Selling into China? Lessons You Can Learn from Singles' Day

For merchants looking to sustainably grow their revenue and future-proof their business in an ever-increasing competitive landscape, there is almost no better decision they can make than expanding beyond their domestic market. One market with a great example for a merchant to sell abroad is China, where one of the biggest opportunities for them is Singles' Day.

For those unfamiliar, Singles' Day, celebrated on Nov. 11, is a relatively new e-commerce holiday in China – but one that drove a whopping $14.3 billion in online sales during the first 24 hours this year – that's 54 percent higher than last year's Singles' Day! For context, that's more than four times the 2014 sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

China may be the prime stomping ground for Singles' Day buyers, but word is spreading among consumers that deals can be found online outside of traditional China-based marketplaces. The phenomenal growth in the Chinese online sales market – projected to grow by more than 20 percent in 2016, with more than half (52 percent) of all Chinese cross-border shoppers planning to begin or increase international shopping, according to 2015 study by PayPal/Nielsen – is an outstanding opportunity you should be tapping into.
The PayPal/Nielsen report also found that the United States is China's top cross-border shopping destination, with 14 percent of online shoppers having purchased from the United States in the past 12 months – putting it ahead of Hong Kong, Great Britain and Japan.

So, how can you participate in this growth and capitalize on the international market? Taking a cue from what Singles' Day taught us, following are some core ways you can reach new customers in China and increase revenue.

Understand cultural differences:
Awareness of local traditions can be critical to selling the right products to the right customers – and to position those products in the right way. You'll be dealing with new cultures, new customs and an entirely different market.
The PayPal PassPort site provides information about cultural taboos and trends, seasonal events and sales peaks, and local tax and customs procedures for many countries. Merchants that can effectively understand the Chinese marketplace – the demographic composition and purchasing habits of its diverse consumer class, as well as navigating business operation processes such as international logistics – can be well positioned to reap the rewards.

Optimize your website for the market:
Your website is your international sales channel. The Internet has truly become the great equalizer in global sales. Make sure your website is localized to the market, meaning you are displaying the cost of goods in local currency as well as displaying the fully-landed cost before checkout to eliminate unexpected fees and duties charged at delivery.

Give customers the ability to pay in their own currency:
One of the main reasons that cross-border shoppers tend to abandon purchases at checkout is that they don't have the comfort and convenience of paying in their currency of choice – using a preferred payment method. As you research payment providers, make sure they offer one or more payment methods – for example, debit cards or PayPal – that appeal to customers in your target markets.

Consider international shipping and customs:
Shipping costs are one of the most important drivers of an online shopper's decision to complete an international purchase. So, make sure your delivery and return policy is clear and customer support is a top priority.

China is a key investment market for increasing global sales, and this year's Singles' Day showcased the astounding opportunity that you can tap into. Remember there are billions of potential customers that you're not yet selling to. It's never been a better time for businesses around the world. Happy selling!

Melissa O'Malley is the director of global merchant and cross border trade initiatives at PayPal.
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