Describes how widely e-Commerce is used, the primary sectors that sell through e-commerce, and how much product/service in each sector is sold through e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar retail. Includes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and , reputable, prominent B2B websites.
Last Published: 7/14/2017

Overview and Current Market Trends
China is the world’s largest eCommerce market and is projected to reach $1.6 trillion in two years.  Over 40 percent of total global eCommerce spending comes from China.  In 2015, China’s online retail transactions reached $622.5 billion.  In 2016, the number of digital buyers in China reached over 460 million and continues to increase, with the total number projected to surpass 650 million by 2018.  By 2020, China’s eCommerce market is predicted to be larger than those of the U.S., the UK, Japan, Germany, and France combined, according to Dezan Shira & Associates.  Research firm iResearch China forecasts that China’s eCommerce market will grow 27 percent annually over the next four years.

Domestic eCommerce (B2C), Cross-Border eCommerce, and B2B eCommerce
The eCommerce space in China is dominated by domestic platforms, namely Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall and, which hold 57% and 25% of the market share, respectively, according to Dezan Shira & Associates. Other platforms such as Suning, Vipshop, Gome, Yihaodian, Dangdang,, and JMei make up for the majority of the remaining market share.  Cross-border eCommerce is experiencing significant growth.  China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) projected that cross-border eCommerce transactions would increase to RMB 6.5 trillion by 2016.

U.S. companies targeting to sell products on China’s eCommerce platforms can choose either to establish a firm presence in China or use cross-border eCommerce to sell products directly from abroad.  A presence in China can be a subsidiary company, a JV, a wholly-owned entity or a local distributor/agent.  However, within the massive growth of eCommerce, American firms can take advantage of China’s cross-border eCommerce bonded warehouses.  These special bonded zones create a streamlined pathway which makes it easier for China Customs to manage and potentially easier for buyers and sellers to conduct cross border eCommerce transactions.  There are more than a dozen cross-border eCommerce bonded zones in China and growing.  Through this channel, Chinese consumers can purchase no more than 2,000 RMB per sales transaction and no more than 20,000 RMB per year.  American companies seeking to sell through one of these special zones will need to partner with local authorized partners who have integrated systems to record transactions with China Customs.  The eCommerce landscape is rapidly changing hence it is of the utmost importance for companies to stay current with the newest rules and regulations.

Mobile eCommerce, Popular Mobile Platforms, and Social Media
Online wallets are the top payment method of choice, with 33 percent of Chinese shoppers utilizing the technology to complete transactions.  Roughly half of all China’s eCommerce sales are made on mobile devices, nearly 16 percent more than the global average, according to the U.S.-China Business Council.

There are dozens of mobile eCommerce platforms, but in 2016 Taobao had the most monthly active users at 253.2 million, according to  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.
Understanding how to utilize the advantages of social media can raise your company or product’s profile and accelerate your company’s ability to sell online.  The three biggest social media players are WeChat, micro blog Weibo, and social network QQ Zone.  WeChat allows retailers to feature online stores and has a convenient third party payment function.  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 working with a local marketing partner to develop a strategy and support execution.

Major Buying Holidays
“Singles Day”, November 11, is the busiest online shopping day of the year when huge discounts are offered.  For some brands, up to 80% of revenue is generated on that day.  In 2015, Alibaba recorded sales of about $9 billion on Singles Day, with shipments of 278 million orders, 43% of which were placed on mobile devices.  In 2016, approximately $14.3 billion was spent on Alibaba as the company beat its own record by selling 36 billion RMB in one hour.  Other holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year are also aggressive online shopping periods.

eCommerce Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property rights infringement across eCommerce platforms is common in China.  Registering your intellectual property is essential.  The registration process for a trademark can take up to 18 months, and can only be protected once the application process has been completed.  U.S. companies should conduct due diligence to see if similar trademarks have already been registered.  Current trademarks can be found in the China Trademark Office’s official database.  U.S. companies experiencing serious eCommerce IPR concerns should consult with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Patent & Trademark Office who has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.


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China eCommerce Industry Trade Development and Promotion eCommerce