group of topless black kids hold up a blackboard on which “Happy Marriage to Boss Zhang” is written in Chinese. They were jubilant, singing and dancing, and behind the video, several black people even held up AK47 and fired shots into the air. These are not fake, but large-scale customized services, the demand comes from an ordinary Chinese, and the middleman is a Taobao merchant.
In the field of cosplay, any fancy props and costumes can be customized by craftsmen on Taobao. If you do not have the ability and time to communicate with craftsmen about details, or simply do not bother to communicate, you can also go to second-hand trading platforms such as Xianyu and directly buy props that other cosplay lovers no longer use.
Personally, I have had two experiences of customizing goods on Taobao. Once, when the company needed to present prizes, we felt that the paper certificates were too ordinary, so we customized a batch of cloth scrolls to give awards. Because the winners are different, the patterns and words on each scroll are different. After we carefully explained to the merchants, the results made us very satisfied.
On another occasion, my friend drew a flat cartoon character and wanted to make a sculpture of this image. He did not make a 3D model file, or even make a complete design for the image from multiple angles, the merchant needs to make a complete statue based on only one side of the image. However, after communicating with some merchants on Taobao, many merchants gave him satisfactory results-the designers of those merchants simply helped him to supplement the side and back of the character.
In terms of payment, due to the popularity of third-party payment tools, Chinese e-commerce has a variety of support for payment forms. It is worth mentioning that since Alibaba and JD.com have both set up their own financial services companies, consumers can use the credit services offered by these groups when paying by Tmall, Taobao and JD.com-which is equivalent to providing a single-function credit card for those users who do not have a credit card. Perhaps because of this, the promotion of credit cards in China is always a bit slow.
Even if you do not use the loan services provided by the platform, the usual third-party payment tools as well as credit and savings cards are available.
In terms of after-sales service, the usual scope of service is provided by merchants. Once the consumer and the merchant have a dispute, the platform will come forward for arbitration. In China, because any e-commerce platform is unwilling to offend a large number of consumers, the platform will obviously tend to more consumers in arbitration. This leads to a result: most businesses realize that it is not good for them to raise the dispute to the platform level, so they will be more generous when they take the initiative to pay compensation to consumers.
Whose credit is it?
On the basis of the birth of e-commerce in the United States, why can China’s e-commerce be so mature and wonderful? We think there are at least three reasons.
First, China’s production capacity and consumption capacity are very strong. Without factories in various industries along the southeast coast, Taobao would not have such a strong supply capacity to produce all kinds of products. Without more than a billion Chinese consumers and a billion Chinese netizens, there would not be so much demand for e-commerce. With the mutual promotion of demand and supply, Chinese e-commerce has become the largest super shelf in the world, providing everything you can think of and what you can’t think of.
Second, industrious participants in various industries. Even if providers of various goods and services are excluded, there are still many links needed to maintain this e-commerce system. At the level of road traffic, tens of millions of Chinese truck drivers run on highways every day. They work long hours, but their income is not particularly high. The ones who really deliver goods from the warehouse to consumers are millions of couriers and postmen who work equally hard and without complaining.
Third, sufficient market competition. We can see that JD.com was born after Taobao, with a stronger logistics system, grabbed a part of the e-commerce market share. Pinduoduo was born later and gained a firm foothold in front of powerful rivals by virtue of cheaper prices. Even today, China’s e-commerce market has been highly developed, and the number of e-commerce users is slow, there are always new e-commerce platforms to provide faster, better and cheaper services, and these platforms continue to stimulate Internet giants such as Alibaba and JD.com to improve their products and services.
In fact, you may have bought Chinese local goods through services such as AliExpress. Cross-border logistics is relatively slow, but you may already feel how cheap the postage is. If you come to China, you can experience faster service-try to place an order in the morning and then receive express delivery in the evening.