Online shopping in China is more than clicking on the "buy" button. There are over five million small online stores operating across China, some from small apartments or college dormitories. Zhang Qiaoli, for example, runs her online business out of her spare bedroom. She buys dresses and accessories wholesale; using the website Taobao, she sells them on as the Kitty Lover range, at prices under $10.
Taobao is owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.Comparable to eBay, It is a free-to-use online marketplace with some 800 million product lines - from food to clothes to technology.
It boasts 50 million unique visitors a day and is the top destination for three quarters of the country's online shoppers.
Across China, online companies large and small are learning how to be effective e-commerce players - or fail like US goliath eBay, which was trounced by upstart Taobao back in 2006.
In 2010, China's online shopping industry had a turnover of $80bn, and grew 87% year-on-year. China's 420 million internet users spend around a billion hours each day online - and last year, 185 million made at least one online purchase.
According to Boston Consulting Group, the volume is expected to increase fourfold by 2015. Online shopping now accounts for more than 5% of China's retail sales, and Taobao's sellers are behind 70% of the country's online transactions.
E-commerce is changing the way Chinese consumers think about shopping: online, it is more social than a hard sell. It's a new engaging experience to savour. In Chinese retail, trust is a rare commodity. There are plenty of fakes online, and buyers are often cursed by scams or shoddy goods.
Still, consumer faith in e-commerce stores is remarkably robust. That's because, apart from its convenience, online shopping has shifted the balance of power from sellers to buyers. China's consumers have the upper hand like never before - and it's not just because there are more traders at their fingertips than in the local High Street.
Online shopping in China is more than clicking on the "buy" button. The experience includes exchanging tips with other shoppers, discussing trends, and rating both products and service.
The interaction and communication generates trust. "The ability of social networking combined with e-commerce or social commerce as I like to call it - where people are able to rate their providers, provide information to other purchasers - that level of experience is really overcoming the big weaknesses," says Duncan Clark, Chairman of BDA (China), an expert on China's e-commerce industry.
"Basically, there is a one-to-one connection being established. And that's breaking through the mistrust barrier if you will. So I think we can learn, actually - the West can learn from some of the developments happening in the Chinese e-commerce sector," says Mr Clark.
In China, the competition is about focusing on how to put the technology to work. This often means duplicating or tweaking existing ideas to get an edge in the market, cheaply and quickly.
Image: NE Tiger dresses
Source: BBC ©