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E-commerce in rural China continues to grow

Updated: Apr 13,2017 2:48 PM

E-commerce has become part of life for many rural Chinese residents, spending more online, and seeking new job opportunities that come their way. ‍

Zhong Yanhai is a successful salesman, but in his county in China’s east Fujian province, he doesn’t need to go around, selling his products: people come to him.

Zhong, who heads a Taobao service station, said, “I place orders for villagers on Taobao, and most of my earnings come from the mark-ups of those online producers. ”

Zhong grosses more than 10,000 yuan in commissions each month, a figure that’s often the total revenue of a rural resident in a whole year.

To become such a star salesperson in rural China, it often means turning the workstation into a community center with other services like paying utility bills and setting up Mahjong tables.

“The more people come to you, the more you make.” Zhong said.

Taobao says at least 100,000 of these service stations will pop up in rural China by 2020, and China’s rural online market is already worth more than 350 billion yuan.

But vending homegrown products from rural areas has its own risks. Hua Qian, who went from selling potato chips to chilli peppers online, learned that it is the hard way.

“You must sell the really profitable goods, those that bring in enough revenue for each order, and then your products have to be competitive and different enough from what others offer,” she said.

For now, she sells local rice wine. But she is still on the hunt for a real star product.

Experts say it’s the way to go for rural Chinese residents, who are getting used to both buying and selling online.

“If they only shop online, it often means money is moving to the cities without letting these rural consumers grow their ability to produce, trade, and become even bigger spenders online. So they should apply the online element to the entire production process,” said Huang Zhen, professor of Central University of Finance and Economics.

So for those who still go to weekly markets, there’s still a long way to go before fully embracing the e-trade.