US rides China's e-commerce wave

By Chang Jun & Linda Deng | | Updated: 2017-04-29 00:17

US rides China's e-commerce wave

3,700 categories

According to Chinese research firm CBN Data and Alibaba Group, Chinese consumers in 2016 can buy products on Tmall Global in 3,700 categories from big brands or retailers from 63 countries. Among the 14,500 brands now available on Tmall Global, 80 percent are new comers to China's market.

Best-selling are foreign cosmetics products and food. Milk powder, baby food and dietary supplements are some of the most popular items on Tmall Global. Since 2014 when Alibaba initiated collaborations with the US Department of Agriculture and local farm produce organizations, Chinese consumers have been able to purchase directly through Tmall seasonal American fruits such as cherries and apples and wild caught seafood from Alaska.

Keith Hu, director of international operations at Northwest Cherry Growers, an organization that represents growers in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Montana and Idaho, said Chinese shoppers consumed about 10 percent of the 200,000 tons of cherries from those states' total in past years. "China is the largest overseas market for the Northwest cherry industry and will continue to be a key market," he said.

Hu works with major supermarket chains and specially fruit chains in China to market cherries from his organization, and he also teams with Tmall to promote the Northwest cherry brand.

China is also one of the top five export markets for Washington apples, consuming roughly $30 million worth of Washington Red Delicious and Gala, two main varieties, between September 2015 and August 2016.

Growers, through an arrangement with the Washington Apple Commission and Alibaba, have launched e-commerce promotion for their apples.

"This past fall, they were able to show Tmall customers a Washington apple orchard and take them on a live tour of an apple-packing facility on the day before Singles Day," said Rebecca Lyons, international marketing director at the Washington Apple Commission. She said that more than 62,000 consumers watched the live broadcast at 2 am China time on Nov10, and more than 245,000 saw the video on the Tmall website during the promotion.

Chinese consumers are very quality conscious and care about the origin and safety of their food, which makes the Tmall market a perfect fit for Washington apples, said Lyons.

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