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Fulfillment is also very different from North America or Europe. In big cities, retailers often use couriers to deliver purchases, often the same day they are ordered. But shipments to more remote areas can be tricky. Currently, many major e-commerce sellers only ship to the 300 largest cities in China, and e-commerce systems must be built to accommodate these shipping limits.
There is no doubt that Western retailers and brands can build thriving e-commerce businesses in China. But to succeed they will need to address Chinese consumers' distinctive needs, navigate a complex legal landscape and build their e-commerce strategies on a platform flexible enough to handle the technical requirements that are unique to China.
Stefan Schmidt is vice president of product strategy at commerce platform provider hybris AG, an SAP Company. Schmidt has been involved in global e-commerce projects for brands such as H&M, Grainger, Toys 'R' Us, Reebok, Virgin Megastore and Waterstones.