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Amazon is the leader among sites focused on selling imported goods, with iHerb a strong second.
Every day Chinese consumers search the country’s leading search engine Baidu 300,000 times for sites that sell imported goods. That’s only 0.1% of the 300 million retail-related searches on Baidu, but it amounts to nearly 90,000 searches a day for Amazon.com Inc.’s U.S. e-commerce site and 60,000 a day for iHerb.com, a web-only retailer of vitamins and nutritional supplements.
Amazon is No. 1 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Top 500 and iHerb No. 214.
IHerb has been gaining more sales from China since it began in 2013 accepting as a payment option Alipay, the online payment service associated with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s leading e-commerce company. “Now what’s really moving it is word of mouth,” says John McCarthy, director of marketing at iHerb. While not providing details on sales to China, McCarthy says it’s among the top five markets for iHerb, after the United States, South Korea and Japan.
In addition, iHerb keeps making it more convenient for Chinese shoppers to place orders. The e-retailer has added a new service that ships to China and this week began offering free shipping to China for most orders over $60. U.S. orders over $20 ship free. IHerb also is planning to begin soon buying ads on Baidu search results pages, McCarthy says, having completed the lengthy process of gaining approval from Baidu.
The search data recently released from Baidu show that there on average 218 million retail-related searches daily from personal computers, a 52% increase than a year ago, while daily searches on mobile devices average 82.7 million times, up 136% year over year. Baidu is China’s dominant search engine, accounting for 82% of searches on personal computers, and 70% from mobile devices in China, according to Chinese research organization China Internet Network Information Center.
Baidu is the most-visited web site in China and No. 5 in the world, according to Internet data firm Alexa Internet Inc., which is owned by Amazon.com Inc. And it account for 10% the traffic that arrives at Taobao.com, the largest of Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplaces, and 12% of traffic to JD.com, the No. 1 online retailer in the Internet Retailer China 500. As the owner of online marketplaces like Taobao and Tmall, Alibaba is not ranked because, like eBay, it is not itself a retailer but rather the operator of online shopping portals.
Among sites that sell overseas products, here are the top 10 in terms of retail-related searches on Baidu.com, with their share of searches for such sites, according to Baidu:
- Amazon U.S., 29.7%
- iHerb, 20.0%
- Amazon Japan, 19.7%
- Ymatou, 7.8%
- 55haitao, 7.4%
- Tmall Global, 5.5%
- Taobao Global, 3.6%
- Kuajingtong, 2.5%
- Haitaocheng, 1.7%
- Extrabux, 1.4%
Ymatou.com, 55haitao.com and haitaocheng.com are Chinese sites that provide directories of sites selling overseas products and services. Kuajingtong.com is a cross-border platform selling overseas products from Shanghai’s free-trade zone, a special zone the Chinese government created last fall to expedite imports and exports. Extrabux.com is a comparison shopping and coupon site based in California.
While Amazon operates its own e-commerce web site in China, analysts say some Chinese consumers prefer to buy from overseas e-commerce sites, having more confidence they will obtain from foreign sites untainted food and cosmetics products.
Baidu also disclosed the top five cross border e-commerce new topics, based on search volume from Baidu’s Chinese users in 2013:
- E-commerce platform in Shanghai Free Trade Zone: Kuajingtong’s launch
- Amazon sales event
- Amazon U.S. Black Friday sales
- Free-trade zone launch
- Tmall Global launch (Tmall Global is a marketplace operated by Alibaba that sells overseas products to Chinese consumers.)