Edmonton businesses should look at e-commerce to enter huge Chinese market, economic development official says

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Alibaba chairman Jack Ma and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold lobsters during an announcement at Alibaba headquarters in Hangzhou, China, last September.
Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Edmonton firms should look at e-commerce as a possible route into the huge and growing Chinese market, a city economic development executive said Thursday.

“You may be here, but the world is going to compete with you whether you want to or not,” said Glen Vanstone, vice-president of trade and investment at the Edmonton Economic Development Corp.

“We should be competing out in the world, because we can.”

He spoke following a workshop about online opportunities for Canadian businesses in China that included presentations by officials at major Chinese e-commerce firms Alibaba.com and VIP.com.

“There are a lot of Canadians … using our platforms for their businesses,” said Alex Tsai, senior business-to-business marketing manager for the Alibaba Group, which in 2015 had about 420 million people buy more than $500 billion worth of goods on its sites.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities.”

Canada is one of Alibaba’s top five markets, he said.

His colleague Cooper Williams, senior business development manager for North America, said their Tmall platform delivers 30 million packages a day, compared to two million by American giant Amazon.

PetroCanada and Aldo are among many Canadian and other foreign firms selling through virtual Tmall outlets, which they design and control, Cooper said.

The development of physical stores trailed the growth of China’s burgeoning consumer class, he said.

“China went straight to the Internet, especially for younger consumers. They went straight to mobile.”

Edmonton was one of four cities on a tour organized by the federal government to help Canadian companies understand and develop strategies for Chinese e-commerce.

Buying and selling online is a good way for Edmonton firms to check out this vast market, one of three Asian countries along with India and Japan targeted by the Edmonton Economic Development Corp., Vanstone said.

He sees particular growth potential in fields such as agriculture and food products, energy-related technology and services, nutrition and nutraceuticals (items derived from food sources with extra health benefits).

“The business community has long been part of the global marketplace. We’re not isolated,” he said.

“But I think, in a general way, understanding what’s in new markets and intelligence gathering … is something that needs to be (done).”

gkent@postmedia.com

twitter.com/GKentEJ



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February 16, 2017 |

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