E-Commerce in China: Mobile eCommerce, Popular Mobile Platforms, and Social Media

Online wallets are the top payment method, nearly 33% of Chinese shoppers use it to complete transactions. Roughly half of all China’s eCommerce sales are made on mobile devices. There are dozens of mobile eCommerce platforms, but in 2017 Taobao had the most monthly active users at 253.2 million.

Chapter 1

E-Commerce in China: Mobile eCommerce, Popular Mobile Platforms, and Social Media

Other platforms like Meituan, JingDong, WeiPin, Tmall, eLeme, Baidu NuoMi, and DianPing all play an active role in the market, but none are nearly as popular as Taobao in terms of active monthly users.

2019 data announced by Alibaba “Annual active consumers on our China retail marketplaces reached 601 million, an increase of 25 million from the 12-month period ended June 30, 2018”

If none compare to Alibaba and Taobao yet, a platform has been growing in the shadow of third and fourth tiers cities and slowly eating some of Taobao’s market share.

This platform is Pinduoduo. An app that work with rival giant Tencent and that is promoting social eCommerce. We will talk about it later in the post, don’t miss out.

Social media and eCommerce

We have observed a trend from social media apps to turn toward eCommerce in the last few years. The three biggest social media players used to WeChat, microblog Weibo, and social network QQ Zone. They are still big but a serious competitor has emerged: Short Videos App (Douyin/TikTok or Kuaishou for instance).

Wechat and its vision of China eCommerce

WeChat allows retailers to feature online stores and has a convenient third-party payment function (Wechat pay). 

It also features push messages to introduce new product lines or deliver promotions. U.S. companies interested in exploring social media avenues and working with these sorts of social media players should seek to work with a local marketing partner to develop a strategy and support execution.

China e-commerce Statistics 2018


  • Chinese consumers moved more of their shopping online in 2018, sending e-retail sales past $1 trillion for the first time in the world’s leading e-commerce market. Retail web sales totaled 7.18 trillion yuan ($1.149 trillion) in 2018, an increase of 35% from 5.43 billion yuan ($869 billion) in 2017, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce.

  • E-commerce growth accelerated past the 30% mark in 2017, after slumping to 26% in 2016 from 33% in 2015. China far outpaces the United States, the second-largest e-retail market in the world, in both sales and growth. While the U.S. Department of Commerce will not release its 2018 estimate of online retail sales until later this month, Internet Retailer estimates U.S. e-commerce growth of about 15% in 2018 to approximately $455 billion.

China’s e-commerce exports rose 14.5 percent year on year to 6.3 trillion yuan (1 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2018, according to a report released by the E-commerce Research Center (ECRC). In the same year, the value of business-to-business (B2B) exports rose 13.3 percent to 5.1 trillion yuan. Online retail sales of e-commerce exports came in at 1.2 trillion yuan, up 21.2 percent year on year. The rapid expansion of cross-border e-commerce has offered opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises to participate in world trade.

Five key trends driving China’s E-Commerce market



E-commerce shopping festivals

E-retailers are creating more shopping festivals and themes to increase consumer’ engagement. For example, over 79% of consumers said they planned to participate in Double 11. Alibaba got 168 billion RMB in sales and 39% growth on Singles’ Day, while another main competitor, JD.com, achieved RMB 127 billion during this same period, with over 50% growth.

Double 11 and some shopping festivals are a key opportunity for local and international brands to leverage the enthusiasm for shopping among Chinese consumers. Chinese consumers are looking to experience, try new things and buy products that may be new to them. These shopping festivals are a perfect opportunity for new brands entering the Chinese market. 

Consumption upgrade

With the Rise of disposable income, consumers are more confident in spending their money on a number of categories such as food, cosmetics, and clothing. The demand for fashion is growing much faster than other consumer demands. The middle- to upper-class consumers are now increasing their demand for goods that are not available domestically.

The number of Chinese Online platforms and cross-border shopping sites where international high-end and niche brands are rising in popularity, and also are leading the consumption upgrade movement. The proportion of consumers who had recently made a cross-border e-commerce purchase reached 67% in 2017, compared with only 34% in 2015. Imported goods are liked by Chinese consumers for their good quality, health and safety, and even package design. Thanks to various online platforms, such as Kaola.com, Tmall Global and JD Global, Chinese consumers now can have broad access to products from overseas. 

A new form of retail: online and offline are merging rather than competing

Since the term “new retail” was used by Jack Ma in 2016, it has been an important topic for manufacturers and retailers alike. This concept involved the integration of online and offline retail elements, including products, services, logistics, big data, marketing, management and so on. Currently, in China, online players are taking the initiative to drive this integration. For example, the largest e-commerce platform in China, Alibaba recently invested $2.9 billion in China’s biggest offline retail group, Sun Art.

