Last week from December 11-12, I had the chance to attend the largest Chinese Amazon conference in the world in Shanghai, China.
In this post, I'll tell you what this conference was all about and what the world of a Chinese seller looks like.
What is the conference?
The conference was hosted by Amazon themselves and is called Amazon Global Selling. In many regards, it's similar to the Boost with FBA conference they held in the U.S. with one major difference: this conference had over 10,000 attendees! To give you some perspective, they had to rent out the largest convention center in Shanghai (which is MASSIVE).
There were three major components to the conference:
- Trade show for Amazon and third-party products and services
- The main conference
- Master class training
Tickets ranged from 58 RMB (about $9US) for entrance to the trade show only, 128 RMB (about $28) for access to the main conference and trade show to 958 RMB which included all of the above plus master class training from Amazon.
The Global Selling conference is held annually and rotates between major cities in China (Shanghai, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, and Xiamen).
Registration was done by WeChat and was in Chinese only meaning it was limited to Chinese speaking individuals only or those with Chinese speaking friends.
The Trade Show
There was a fairly major trade show as part of the conference which had approximately 50 vendors exhibiting.
About 80% of the services were for freight forwarders, 10% for various software, and 10% for miscellaneous other services like VAT collection and suspension.
Without a doubt, the absolute focus of the trade show from Amazon was their Amazon Global Logistics (AGL) program.
AGL is Amazon's Freight Forwarding service. YES, Amazon is entering the freight forward world. We enrolled in AGL a couple of months ago and Amazon is desperately trying to get more sellers to sign up, especially Chinese sellers.
AGL is about 20-30% more expensive than most freight forwarding services but has two major differences: you get to ship to a SINGLE warehouse AND your shipments get cleared into stock MUCH quicker than with your own freight forwarding services. For standard size items, it takes about 14 days from arriving at the port in China to being received into FBA inventory. For those interested, in EcomCrew Premium we show non-Chinese sellers how to get enrolled.
The trade show was Amazon's “relentless” nature in full display. There were over a dozen freight forwarders at the conference with 10'x10′ booths but Amazon's OWN freight forwarding services dominated the entire trade show. You couldn't walk five feet without being approached by someone from Amazon Global Logistics. Amazon had relied on third-party freight forwarding services for years to get inventory into stock and then, overnight, basically destroyed all of their businesses (but, of course, they were happy to still take their money to exhibit). Sound familiar?
Like mentioned, there were also Chinese software companies in the exhibit. The most dominant was Jungle Scout, who's making a big push into the Chinese market, and Seller Motor, a Chinese company based in Changsha. It's similar to Jungle Scout but with a couple of nifty features like the ability to see what nationality any seller is.
Using Seller Motor, and cross-referencing trademark registration information to company address information, it determined that 48% of brands with a top 5000 BSR were Chinese brands.
The main conference took place from 2 pm to 5 pm. It consisted mostly of various Amazon VPs talking about how much they cared about sellers and all the great and wonderful things they were doing to support sellers (uh uh). It was all the fairly standard Amazon propaganda with the only notable moments coming as one of the VPs subtle reminded that they expect Chinese sellers to expect intellectual property rights.
The most striking thing about the entire conference was the sheer size of it. There were over 10,000 people at the conference. Our seats were at the very back and it was worse than nosebleed seats at a rock concert. The closest comparison I have to both tone and size is to the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder conference I attended several years back.
Chinese Amazon Tactics and Strategies
The biggest reason I wanted to attend the show was the chance to get to talk to other Chinese sellers and see what tactics and strategies exactly they were using.
There were two big takeaways from Chinese sellers regarding the background of your average Chinese seller and how they are getting around tariffs.
After talking to several sellers, there was one common thread amongst nearly all of them: nearly all Chinese Amazon sellers I spoke to had sharpened their teeth by selling on Taobao first and started selling on Amazon after.
Taobao, if you're not familiar, is the massive Chinese ecommerce website founded by Jack Ma and that's a part of Alibaba. Taobao makes Amazon look tiny. In fact, Taobao/Tmall (one is the B2B division and the other the B2C division) has revenue nearly 50% greater than EVERY single ecommerce website in America COMBINED. In other words, if you can succeed selling on Taobao then you can succeed selling anywhere.
As one Chinese seller explained to me “I've sold for years on Taobao but the margins are too low and the competition is too high. Amazon is much better and the future is there”.
Possibly given their extensive ecommerce experience, most Chinese sellers also have the benefit of local warehousing and logistics within China. They can use local warehousing to help kit items, store items, do custom packaging, and so on. In all, it allows them a greater degree of nimbleness and customization.
It seems most Western sellers have “caught up” with Chinese sellers and there weren't a ton of new black hat tactic strategies I heard of. Obviously there are the usual fake review tactics but most of these are now well known by Western sellers (i.e. ManyChat review strategies) and I didn't hear of anything ‘cutting edge'. The most common new strategy I heard of was about tariff manipulation. More than one seller admitted to an invoice manipulation to get around tariffs. Chinese sellers have the benefit of greater control over their invoicing and a reduced chance of being caught.
However, while these retired Taobao sellers have a long track record of black hat tactics like getting fake reviews, they're also good at white hat tactics as well. Their photography and marketing are often exceptional. Bundling products with complementary products and freebies has been a tactic for many years.
It's easy to blame the success of Chinese sellers on nefarious tactics. But what I've found is that the combination of years of selling experience and easy access to resources have made them quite adept at legitimate (and effective) ecommerce practices. they're also good at the white hat stuff too.
If there was any doubt about the scale of the Chinese selling community in Amazon, the Amazon Global Selling conference verified it. The Chinese Amazon seller community is HUGE.
Do you think there are more or less Chinese sellers on Amazon now? Let me know in the comments section below.