Buying online becoming a global craze

CHINA - The United States is the biggest online buyer of Chinese goods with China set to sell more than US$10 billion (S$12.6 billion) of products through the Internet in the top five global markets, a report showed on Wednesday.

"As online shopping becomes increasingly popular in both emerging and developed markets, merchants in China are poised to embrace rapid business growth in the next five years," said PayPal, publisher of the report.

US Internet users will spend nearly 50 billion yuan (S$10.08 billion) on purchasing goods made in China this year, making the country the top spender on Chinese goods, according to the report.

Other top buyers include the United Kingdom (expected to spend 7.4 billion yuan on Chinese products this year) and Australia, which it is anticipated will spend 5.2 billion yuan.

Investors and the nation's Internet giants are fully aware of the increasing demand for Chinese goods on the Web.

Last month, LightInTheBox Holding Ltd, a Beijing-based online retailer targeting international buyers, raised US$78.9 million after an initial public offering in New York. In the meantime, Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd are hurriedly mapping out cross-border payment services for Chinese retailers.

China's cross-border online shopping sales are on track to hit 144 billion yuan by 2018, more than double this year's amount, PayPal estimated.

The nation is the world's third-largest exporter in the cross-border online shopping sector, after the US and the United Kingdom.

Data from the China E-commerce Research Center showed turnover of cross-border online trade increased more than 25 per cent year-on-year in 2012. The market size will continue to enjoy double-digit growth this year despite the gross domestic product growth of China slowing down, said the centre.

Clothes, shoes and accessories are among the most popular items for overseas buyers. Global shoppers will spend US$12.5 billion on these products, said PayPal after interviewing more than 5,000 buyers.

"Despite the world suffering from a massive economic slowdown, online shoppers' enthusiasm for foreign goods continues to surge over the years," said Patrick Foo, head of cross-border trade at PayPal China.

Demand for made-in-China products from emerging markets will also witness rapid expansion in the coming years, he added.

Brazil, the fifth-biggest buyer, is expected to spend 1.8 billion yuan this year. It will be spending 11.4 billion yuan on Chinese goods five years later, said the report.

However, doing business with buyers outside China is not a way to earn easy money, the report warned.

Language barriers, cultural differences and transaction security remain the top obstacles for Chinese e-commerce vendors.

Chinese vendors need to carefully study the target market before tapping into it because every country's online shopping market is different from another, said Foo.

"In the UK, people are used to booking flight tickets on the Web while Brazilians are used to buying computers online," he added.

The report also showed the mobile cross-border e-commerce sector is outgrowing the overall market in size, another big trend that merchants in China don't want to miss out on.

Transactions on mobile devices will reach US$51 billion globally in 2018 while the amount may not exceed US$20 billion this year, said the report.