Pet care e-commerce has been on the rise since 2017 in China. According to a study from Frost&Sullivan, the Chinese pet food sector is forecasted to grow up to 66.8 billion dollars in 2023. A second report by Nielsen from November 2019 shows that the biggest segment in the market (about 34%) is occupied by dry dog and cat food, still the most common domestic animals in China, while the numbers of acquatic animals and domestic birds are rising steadily. A new trend found by the research is the growing importance of online retailers compared to their offline counterparts: purchasing preferences by consumers for online channels were detected as early as 2018, when 45% of orders in this product category was done online (Alizila).
Who buys online then?
From what we can see the most active segment (about 52%) is made of single women born between the 80s and the 90s and with a university education. Women purchase more than men in almost all product categories related to domestic animals, with very few exceptions, such as for example leash and equipment to walk dogs, where most of the sales are absorbed by male consumers. A similar trend can be seen for aquatic animals and birds, which seem to be closer to men that women (in 2019 purchases by male consumers for both types of domestic animals made up respectively 77% and 68% of the market). In general, according to data, the consumer segment who buys more online is aged between 35 to 25 and includes about 40% of the overall online consumers. It is also important to highlight the different purchasing habits of singles and married couples: singles are mostly interested in buying food, services and products for cats and dogs (they make up 70% of the total), while they register much lower rates for products related to birds and aquatic animals (respectively 17% and 31%), where married couples purchase more.
Where do users buy online?
As stated by CBNData (in Chinese), the top online channels for these products are Taobao and JD.com. In particular, JD.com has been very active in this category in the past years, launching last December the initiative “My Pet Profile”, a digital platform connected to JD.com marketplace where users can fill in their pet’s data, such as gender, age, breed and vaccinations. These data will ensure pet owners receive relevant updates and suggested products only for their pets, but will also benefit brands partners of JD.com, who will be able to obtain new consumer intel to optimize and perfect their marketing campaigns (JD.com). Another important player is definitely Boqii.com (NYSE:BQ), a marketplace specialized in online pet products retail. Born as a forum for pet owners, in 2014 Boqii.com made its way into e-commerce, reaching a total GMV of about 164 million euros in 2019 and 101 million euros of sales. These results made the platform win a third place in the pet food sector, right behind JD.com and Taobao.
Opportunities vs Challenges
The Chinese Pet Food market is full of opportunities and is growing fast. However, these benefits must be weighed against the long and complex registration procedures and permits that have to be granted by the competent Chinese authority, in this case the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (AQSIQ) and the Ministry of Agriculture. Pet food is considered as animal feed by China, which means products are subjected to much more controls than standard food category products. China only allows import of pet food from countries who have registered themselves within the AQSIQ framework as Pet Food Exporters, such as Belgium and Italy for example. For this reason, we strongly recommend seeking for the help of a professional in order to avoid hurdles which could hamper your strategy for the Chinese market.
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