Elaine Chang, president of Amazon China, says she takes "a lot of pride in hiring people smarter than me in specific areas". (Photo provided to China Daily)
Elaine Chang helps Amazon to find the sweet spot in China market
How would you sell a foreign online marketplace to Chinese consumers who are used to buying everything from e-commerce behemoths such as Taobao, Tmall and JD, and other local niche players?
For Elaine Chang, president of Amazon China, the key is the rising popularity of cross-border online shopping, a business that Amazon dominates globally.
"The demand for international brands is rising rapidly, thanks to cross-border online shopping, which is probably one of the fastest rising trends in e-commerce," Chang said.
Perhaps, nowhere is the trend more evident than in China. Majority of Chinese consumers are part of the country's huge, upwardly mobile, increasingly brand- and quality-conscious middle class.
China's cross-border online shopping grew 23.5 percent to 6.3 trillion yuan (4 billion) in sales last year, according to iiMedia Research, a market consultancy.
At the same time, more than 15 percent of Chinese consumers made purchases worth .76 billion from abroad, according to consultancy eMarketer.
By 2020, a quarter of the Chinese population, or more than half of all digital buyers, will be shopping either directly on foreign-based websites or through third parties.
"China is a very important market for Amazon. We're committed to growing our business here," said Chang, adding she is very optimistic about Amazon's prospects in China.
Being a vice-president of parent Amazon as well, Chang is quick to spot global trends, technologies and practices in e-commerce and explore if they could be applied in China.
As head of strategy, business development, e-commerce management and the Kindle business in China, she is driven by the challenge of making authentic overseas products available to Chinese consumers.
Chang believes Amazon has big opportunities in this respect. So, she is not unduly intimidated by the big reputations and entrenched presence of local giants.
Amazon's global network is another advantage, especially for Chinese sellers who "are not only willing to serve domestic customers but want to take their high-quality products globally" through Amazon's marketplaces in nine countries, including the US, the UK, Germany and Japan. This helps build their brands globally, which results in better product quality down the line.
Chang said China's Belt and Road Initiative has injected new energy into cross-border e-commerce. Guided by the initiative, an increasing number of quality-minded Chinese enterprises are expanding their overseas businesses.
"Through Amazon Global Selling, tens of thousands of China-based sellers can now sell via Amazon marketplaces in nine countries. In addition, Amazon's global logistics network across 185 countries and regions has helped to establish an effective 'Online Silk Road' for Chinese enterprises going global," said Chang.
So, cross-border e-commerce will play an increasingly important role in the country's economic growth, she said. "We need to focus on customers' demands and drive local innovations to provide better support."
Toward that end, Amazon launched Amazon Prime in China, the first unlimited free cross-border shipping membership program globally in October 2016, in an attempt to lure the rising number of quality-conscious Chinese buyers to buy foreign products.