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The festive e-shopping frenzy

By Wang Ying in Shanghai | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-01-27 12:50

More and more consumers are turning to online platforms to buy their Chinese New Year essentials as these virtual stores allow them to avoid the crowds and gain access to a wider selection of goods

While the Spring Festival is largely about reuniting the family for a time of bonding and feasting, it is also an occasion for Chinese families to indulge in a major shopping spree as they believe that it is auspicious to have surplus food before the end of the current year.

In this digital age when shopping can be easily done without actually having to visit a physical store, families have extended the traditional purchases of just food and clothes to include a variety of gifts that they can present their loved ones and friends.

Over the past two years, Wang Fang has gradually shifted from shopping at physical stores to buying goods from online platforms. She said that she plans to buy everything she needs from online sources this year.

The 35-year-old housewife's shopping list this year includes nuts and dried apricots from Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, greeting cards from the neighboring Zhejiang province and tulips from specialty stores.

"Online shopping is a little different from traditional shopping. You have to start early because most of the online stores will halt their delivery services a week before the holiday," said Wang.

"In addition, buying earlier means that I have the opportunity to return or exchange products, something that traditional shopping does not normally permit."

In order to better meet customers' needs for the holiday period, Shanghai-based e-commerce platform YHD said that it would continue to deliver goods even on the eve of Chinese New Year and New Year's Day.

Song Chunhui, senior vice-president of YHD's merchandising department, said that having a comprehensive product range, efficient delivery and high quality service are the main ingredients for success during this festive period. She added that the company leverages big data to help provide the most relevant purchase suggestions on its site.

"Big data enables us to tailor suggestions to buying habits and regions. Take white wine for example - Yanghe is very popular in Jiangsu province, but the preferred brand in Shanghai will be different," said Song.

An online carnival

Chinese consumers were projected to have spent $899 billion buying products from digital platforms in 2016, accounting for 47 percent of online sales worldwide, according to an eMarketer report.

In addition, the 2016 Cross-border Online Shopping Trend Report by Amazon China showed that Chinese families are the driving force behind the online buying trend and those with children account for 84 percent of cross-border online consumer group.

Shen Ziying, a 31-year-old banker in Shanghai, agreed that the Internet has now become a major avenue for snapping up Spring Festival goods. She said that she recently bought 2,000 yuan ($290) worth of food and beverages for the Lunar New Year without having to step into a supermarket.

"With just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the phone, you get access to a treasure island where you can find everything you need for the Spring Festival, such as candies, snacks, Chinese couplets, alcohol and decorations," said Shen, an avid fan of Taobao, the shopping platform by Alibaba.

The festive e-shopping frenzy


Wu Shanshan had started her shopping earlier than usual this year as she wanted to avoid the delays in delivery that usually take place closer to the holiday period.

Previously, Wu would shop at the supermarket a week ahead of the Chinese New Year, a time when the festive atmosphere is at its peak as shops blare New Year tunes and display festival items such as Chinese knots, Spring Festival couplets and ornaments containing the Chinese character 'fu', which means prosperity.

This year, however, Wu decided to stock up two weeks earlier and had bought almost all the things she needed online. She said that as a mother of two, she has little time for shopping and online platforms allow her more time to spend with her children.

"Buying goods online means I don't have to spend an entire day at a supermarket that might not even have all the things I need," said Wu.

Another advantage of shopping online is that she gets to buy goods from specific regions without having to scour the city for them.

For her reunion dinner on New Year's Eve, the family will partake in cakes and eight-treasure rice puddings from Chongming island, spianata calabra from Hubei province, seafood from Dalian of Liao-ning province, as well as snacks from Xiamen of Fujian province and Macao.

Hot items

According to, the most popular products for this year's Chinese New Year are wines (119 percent month-on-month increase), nuts (95 percent) and home appliances (89 percent). However, the popularity of items generally vary in the country's different regions. For example, the top three products purchased in East China are white wine, nuts and laundry detergent, said Liu Hui, director of public relations at

In the lead-up to the Spring Festival, the daily sales of fresh groceries and imported goods bought on have grown exponentially as well, with the majority of the orders being placed by white collar workers aged between 26 and 35.

Other items, such as children's books, air purifiers and flat-screen televisions, have also seen a big spike in sales.

Over at Amazon China, the most popular items for the Chinese New Year include books, kitchenware, apparel, shoes, baby products and beauty goods .

"It is a Chinese tradition to wear new clothes during the New Year and this tradition has resulted in a surge of our apparel sales. Clothes used to be ranked seven among all categories last year but this year it has jumped to third," said Brandy Niu, vice-president of Amazon China.

The upgrade in consumption demands of Chinese consumers in recent years has also inherently boosted the sales of premium items in the lead-up to the Spring Festival. In first-tier Chinese cities, goods such as cosmetics, designer handbags and imported air purifiers rank among the most popular, according to data from Netease Koala, an e-commerce site that specializes in cross-border trades.

"People, especially those in first-tier cities, are seeking personalized products these days for a special New Year experience," said Wang Zheng, spokesperson from Netease Koala.

For Dai Yun, her New Year's gift to her 9-year-old daughter is not a toy or a new bag for school. Rather, it will be a trip to Hokkaido, Japan. Even the presents she had been giving to her parents have changed. Since a few years ago, she had been gifting them therapeutic devices and electronic footbaths, items she said they like very much.

Business owners, too, have been getting in on the action. Ge Cong, the owner of an advertising agency, said that he will be giving away imported air purifiers and eye masks to motivate his staff to perform better in the coming year.

"I want to make it special this time. Sending pragmatic and high-quality gifts will help them get off to a good start," said Ge, who budgeted around 10,000 yuan for these New Year presents.

He Wei in Shanghai contributed to this story.

The festive e-shopping frenzy

The festive e-shopping frenzy

(China Daily USA 01/27/2017 page9)

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