The New Global Cross-border E-commerce Landscape and its Evolution

Cross-border e-commerce refers to e-commerce platforms and online trading platforms where trading entities belonging to different customs borders conclude transactions, make payments and settlements, and deliver goods and complete transactions through cross-border logistics. As a new mode of international trade, cross-border e-commerce is the networking and electrification of traditional international trade, with electronic technology and logistics as the main means and commerce as the core, moving traditional sales and shopping channels online, breaking the tangible and intangible barriers between countries and regions, and developing rapidly around the world because of its advantages of reducing intermediate links and saving costs. Global cross-border e-commerce has gradually emerged in the post-21st century. Global cross-border e-commerce has gone through about three stages, the nascent stage, the development stage and the explosion stage. First, the budding stage (2001-2007). 2001-2007 was the budding period of cross-border e-commerce, during which governments and e-commerce companies promoted online shopping models to promote economic development and employment in their countries, mainly in the online retail sector, but with very small transaction amounts.

In the nascent stage, cross-border e-commerce is in the early stages of development worldwide. The lack of awareness of the advantages and benefits offered by online shopping in people’s mindset led to the result of a large supply versus demand in this market. In this period, cross-border e-commerce took B2B as the main form.

Second, the development stage (2007-2015). In this phase, governments gradually began to determine the legal status of cross-border B2C commerce in their countries, and allowed goods below a certain amount to be tax-free. The most critical aspect in this phase is logistics. Generally speaking, a country must build its own cross-border supply logistics system if it is to achieve long-term stable development of e-commerce. However, due to various cost constraints and technical problems, significant investment is still needed to improve the conditions in this area. As a result, various international giant companies, such as Alibaba Group and Amazon Group, have started to experiment in establishing cross-border logistics systems based on imported bonded warehouses and sea and air logistics. This provides an important guarantee for the subsequent development of cross-border e-commerce.

Third, the explosion stage(2015-now). The third phase experienced by cross-border e-commerce is the explosion phase. In this stage, large international companies have built up sophisticated platforms and logistics channels. Batch after batch of entrepreneurs joined in. With the rise of the e-commerce industry, various nationals had the opportunity to complete their shopping in front of their computers. The advantages of cross-border e-commerce soon became apparent and it was one of the best times for cross-border e-commerce to grow.

In addition to the industry’s leading brands, a number of small and medium-sized businesses and companies are also starting to enter the cross-border e-commerce circuit. At the same time, as domestic consumers’ demand for overseas consumption continued to rise, so did the quality and service level of cross-border goods. At this stage, most cross-border e-commerce companies have become profitable or even listed. Cross-border e-commerce is entering a new explosive period.

The global scale of cross-border e-commerce will continue to grow. According to a report released by iMedia Consulting, the global e-commerce market size will reach US$10.3 trillion in 2020 and is expected to grow to US$33.3 trillion in 2028, with a compound annual growth rate of 15.8%, the global e-commerce market will continue to show rapid growth and prosperity. Among them, the B2B e-commerce market size is expected to reach US$25.7 trillion by 2028, and the B2C e-commerce market size is expected to reach US$7.6 trillion by 2028.

Behind the further bracketing of the scale, new business models are emerging. First, in addition to platforms supported by major internet companies such as Alibaba International and Amazon Global Shopping, a number of independent cross-border e-commerce sites are emerging. In the first wave of the cross-border e-commerce explosion, international giant companies have driven the development of international logistics through massive financial support and policy dividends from various countries. Now, companies operating independent sites can complete the construction of the logistics channels needed for cross-border trade at a fraction of the cost. During this wave of development, the service capabilities of cross-border e-commerce have continued to improve. In the past, foreign consumers could only book and purchase goods through cross-border e-commerce websites and platforms; now, cross-border e-commerce independent online shops or platforms can achieve direct online payment, offline pick-up, returns and other functions. A good example of this is Chinese cross-border e-commerce giant SHEIN, an international B2C fast fashion e-commerce company. It mainly deals in women’s clothing, but also offers fashion items such as men’s and children’s clothing, accessories, shoes and bags. In May 2021, data from app tracking companies App Annie and Sensor Tower showed that SHEIN replaced Amazon as the most downloaded shopping app on iOS and Android platforms in the US.

The second is the rise of live cross-border e-commerce, which not only offers more choice, but also allows consumers to experience ‘shopping’ without having to leave home. In the past, people used to get information about products through online pictures, but live streaming is a platform that delivers product information to users in real time and allows them to choose products at will, which can help companies and individuals to open up sales and even become entrepreneurial projects. In 2019, Amazon launched Amazon live, a fully interactive platform with live chat capabilities that allows merchants to showcase items on sale of interest to consumers in front of the screen in a more visual and relevant way through online live streaming, answering questions and putting up links to products for easy click-through purchases. 2021 In February, TikTok first launched in Southeast Asia Indonesia with the launch of a live streaming of the small yellow car feature, along with online posting and an internal TikTok SHOP. Video and live stream viewers can click on the shopping cart icon in a TikTok video to go directly to the corresponding product page to shop.

By JIN Kaiwei

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