Hong Kong, as one of the most important trade ports in Asia, is a key market for Chinese daigou business. Daigou is the term for cross-border shoppers who buy products from overseas for their customers in mainland China. Daigou shoppers, in theory, can be any mainland Chinese tourists or residents in any overseas countries like Australia, Japan, or Korea. But unlike the ANZ market, where daigous are mainly local Chinese residents, in Hong Kong, the daigous are predominately visitors from Shenzhen or other nearby cities in the Greater Bay Area due to the geographic closeness. Apart from this segment, there’re also a few daigous who are residents or students who live in Hong Kong and travel back to the mainland frequently.
One may ask how many active daigous are in the Hong Kong market. There’s no official data, but we have a rough idea looking at the number of mainland tourists in Hong Kong. There’re around 43.5 million mainland tourists visiting Hong Kong in 2019, among which 63% are same-day return travellers, and most of them are from the Greater Bay Area. We believe daigous in Hong Kong are primarily among this segment of frequent same-day return travellers. A typical daigou usually has three key features:
1. Customer group based in the mainland: They own an e-Commerce shop (mainly on Taobao.com or WeChat) in mainland China and thus has a stable customer base;
2. Ability to travel frequently: They either live in Hong Kong or in mainland cities (most probably Shenzhen) in Greater Bay Area, frequent travel is possible.
3. Local network in Hong Kong: They have a connection with local shop staff or even some logistic organisation in Hong Kong to help transport goods or clear customs.
A profile of a typical Daigou we interviewed
Melisa is a full-time daigou and a successful mobile live streaming seller who has thousands of followers. She documents almost every detail of her daigou business from the new product list, her shopping experience to the latest promotions in Hong Kong on her WeChat Moments. She lives in Shenzhen and visits Hong Kong weekly.
She shops on weekends. She starts live streaming during her shopping trips from the moment she arrives in Hong Kong in the morning and continues until she returns to Shenzhen at night. This practice shows her customers strong proof that her products are authentic and purchased from official stores in Hong Kong, reassuring her customers that her products aren't counterfeits.
She visits three types of shops: pharmacy & cosmetics for discounted and wholesale products; shopping mall for mass-label brand products; and luxury stores for high-end luxury products. For a daigou, efficiency is the key. So she has a clear shopping itinerary and will contact staff she knows on WeChat before her arrival. She quickly collects products in the local pharmacy and cosmetics shops like Sasa according to the prepared customer order list. She won't waste one minute in these shops.
However, in the big shopping malls and luxury stores, she will linger and showcase recommended products through live streaming or take pictures and chat with some customers on WeChat. This is the arena for spontaneity, good taste, and communication skills to attract new customers, provoke interest, and help customers make purchase decisions. She purchases skincare/cosmetics, apparel, luxury goods like Louis Vuitton/Chanel bags, or even Cartier jewellery. She charges her customer a fixed daigou fee and a higher exchange rate of HK dollar to RMB.
Melisa's practice is typical among daigous in Hong Kong. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic and recent protests in Hong Kong, frequent shopping trips to Hong Kong are no longer feasible for many grassroot daigous. For experienced daigous, their connection with logistic companies or stores in Hong Kong has become vital to their business. The connection allows them to order the products remotely and have the Hong Kong partner mail or transport products directly to them in Shenzhen and then send them to their customers in the mainland. This will undoubtedly raise the risks and transport costs , but on the other hand, for the high-income customers, the pandemic also makes their demand for high-quality imported goods stronger than ever. Many of them are willing to pay a higher price as long as they are guaranteed authentic and quality products.