How To Win Over Online Shoppers In Hong Kong And Abroad

By Adi Movlamov

PayPal’s Borderless Commerce Report 2022 presents cross-border opportunities to aid Hong Kong businesses in an uncertain economic outlook

Tatler Asia
Photo: Getty Images
Cover  Photo: Getty Images


In the last three years, it’s been easy to credit, or blame—for the lack of a better word—everything on the global pandemic. The mass standstill that occurred has shifted how we think, work, operate, socialise and consume. QR codes? A mainstay. Digitalisation? Adapt, or die. An impending sense of doom? Well, here’s a quick fix—and this is where consumerism clocks in its step count, hard. 

Be it an impulse buy or something they’ve been eyeing for a while, consumers are spending more than ever. According to a Statistica report, online sales worldwide rose by US$700 billion between 2020 and 2021. 

In Hong Kong, where strict quarantine measures have had residents staying local, their purchases have travelled beyond borders. PayPal’s Borderless Commerce Report, released in August 2022, reports that 77 percent of online shoppers in Hong Kong have made purchases from international websites, a 4 percent increase from 2021. 

The online payment system reports further on how Hong Kong’s merchants can get ahead of the latest trends and better understand consumer behaviours to maintain competitiveness in the global e-commerce market. 

Keeping up with consumers

The pandemic has changed the why, how and what of consumer habits worldwide—and here’s where merchants need to keep up. 

For example, hybrid models now extend beyond work arrangements into payments as well, where consumers seek flexibility in retailers that offer buy now, pay later options. 

While Covid-19 initially distanced people physically, its aftermath has brought relationships closer than ever, reflected in where consumers put their money—into shared experiences. There’s now a bigger need for purpose behind a product as consumers re-evaluate their values, seeking brands that mirror similar social and environmental ethics.

Read more: “Offsets Aren’t Enough”: One Company’s Race To Net Zero Goes Beyond Buying Carbon Credits

The greener grass syndrome

While brands have invested in marketing campaigns throughout the pandemic aimed at supporting locals and rediscovering your own backyard, sometimes it just doesn’t cut it. 

PayPal reports a 12 percent increase in consumers who looked abroad for better quality, while a 6 percent increase was evident in those specifically looking for something that wasn’t available in Hong Kong—top locales include USA (38 percent), Mainland China (45 percent) and Japan (40 percent).

Not only are shoppers looking for consumer goods such as clothes and electronics, a number are even looking for groceries abroad in a bid to travel through their tastebuds. Social media, a great discoverability tool, has also exposed Hong Kongers to even more international shopping platforms—a 5 percent increase from 2021.

Winning over Hong Kongers

PayPal offers three solutions for merchants in Hong Kong who want to bring shoppers back to the homeground in support of local businesses. 

Merchants should be quick to leverage data to speak to consumers one-on-one. With opted-in data that provide information on location, language and budget preferences, brands can send targeted marketing messages for a more personalised shopping experience. 

With the rising popularity of cashback apps and rewards, brands that don’t have loyalty programmes should consider creating one. While it’s important to reach new customers, it’s also crucial to retain the ones that are already on the database. Apart from convenience and value, shoppers want to feel rewarded by a brand, so consider upgrading the traditional paper loyalty punchcard into a digitised solution. 

Lastly, as consumers are spending more ethically, brands should promote their values that align well with social and environmental causes. Share the underlying drive behind the product and consumers will find themselves moved to such a cause, and moved to add to cart.

Read more: Why Businesses Can Invest In Sustainability And Also Do Well 

Growing businesses beyond borders

PayPal also provides insights to merchants in Hong Kong that wish to expand their customer base outside of the city, identifying the key markets of Australia, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States. Merchants need to relook key strategies around pricing, social media and digital marketing, digital payments, supply, return policies, data privacy and sustainability.

Apart from investing in search engine marketing, utilising search engine optimisation and social media pushes, Hong Kong merchants should venture into livestream shopping as well—a hit with Australians. In Germany, 26 percent of surveyed shoppers purchase from social media marketplaces, and 37 percent rely on social media ads for recommendations. In the US, purchasing through a social media marketplace doubled in 2021. 

In the realm of payments, Hong Kong merchants should work with leading and trusted payment partners to offer multiple secure payment options. Out of the top markets for Hong Kong, Australian and German spenders value data privacy the most, with PayPal usage increasing by 60 percent in the last three months of 2021 for the latter.

With sustainability being a key concern among shoppers in the UK, Hong Kong businesses should focus on how to offset the carbon footprint created by cross-border online purchases. In fact, with the world being more attuned to the ongoing climate crisis, businesses can take this opportunity to be transparent in the ways in which they are mitigating the environmental impact of shipping. 

Other ways in which Hong Kong businesses can appeal to overseas markets include ensuring easy return processes, having an adequate supply of stock and partnering with a local service to meet delivery expectations. 

For more information on cross-border opportunities, read PayPal’s Borderless Commerce Report 2022.

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