E-commerce firm seeks rich pickings in mainland

[email protected] China Post

A US e-commerce company is looking to tap into the demographic of fashionable young, tech-savvy women in China by selling them top brands through mobile messaging.

San Francisco-based startup, Operator, recently suspended its US service to focus on the Chinese market because of the “surging business” it has experienced since it expanded to China in November.

With their mobile shopping app, Chinese users are connected with US-based “experts” who provide recommendations, and the company’s team then sources and delivers the purchases. Online translation tools are available for customers who cannot understand English.

Most of the app’s Chinese users are women aged 25 to 35. Many are young mothers and professionals, said the company, which declined to disclose specific user numbers.

“We think Chinese customers have a big appetite for authentic goods and access to good products,” said Robin Chan, CEO and co-founder of Operator.

The most popular categories are fashion, beauty and baby goods. The company is working with hundreds of US brands for inventory.

“The demand for authentic products from the United States is very strong,” said Chan. “The key thing we are looking at is the healthiness of the market in terms of overall performance.”

Operator features the “conversational experience”.

“Conversational commerce is the next big wave in e-commerce because everybody has a smart phone and the most popular platform is messaging-China has WeChat and the US has Facebook messenger,” he said.

The shopping experience will be more like the conversation one has in a store, rather than the e-commerce experience, which is just clicking buttons, he explained.

The startup, which was founded in 2015, has so far raised $25 million in funding. It has recently closed $15 million in Series B financing to help fund its global expansion, starting with China.

“Chinese consumers will accelerate the entire global platform,” said Chan. “If you want to build a global company, you don’t think of China as an afterthought; you must start early.”