While hunkering down in their homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers worldwide are increasingly turning to cross-border online shopping for Chinese goods.
Such enthusiasm has been most conspicuous on China's AliExpress, the business-to-consumer site selling extensively to some 200 overseas markets. This has been remarkable given that the contagion has partially slowed, if not thwarted, transnational logistics.
AliExpress said the number of merchants who participated in this year's Nov 11 online shopping extravaganza rose by 30 percent and the number of items grew by 60 percent year-on-year, though it didn't provide detailed figures. Nearly 2,000 Chinese merchants crossed last year's 24-hour sales volume in less than an hour this year.
Key markets like Spain and France needed just half a day to surpass gross merchandise volume achieved in the 48 hours for last year's event, according to company data. The international version of the shopping gala normally takes two whole days given the time differences worldwide.
Spain saw gross merchandise volume jump 60 percent compared with the same time last year, with electronics ranging from Chinese-made phones to TV sets topping the shopping carts. France saw gardening tools and home appliances gain the most attention, with the growth of transaction volume and the number of orders both surpassing 100 percent year-on-year.
Brazil was one major beneficiary of a cross-border logistics initiative by AliExpress and sister company Cainiao－a smart logistics network also under the Alibaba umbrella. Joint chartered flights by the pair ensured four direct flights from China to Brazil, halving the average delivery time from two months, with three quarters of all parcels reaching their destinations within 30 days.
Impeccable delivery is also guaranteed thanks to bonded warehouses established across five nations from Belgium to Spain that are able to cover European Union member nations. Local transportation typically takes on average three days, while intracontinental delivery is achieved within a week.
The speediest cross-border delivery occurred in South Korea, with less than 48 hours delivery from a warehouse in Weihai, Shandong province.
Commercial activity was also kicked up a notch thanks to the growing popularity among global audiences of livestreaming, where merchants speak in real time to promote their products and give out limited-duration coupons to entice prospective buyers.
The practice, which originated in China, is picking up steam elsewhere. AliExpress said the platform has hosted nearly 10,000 livestreaming sessions with accumulated viewers topping 8 million, jumping tenfold compared with last year.
In an effort to boost sales, AliExpress also unveiled a real time livestreaming translation feature to allow merchants and livestreamers to tap into international business opportunities. The new feature currently supports simultaneous translation from Chinese to English, Russian, Spanish and French.
"We will continue to provide a Chinese-style online shopping experience to hundreds of millions of users around the world through technological innovation, deep consumer insights and logistics infrastructure development, and help small and medium-sized businesses and consumers overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic," said AliExpress General Manager Wang Mingqiang.