A group of overseas employees at Alibaba Group Holding Ltd in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, where the company is headquartered. They play an important role in helping improve communication with the company's international consumers. (Photo provided to China Daily)
Domestic e-commerce firms are taking their globalization drive one step further by adding more British brands onto their platforms to tap growing middle income earners with fondness for quality foreign brands.
The country's second-largest e-commerce site JD said on Thursday it plans to sell 2 billion pounds (.8 billion) worth of goods from the United Kingdom to Chinese consumers in the next two to three years.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is on her first official state visit to China since becoming UK leader, met with Liu Qiangdong, JD's chairman and CEO at the residence of the British Ambassador to China in Beijing.
JD said it will launch special campaigns for seasonal products and undertake activities to give British brands more opportunities to reach Chinese consumers.
On the same day, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said it would open a procurement center in London and aims to introduce 1,000 local brands into China over the next three years through Tmall Global, a platform dedicated to cross-border e-commerce.
The company said it plans to bolster the brands' sustainable and scalable growth via its New Retail strategy, which effectively combines online and offline resources through the use of technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence to track, predict and manage customer demand.
Since January, Tmall Global has been on an expansion spree across the continent, hosting investment fairs tailored to local small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
According to Alibaba, Tmall Global hosts more than 14,500 international brands from 63 countries and regions, and over 80 percent of the retailers it hosts made their China debut via the platform.
Nearly 800 UK brands, from Burberry and Dyson to House of Fraser, have opened virtual stores on Tmall, making the country the seventh-largest destination the platform has imported merchandise from.
The firm's social commerce capabilities are gaining traction among retailers. One in every three of subscribers to Dyson's newsfeeds on Tmall, an embedded digital marketing function, has made purchases on the channel, said Andy Li, Dyson's digital marketing and e-commerce chief in China.
Driven by a growing tech-savvy Chinese population who are more internationally exposed and willing to spend, total cross-border e-commerce sales in China are expected to surge 37 percent to 7.3 billion by 2020, according to estimates by research firm eMarketer.
Another heavyweight cross-border e-commerce player NetEase Kaola has pledged to procure 3 billion euros (.73 billion) worth of goods from Europe over the next three years.
With shopping sites adding more brands to their offerings and improving cross-border logistics and processing times, foreign brands are likely to benefit from categories like baby products, maternity, health and beauty, said Shelleen Shum, a senior analyst at eMarketer.