If you want to tap into a growing market of ecommerce shoppers, consider the global market. Worldwide business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce sales will grow 20.1 percent this year, reaching $1.5 trillion, eMarketer predicts - and most of the growth will come from emerging markets.
Emerging markets represent exciting opportunities because of the huge population that's just coming online. For example, China's 568 million Internet users represent just 42 percent of the population, meaning there's still plenty of room for growth. A shortage of brick-and-mortar retail outlets in emerging markets lacking infrastructure, such as China and India, is also driving demand for ecommerce.
These countries, as well as Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Italy and Canada, will account for most of the ecommerce sales growth worldwide, eMarketer reports. Ecommerce markets in other countries present less opportunity because they're already nearing maturity. This year, B2C ecommerce sales in the Asia-Pacific region, including China, India and Indonesia, are projected to hit $525.2 billion, compared with $482.6 billion in North America.
China is an especially bright spot: By the end of 2014, eMarketer says, its ecommerce sales will surpass those of the United States. iResearch reports that China's B2C ecommerce sector is growing by 44.6 percent year-over-year; mobile ecommerce alone grew 141 percent year-over-year and accounts for 14 percent of ecommerce sales.
But in addition to opportunities, China also presents challenges for online retailers. How can your company successfully enter the Chinese ecommerce market?
Integrate social media into your marketing plan. China's young adults are as obsessed with social media as American youth are. Make social media part of your ecommerce marketing plan, encouraging shoppers to rate your ecommerce site, share their purchases and comment on your business. As young consumers spread the word about your business, you'll attract their friends and connections to your site, too.
Understand the importance of using the local language. Chinese consumers prefer websites in their native language. Relatively few Chinese speak English, especially in second- and third-tier cities. Be sensitive to regional variances in language as well, and work with local partners to ensure your website is adequately multilingual.
Look for resources that can provide immediate entrée to a large market of consumers. For example, Tmall, Alibaba's online mall that enables companies to sell directly to consumers, is the dominant ecommerce platformin China, with more than 50 percent of the market. No wonder using Tmall eliminates the need to set up your own Chinese-language ecommerce site.
Know how to generate trust. Using a third-party solution such as Tmall provides instant trust on the part of Chinese consumers, who are likely to feel less comfortable using a Western website. With over 50,000 stores, Tmall and its payment system Alipay are familiar to Chinese consumers. And because Tmall accepts only verified stores, consumers feel confident in the products they're buying. With that built-in trust, you won't need to launch a huge marketing campaign to get consumers familiar with your brand and convince them to buy from you.
Provide a great mobile experience. Mobile commerce is already more popular in China than in the U.S., so you must provide comprehensive services on mobile devices. This includes high-quality product images, the ability to pay on a mobile device, a full range of products for sale and mobile customer service.