May 2, 2019

The Best Products to Sell in China

Simply selecting your best selling Canadian product, distributing it to the Chinese market and hoping for the best is not an approach that will produce the results you’re looking for. Before listing your product on any Chinese e-commerce platform, there are two questions you need to ask yourself:

1) Does brand awareness for your products already exist in China?

Chances are your products probably have minimal brand recognition. Unless you’re already working with a distributor or trade partner, most Chinese consumers won’t be aware of your brand and your brand’s story. You’ll need to consider whether or not you’re willing to make the required investment in marketing to establish brand awareness, similar to what you’ve done in Canada.  

2) Is your brand or product unique to the Chinese market?

There are endless brands for Chinese consumers to choose from. What are you bringing to the table that distinguishes your brand in China? Things like unique branding, special endorsements, or unique product features are the types of items that will set you apart from other brands and increase the likelihood that you’ll be listed on one of the many e-commerce platforms in China.

As we share the list of products that are most in demand in China, understand that simply having the right product is just one aspect of connecting with Chinese consumers. Other significant factors contribute to the possible success of your entry into this market. As you think through expanding your business overseas, consider what it will take to develop your brand identity or take some time to strategize your pricing model. It’s not as simple as offering the right product on the most popular platform.

With that said, it’s crucial to understand if there is true demand for the products you plan on offering. While you shouldn’t be afraid of introducing new products into a foreign market, knowing what’s already popular is at the very least an indicator of what that population enjoys. The Chinese consumer market is too large to make any blanket assumptions about their tastes, but we can use trends as a reference for what’s relevant throughout the land.

Products in high demand in China

From a macro perspective, here are some of the most popular products being sold on cross-border e-commerce platforms in China:

  • Clothing – Young people, in particular, are looking for the styles and brands from the North American market. Companies like Lululemon and Arc’teryx have found massive success in the Chinese market as they’ve been able to provide unique, high-quality clothing to consumers.  
  • Jewelry – With the rise of e-commerce platforms in China, consumers have benefited from increased access to high-quality Jewelry. Nielson Co. released a study indicating that “39% of Chinese consumers are willing to buy products of better quality with relatively higher prices.”
  • Beauty Care  – In a country that logs the most amount of average working hours globally, skincare and products like hair restoration shampoo are in demand. This category represents 30% of all sales on Tmall, China’s largest e-commerce platform.
  • Mother/Baby – With the departure from the one-child policy and the increased purchasing power of middle-class Chinese consumer, a larger emphasis is being placed on sourcing high-quality, safe products for children and mothers. Western brands in this category are highly regarded among Chinese consumers.
  • Nutrition – The global average of consumers willing to spend more on healthy foods and beverages is 68%. In China, that average is 86%.
  • Shoes – Niche, authentic, luxury footwear is becoming a cornerstone for Chinese consumers, particularly with Gen Z and millenials.
  • Household Products – Given the growth within the small household appliance market in China, luxury brands like Smeg have grown wildly popular with Chinese consumers through channels like the Smeg Tmall flagship store.
  • Personal Care – Demand for Western brands beauty and personal care products has become extremely popular as a result of social media and key opinion leader (KOL) influencing.
  • Fashion Accessories – Chinese consumers are looking to express themselves in unique ways. Brands like Pandora have benefited from entering the Chinese market given the emphasis they place on customization with their unique charms. Pandora also started selling on Tmall, as the brand’s first online foray into the mass Chinese consumer market.
A chart showing the top five product categories for cross-border online shopping in China.

Base: 1,596 Chinese Internet users, surveyed in 2016

Base: 1,596 Chinese Internet users, surveyed in 2016 IRESEARCH


This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed.  All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change.  No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.