Cross-border channels rescue SMEs from COVID impact, notch $311b in sales
Cross-border e-commerce has become an important driving force for stabilizing China's foreign trade and played a positive role in helping small and medium-sized enterprises to hedge against the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, industry experts said.
The import and export volume of China's cross-border e-commerce totaled 1.98 trillion yuan ($311.5 billion) in 2021, up 15 percent year-on-year, said the General Administration of Customs. E-commerce exports stood at 1.44 trillion yuan, an increase of 24.5 percent on a yearly basis.
As a new form of foreign trade, cross-border e-commerce has witnessed rapid growth in China by making full use of its advantages in online trading and contactless delivery since the pandemic outbreak, GAC spokesperson Li Kuiwen said at a news conference on Friday.
"Cross-border e-commerce is set to play a bigger role in bolstering the development of foreign trade during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25)," said Zhang Zhouping, a senior analyst on business-to-business and cross-border activities at the Internet Economy Institute, a domestic consultancy.
Digital transformation has emerged as a key pathway to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on traditional trade, Zhang said, while noting more and more enterprises have attached great importance to cross-border e-commerce as it becomes a vital channel for foreign trade enterprises to open up new markets.
Zhang added cross-border e-commerce breaks time and geographical barriers and enhances the digital management capacities of enterprises.
"Digital tools and digital transformation are the key factors for global micro, small and medium-sized enterprises or MSMEs to survive and thrive in the unpredictable COVID-19 era," said Diane Wang, founder, chairperson and CEO of DHgate, a leading Chinese cross-border B2B e-commerce platform.
Relying on the resiliency of China's supply chain, DHgate has empowered global MSMEs with some capabilities like more data flow, deeper understanding of customer demand as well as a more tailor-made product portfolio to help them succeed in the challenging business environment, Wang said.
Statistics from DHgate showed that the top five countries importing Chinese goods from DHgate are the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and France.
The company saw a steady increase of stay-at-home products and slow recovery of outdoor products in 2021. Home appliances, consumer electronics, apparel, toys, and outdoor sportswear have gained popularity among overseas consumers.
In addition, online shopping via livestreaming videos has been favored by B2B buyers in the US. The bestselling products for B2B buyers during livestreaming include mobile accessories, toys, gifts, digital products such as mini Bluetooth speakers and wireless headsets, DHgate said.
Zhang Li, director of the e-commerce research institute affiliated with the Ministry of Commerce, said cross-border e-commerce has become an important channel for China's foreign trade during the pandemic period, and accelerated the innovative development of foreign trade.
The outbreak has posed a challenge to logistics and distribution, Zhang said, adding China's cross-border e-commerce logistics companies have made efforts to ensure the timely delivery of commodities through charter flights and overseas warehouses.
Ymatou, a Shanghai-based cross-border e-commerce site, is banking on livestreaming and ramping up efforts in supply chain services for livestreaming platforms and key opinion leaders.
Chen Tao, an analyst with internet consultancy Analysys in Beijing, said shopping via overseas livestreaming services could offer detailed information about products to domestic consumers.
Such services have gained wide popularity among the younger generation, Chen said, adding there is an inevitable trend that more cross-border online retailers will cooperate with livestreaming platforms.