Online to Offline (O2O) business model is transforming the retail industry. Both Alibaba and JD.com are also focusing on the millions of other grocery stores in China, as they believe these shops are places where consumers can be targeted to drive further penetration of payment platforms and e-commerce. 

Digital payment

Alipay and Wechat pay is the most popular online payments in China, and they are already an integral part of e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba and JD.com. Online financial companies like Alibaba’s Ant Financial and JD.com’s Baitiao are becoming very famous among Chinese consumers, especially millennials, due to low fees and convenient user experience. The disposable income and consumer confidence rise, is encouraging them to spend even more online. 

From online platform to media platform


Social media is the main platform where people come to interact with one another, what’s making it an ideal place to share and comment on products. As the number of mobile users rises, the importance of social media has increased.

The high concentration of mobile e-commerce has accelerated the transition of the advertising ecosystem. Thus social media has become a crucial tool for marketing, especially when they are communicating and engaging with potential consumers.

China e-commerce: Great Chinese Online Marketplaces



With the development of new technologies, building a beautiful and dynamic website is not a big deal. The important thing that really matters is building a website that is relevant to your target customers. China is a challenging market for foreigns brands and Chinese netizens are difficult to please. They have a unique language, different symbolic colors, and philosophy, they face a different ecosystem and online regulations. This market is just too enormous to be ignored, so it’s important to adopt the best practices to set up your e-commerce design for China that will mean taking a big step for your brand’s success.


The principal Chinese E-commerce platforms include Taobao, Tmall and Alibaba.com. Taobao Marketplace is a China’s largest C2C shopping destination, where merchants are primarily individuals and small businesses. Tmall.com is China’s largest third-party B2C retail platform for local and foreign brands selling to Chinese consumers. Alibaba.com is the world’s largest B2B trading platform for SMEs engaged in the import and export business.


Tips: GMA helps the brand’s products join China’s most popular e-commerce platform. We provide comprehensive and diversified professional managed e-commerce services from the registration and opening online shops, store decoration design, upload product, daily customer communication operation, and maintenance, and optimization of promotional activities inside and outside the platform.





Kaola.com has grown by establishing a reputation for featuring reliable, genuine products on its site. It maintains quality by setting up purchasing teams in foreign cities such as Tokyo and tries to keep prices down by negotiating directly with manufacturers. In a reliability survey of cross-border e-commerce companies in the first half of 2017 conducted by China’s iiMedia Research, Kaola.com topped the ranking, followed by Amazon.com and Xiaohongshu.

It continues to expand aggressively. Last fall, Kaola.com announced plans to spend 500 billion yen ($4.65 billion) over the next three years to buy Japanese products.



VIPShop focuses on discounts and flash sales. The online retailer partners with over 1,000 brands to bring certain amounts of items at a lower price for consumers. The site mainly covers clothing and electronics. It was one of very few Chinese tech stocks to list in the US this year.


Tips: GMA helps companies to integrate the platform 





  • Alibaba-owned Taobao is no unknown to the e-commerce industry. The C2C giant sells almost everything, from pets to vehicles. Taobao owes its success as the market leader in this industry by offering free registration for its users. Taobao.com is the most popular online shopping site in China. It is a consumer-to-consumer retail site.

  • It’s a platform for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs to open online retail stores. It features a variety of items and cheap prices. In fact, the products are usually offered by small business owners, and buyers are very careful buying things, they check several aspects including the shop credit, costumer’s satisfaction rate, and comments before making your final decision.

  • The app has recently launched it’s affiliate program: Taoxiaopu. Taobao has rebrand itself has a platform that encouraged entrepreneurship and young designer to find their fame online instead of being a the online version of a fake market.


  • In the effort of rebranding themselves, Taoboa launched last summer a live streaming program in collaboration with Weibo. Live streaming is becoming incredibly popular and hard to avoid this days. Live streaming has proved itself to increase ROI and Conversion rate.




Another Alibaba-owned business, Tmall focuses on B2C services. It’s a virtual mall that plays host to many brands’ main online retailing presence, notably companies like Gucci, Calvin Klein, Burberry and many more. Tmall.com is a business-to-consumer online retail store, a sister site of Taobao.com.

It is more high end than taobao and the requirement to enter as a seller are high. The idea is simple, only quality sellers are allowed, when one is ordering on Tmall, one does not have to worry about what he/she will receive. For more details about our Tmall services click here


Tmall also offers a crossborder service for foreign entities that do not have a presence in China and whishes to try out the market. The requirements are still quite high. In summer 2019 however, the platform has released TOF (Tmall Oversea Fulfillment) to encourages smaller brands and give them a chance on the Chinese market.






Tips: Gma set up and promote your E-commerce platform store

  • Consulting & Strategy
  • Tmall Store design
  • Marketing and Promotion for Tmall
  • Tmall Management


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