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China's Shoppers and Travelers Often Look to Japan

Brands in Japan target Chinese consumers before they head overseas

January 10, 2017 | Retail & Ecommerce

The Chinese "economic miracle" has created, by some measures, a 200-million strong growing middle-class that's beginning to travel the world in record numbers. According to Ministry of Commerce in China, the number of outbound tourists from the country hit 120 million in 2015, and spent nearly RMB1.5 trillion during their travels, with roughly half of that money dedicated to shopping.

Cross-Border B2C Ecommerce Sales in China, Japan and the US, 2015-2019 (billions of ¥)

One of the beneficiaries of this newfound desire to see the world has been Japan, which a July 2016 survey by Hotel.com found was named one of the top destinations to visit by Chinese travelers.

In 2015, nearly 5 million Chinese tourists visited Japan, double the 2.4 million that visited the previous year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). These visitors each spent an average of ¥284,000 ($2,346) during their stays, according to the JNTO.

Cross-border commerce between Japan and China has grown in tandem with this increase in Chinese tourism. Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) projects that cross-border B2C ecommerce sales from Japan to China reached ¥1.08 trillion ($8.92 billion) in 2016, and will more than double to ¥2.34 trillion ($19.33 billion) by 2019.

Several Japanese brands, like personal care products company Shiseido, are attempting to reach Chinese consumers before they've even left the country.

Beginning in January, Shiseido plans to launch 10 brick-and-mortar stores in China while highlighting the Japanese origin of their products, a marketing strategy intended to appeal to consumers wary of Chinese-made counterfeit goods and poorly regulated products.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are not the only ones targeting Chinese consumers before they head overseas.

Amazon's Japanese website Amazon.co.jp launched a Chinese-language version of its site in June this year in response to growing demand from digital buyers in China. The new version of the site gives consumers access to millions of products, while also offering lower shipping costs than purchases from Australia.

—Man-Chung Cheung

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