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How New, Experimental Tech Is Powering E-Commerce In China

By Eddy Chan | April 16, 2024

From virtual avatars and GenAI tools to quantum computing, discover the emerging tech trends that are shaping the future of e-commerce in China.

Forget what you know about online shopping. The future of e-commerce is here, and China is leading the way with its use of new, emerging tech. Today, more brands are using virtual sellers to host livestreams, and generative artificial intelligence tools to help them reach more customers.

These new technologies empower e-commerce players in China to create a superior and more engaging user experience for both businesses and consumers. Here is a breakdown of the latest tech trends disrupting China’s e-commerce industry.

1. The rise of virtual livestreaming hosts

Livestream e-commerce has exploded in China, reshaping how people discover and purchase products. Major players like Taobao, a well-established e-commerce platform, and Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, dominate the scene.

This rapidly growing market offers an ever-expanding array of products across industries, fueling skyrocketing sales volumes. It is estimated that China’s livestream e-commerce market reached RMB 4.92 trillion in 2023, and will climb to RMB 8.16 trillion by 2026, according to Statista Research Department.
Asian female livestreaming to camera with laptop, phone and beauty products

On top of that, more companies have begun to embrace new technologies to push livestream e-commerce to the next level. One exciting development is the rise of virtual hosts and avatars.

For example, Chinese tech giants Tencent and Baidu have launched their own virtual human livestream products, capitalizing on the increasing popularity and demand for these digital personalities. They offer brands a compelling alternative to traditional livestream influencers, potentially reducing costs and mitigating risks associated with partnering with human personalities.

2. Using genAI in e-commerce

Following the lead of mega-retailers like Walmart and Amazon, Chinese e-commerce companies have started exploring the potential of GenAI to boost sales. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is using large language models on its domestic platforms, Taobao and Tmall, to improve the user experience for shoppers while boosting operational efficiency for its e-commerce merchants.

The company’s GenAI tools include "Hui Wa", which enables merchants to create customized text and graphics for marketing and promotional campaigns by providing a brief description of a product. In addition, a product called "Taobao Wenwen" was launched to provide consumers with a virtual personal shopping assistant, offering recommendations, product details, and more.
Index finger pressing on blue data screen

Douyin is also making waves with its designated digital marketing platform, Ocean Engine. In 2023, they launched “Jichuang”, a tool specifically designed to assist e-commerce businesses with content creation. The tool can generate product descriptions and scripts for short videos, saving merchants valuable time and resources.

3. Testing quantum e-commerce in China

Aside from boosting sales, new tech is also enabling more secure shopping transactions with the exploration of quantum communication. This novel technology boasts inherent security advantages, potentially making online shopping transactions less hackable.
Person shopping on fashion retail site on tablet

Recently, the first unhackable shopping transaction was carried out on the quantum internet – a milestone in online security. The small-scale quantum network, consisting of five connected quantum computers, leverages the unique properties of light particles to create an ultra-secure communication channel between merchants and buyers. This development paves the way for a future where shoppers’ data will reach unprecedented levels of protection.

4. Tackling logistics challenges with digital innovation

New tech also plays a crucial role in providing value-added services, including logistics services.
FedEx courier scans package

With cloud-based SaaS solutions, merchants can achieve data interconnectivity between cross-border e-commerce platforms and logistics service providers. This allows them to automate tasks like order processing, goods transportation, and waybill management using the same account across platforms, thus improving delivery efficiency and creating a smoother path for expanding into overseas markets.

For merchants already using FedEx, existing programs like the FedEx Compatible and Alliances program simplify the process further. Merchants can use their existing FedEx account numbers to access a variety of logistics solutions directly within their e-commerce platform, making way for fast, more cost-effective international shipping.
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About the Author
the author bio

Eddy Chan

Head of China,
Senior Vice President, FedEx Express

Since joining FedEx in 1985, Eddy has taken on diverse roles across the mid-Pacific region including Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Whilst managing the dynamic China market, Eddy supports FedEx China’s role in global economic development, acting as consultant to trade organizations and acting professor in universities. Raised in Hong Kong, Eddy is now based in Shanghai.

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