The sheer scale of demand for Australian and New Zealand goods in China has been revealed in a striking report presented in Sydney - although, reports Richard Whitehead, indications suggests that cross-border e-commerce might soon have reached its peak.
Mintel, the mnarket analyst, found that more than a third of Chinese online buyers placed orders with 'Down Under' companies across all categories. Around 256% of these were for food and beverage shipments.
In terms of baby food and related products, Chinese consumers are most likely to look towards the South Pacific nations. Mintel's figures show that New Zealand has been the favourite in this category, currently attracting a whole 22 percent of online import shoppers, closely followed by Australia.
Overall, 33% of those who have purchased imported goods online have bought baby food and products from the two countries.
Mintel's research also indicates that imported alcoholic drinks have also become very popular, with around one in five Chinese online consumers ordering their grog from australia. This figure dips slightly to 16% for Kiwi liquor purchases.
Laurel Gu, Mintel's research director, says Chinese shoppers were becoming increasingly sophisticated while remaining influenced by the reputations of source countries.
"We see a lot of growth opportunity for brands in Australia and New Zealand to target Chinese consumers.
"With Australia and New Zealand both having reputations for their strong focus on natural ingredients, food and drink companies could see great success by tapping into Chinese consumers' healthy lifestyle, particularly within snaking occasions," Gu added.
She estimates that the total combined online cross-border e-commerce market in China, known locally as 'haitao', grew by a factor of ten from RMB53 billion (US$7.7 billion) in 2011 to RMB626 billion (US$91 billion) in 2016. This represented an average annual growth rate of 64 percent.
From 2016 to 2021, however, growth is expected to slow to a still-strong 15%, to reach a total value of RMB1.3 trillion (US$189 billion).
"While still strong, China's haitao market has nearly reached its peak because many foreign brands are now already established within the China market, selling eiother through domestic physical stores or domestic online shopping websites," Gu says.
This is because neighbouring countries now have their own popular online shopping destinations for Chinese consumers. South Korea, for example, leads for shopping in beauty and personal care (45%), while Japan is the most popular country for personal electronics (28%). Putside Asia-Pacific, France is popular for alcoholic drinks (36%).
Beyond product quality, Gu says the key to grabbing Chinese consumers' interest is through convenience and customer service.
"Brands in Australia and New Zealand could consider selling their products via China's leading domestic shopping websites, providing Chinese-language customer service, offering fast delivery services, as well as implementing the usage of third-party payment systems."