The best Australian exporters to China aren’t who you’d think
The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) will mark huge changes for Australian exporters to China. Selling online in China will become straightforward, allowing the simple shipment of goods through logistics providers or the procurement centre of an affiliated e-commerce market. Despite these opportunities, the most popular Australian exporters to China aren’t brands – they’re buying agents.
Buying agents are dominating search engines
There are more Chinese web searches looking for Australian buying agents than those directly searching for Australian products. The most-searched keyword associated with “Australia” was “buying agent”, according to data from Chinese search engine Baidu, from January to July 2015.
Who are buying agents
As opposed to resellers who are authorised to trade on behalf of a brand, buying agents are unauthorised, purchasing goods on behalf of consumers abroad. Buying agents typically post images of products on their personal social media such as WeChat and Weibo, offering to purchase Australian products in-store and post them to clients in China.
Buying agents have become big business, with over 4,670 buying agents in Australia advertising Australian products on WeChat or C2C e-marketplaces in China in July 2015. Unauthorised buying agents made up 91.2 per cent of the 851,700 Australian products and services listed on Chinese e-marketplace Taobao,
How buying agents work
The buying agent industry is well-developed and is mostly run by international students or new immigrants who have friends or connections in China.
After buying agents receive the order and money from China, they purchase the products from one or more Australian supermarkets, pharmacies or boutiques, package the stock, and ship it to China via Chinese logistics companies that offer services at about $6/kg.
Buying agents are often the only option
Chinese consumers are turning to resellers to buy Australian goods because they are often the only method of buying these products. Only 47 Australian brands had flagship stores on China’s biggest e-marketplaces, with an additional 78 Australian brands sold through authorised Chinese online resellers on Alibaba-owned shopping platforms Tmall and Tmall Global.
Expensive retail prices and low trust with individual stores in China also encourage Chinese online shoppers to approach Australian buying agents.
The danger of buying agents
Although buying agents are buying your products, their activities can harm your brand. Buying agents can provide inaccurate information on your product, littering the internet with hundreds of variations on product translations.
“No matter how good a deal the Australian government negotiates with China, it will only work if Australian companies seize the opportunities” – Professor Kerry Brown, director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney
The government can educate Australian businesses about these Chinese opportunities and propagate the values of ChAFTA but ultimately, the work falls down to enterprises.
It’s time Australian businesses took regained control of their brand.