E-Commerce Companies Try to Cash In on Trend
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/19/2012 -- Chinese internet users are shopping online in great numbers. Not satisfied with finding bargains, they are looking for unique items, a trend upon which businesses hope to capitalize.
Fanny Fang, 31, of Shanghai has purchased many items emblazoned with photos of her 2-year-old son. She has purchased custom-made calendars, cups, and cell phone cases with her son’s pictures printed on them from the internet.
So far, Fang’s favorite item is a 40-page photo book she purchased for her son’s birthday last year. She was able to select the photos to include, choose the design and even make final tweaks to the product. "Young people like this kind of thing, especially students and young mothers like me," she said.
Fang said she will order another personalized photo product after a family trip on the National Day holiday.
Thanks to online shoppers such as Fang, several Chinese e-commerce companies have sprung up hoping to cash in on the trend. More than 10 of them, similar to Shutterfly in the U.S., host websites offering photo-publishing services that allow users to create personalized products, such as photo albums and cups.
Even internet companies success in other segments are turning to the custom-products business. Netease.com Inc., which derives most of its revenue from online games, offers a personalized product division called Yinxiangpai, which boasts more than 3,000 templates for users to choose from to create their products.
While most Yinxiangpai products are paper-based, such as photo books and greeting cards, the website has begun offering other items, including clay figures, metal goods, and ceramics.
"Some of the personalized products, will be completely hand-made rather than manufactured on assembly lines," said Zhu Qi, website director of operations.
Qi credits mothers, boyfriends and girlfriends with helping the company to double and sometimes triple its revenue each year.
"For days like Valentine's Day, the boom comes ahead of time, as people prepare gifts for their sweethearts," Zhu said. "But for holidays that emphasize tourism, the boom comes after as people come back and order personalized products with their newly taken photos."
Demand increases by double following the National Day holiday, with 20,000 to 30,000 using the personalized product service, said Zhu.
China’s biggest shopping website, Taobao.com, provides more than 2 million customizable items, including T-shirts and jewelry. Jack Ma, chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., an international e-commerce leader, said personalized products will continue to be a trend in the e-commerce sector in three-to-five years.
Out of the 538 million Chinese internet users, 210 million had shopped online by the end of June, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.
Consumers spent 782.6 billion yuan online last year, representing 4.32% of the country’s total retail sales.
Many expect China to overtake the U.S. to become the biggest online shopping market in 2013.
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