SYDNEY/BEIJING: Chinese online consumers who buy imported products have some very definite ideas about provenance, with food seen as the preferred purchase from Australia and New Zealand.

According to market intelligence firm Mintel, more than one third (36%) of Chinese consumers who have bought imported products in the past six months have bought food products online from ANZ, more than from neighbouring Taiwan (31%).

That figure, based on a survey of 2,397 internet users aged 20-49, who bought imported products between June and November 2016, included one quarter (24%) of those who bought food products online from Australia and 23% who purchased the same online from New Zealand.

"Chinese consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated while remaining influenced by the reputations of source countries," observed Laurel Gu, Research Director at Mintel.

"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 snacking occasions," she added.

South Korea and Japan are also popular online shopping destinations among Chinese consumers buying imported products: South Korea led the way for shopping in the beauty and personal care (45%) and clothing and footwear (28%) categories.

Japan, with its reputation for technical innovation and engineering excellence, was preferred for purchases in the personal electronics (28%) and household electronic appliances (27%) categories.

Furthermore, the nature of Chinese cross-border e-commerce is changing even as it continues to grow, and Mintel predicts a CAGR of 15% from 2016-2021, by when it will total Rmb 1,281bn (B2B and B2C combined).

As more foreign brands establish themselves on domestic Chinese platforms like Tmall and Taobao, the haitao option of buying via an overseas site may have peaked, although Mintel suggested this route remains relevant for brands entering the market for the first time.

The daigou phenomenon, where individuals overseas buy up products and sell them back to friends and acquaintances in China, is similarly affected.

Gu advised that reputation and presence is only part of the picture for overseas brands, which should also think about "providing Chinese-language customer service, offering fast delivery services, as well as implementing the usage of third-party payment systems".

Data sourced from Mintel, Marketing Interactive; additional content by WARC staff