Trends & Guides

2018 Year in Review – E-commerce in Hong Kong

17 December 2018 | Jillian Cheong
  • Taobao and Amazon were the highest searched terms of 2018, followed by Carousell and Zalora
  • Online shopping is most prominent before big festivities in Hong Kong i.e. Chinese New Year
  • The preferred shopping platform for Black Friday is Amazon

The revenue within the e-commerce market in Hong Kong is expected to grow to USD $6.4 million by 2023. According to a report done by Nielsen, local consumers are slowly but surely embracing online shopping. Incentives such as free delivery, ease of convenience, and special discounts are what drives Hong Kong e-consumers to shop online. In another survey by JLL, 72 per cent of retailers and 90 per cent of landlords are very optimistic towards the growth in online sales within the next couple of years. Compared to a few years back, millennials are not the only ones shopping online as it is prevalent that the silver-aged group in Hong Kong are also moderate users of e-commerce.

The biggest contributor towards this year’s revenue is the Electronic & Media segment, with USD $1.2 million of market volume. Other categories such as Fashion and Toys, Hobby & DIY are also bringing in a big chunk of the revenue, with USD $1.13 and USD $1.15 million respectively.

As the year draws to a close, the next logical step is to revisit e-commerce in Hong Kong throughout 2018. From this, we could gain insights and perspectives in the ever-changing trends, consumer behaviours, and other discoveries from Google Trends.

Taobao and Amazon were the most searched e-commerce platforms of 2018 in Hong Kong

Once again, it’s the battle between Jack Ma and Jeff Bezos. Throughout 2018, it’s apparent that these e-commerce giants are not ruling only internationally, but also in Hong Kong. We can observe that Amazon is fast closing the gap between Taobao, particularly during Amazon’s biggest sale periods.

From the 15th to 21st of July, Taobao and Amazon are neck and neck. This is due to Amazon’s Prime Day which falls on the 14th of July. It is one of the biggest global shopping events offered to Prime members.

Additionally, the most significant jump for Amazon is during the Black Friday week which also overtook Taobao’s search interest. Nevertheless, the success for Black Friday did not happen overnight. It started building momentum in 2013, and 2017 was the year that Amazon took over Taobao. The gap between the two are getting closer, and in comparison to last year’s results, there has been a decrease in 69 per cent. This is because; Amazon has been increasingly doing well during the Black Friday period.

From the 15th to 21st of July, Taobao and Amazon are neck and neck, while Amazon overtook Taobao during the Black Friday week (18th -24th Nov). Data derived from

Chinese people take the tradition “New Year, New Clothes” very seriously. This is evident as the period before Chinese New Year (16th February) had the highest spike in terms of interest, even more so than the popular Double-Eleven and Black Friday shopping festivals. Some of the top search terms on Taobao during this period were Taobao HK, Taobao Hong Kong, and Taobao China. On the other hand, Amazon’s top search terms were Amazon JP, Amazon HK, and Amazon UK.

The Chinese New Year shopping period peaked from 21st January to 27th January of 2018. Based on the Google Trends graph, we can observe that a majority of Hong Kongers are flocking to Taobao as they prep two weeks prior to the Spring Festival.

Aside from that, Taobao has a variety of sale seasons throughout the year which contributes to the hike in search interest. The Women’s Day Sale happens from 3rd to 8th of March, while the Wedding Season Sale happens from 9th to 11th of April.

The period before Chinese New Year (16th February) had the highest spike in terms of interest. Women’s Day Sale happens from 3rd to 8th of March, while the Wedding Season Sale happens from 9th to 11th of April. Data derived from

Queries that played an important role in 2018

E-commerce sites rely heavily on queries and Google Trends is able to reveal them based on what most people are searching for. Most of the time, consumers are looking for products whenever its within an e-commerce context.

The most popular queries utilised among the 5 e-commerce stores with the highest search volumes are country keywords. Keywords such as HK, Hong Kong as well as 香港 (Hong Kong) are commonly used. Through this observation, consumers are most likely looking to shop for products that are available locally.

Another notable query is “promo code” which can be seen being utilised for fashion sites Zalora and Farfetch. As mentioned in my introduction, one of the factors that drives Hong Kong e-consumers to shop online is special discounts. This shows that consumers in Hong Kong would prefer paying for clothing items at a cheaper price compared to the other categories.

Preferences changes during online sale periods

In contrast to the year 2015, we saw a big jump during the Black Friday sale period. More and more Hong Kongers are joining this shopping craze that are typically popular among the Westerners.

Since 11.11 is technically the Black Friday of Hong Kong, Amazon manages to barely overtake Taobao during the popular shopping holiday. This may be due to China shoppers looking to shop overseas and e-commerce sites in Hong Kong seems to be the most relevant. In fact, Chinese customers are sending their Amazon packages to Hong Kong to ultimately lower the shipment cost as well as to avoid additional taxes. Packages sent from the US are taxed when it crosses Chinese borders.

Verdict

Chances of seeing a similar pattern of online shopping trends next year will be positive if the big players continue with their Sale Seasons and other shopping holidays. As for Zalora, Carousell, and Farfetch, they still have a lot catching up to do. Nevertheless, mirroring the big players will allow them to leverage during the prominent periods, for example initiating their own sales day, just like how Lazada has their own annual birthday sale.

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