People visit the Hainan exhibition area of the first China International Consumer Products Expo in Haikou, South China’s Hainan province, on Friday. [Photo by Zhang Wei/Newsvase.com]

HAIKOU — As the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to online shopping and created a surge in cross-border e-commerce imports in China, e-commerce platforms are bringing global brands closer to the world’s most promising consumer market.

On the first day of the China International Consumer Products Expo, Tmall Global, an online marketplace of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, held four livestreaming sessions to promote products, each garnering more than 1 million viewers.

At the four-day expo, which opened on Thursday in south China’s island province of Hainan, Tmall Global has showcased products of over 100 foreign brands, ranging from cosmetics, beauty devices, to smart devices for pets and imported wine.

Amid the pandemic, cross-border e-commerce has become an important platform for brands from home and abroad to release their new products. Over 100 brands signed strategic agreements with Tmall Global on Friday, with the aim to sell their new products displayed at the expo via Tmall in the coming year to meet the booming demand of Chinese customers.

“The consumer products expo not only serves as an important window to display the progress of the Hainan free trade port construction, but also helps foreign businesses to better understand the Chinese market,” said Marcella Li, head of Global Business Development and Operations at Tmall Global.

Last year, an average of approximately 400 overseas brands opened stores on Tmall Global each month, according to the company. To date, more than 29,000 overseas brands from 87 countries and regions have established storefronts on Tmall Global.

At the expo, JD Worldwide, the platform for imported products of China’s leading retailer JD.com, displayed a number of smart products of domestic and foreign brands.

“With the pandemic keeping Chinese customers from shopping overseas, the demand for international brands in China has increased, and cross-border e-commerce platforms have become their preferred choice,” said Frank Yu, general manager of marketing and operations for JD Worldwide.

Since its launch in 2015, JD Worldwide has attracted nearly 20,000 overseas brands, offering a vast range of product categories including maternal and childcare, nutrition and healthcare, household and kitchenware, food and car accessories.

According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, consumer goods imports into China grew 8.2 percent in 2020, reaching 1.57 trillion yuan (about $242 billion).

Such growth was echoed on JD Worldwide during the 2020 Singles’ Day shopping festival, with total sales during the period increased by 50 percent year-on-year.

In 2020, the e-commerce platform opened its first brick-and-mortar duty-free store in Sanya city, Hainan, and plans to open an online duty-free shop soon.

JD Worldwide will seize the opportunities brought by the Hainan free trade port to promote the upgrading of consumption of Chinese consumers, said Han Rui, vice president of JD.com.

With a total population of over 1.4 billion and more than 400 million middle-income residents, China has become the world’s most promising consumer market.

Foreign brands are attaching great importance to the Chinese market, especially amid the pandemic, said Viya, one of the most well-known e-commerce livestreaming anchors in China, at the expo.

“Some tailored products are designed exclusively for our customers and the products are not only sold in China but also abroad, as design philosophies featuring Chinese characteristics are gaining momentum worldwide,” she said.

E-commerce platforms are a channel for Chinese consumers to purchase quality products of foreign brands without going abroad, and are also conducive to promoting China’s products to the world, she added.

Kazunori Tokura, executive vice president of Japanese company Omron Healthcare (China), said Omron expects to accelerate its entry into the Chinese market. Via the expo, the company is willing to cooperate with local firms such as e-commerce platforms to help more customers become familiar with their products and services, he said.