In Momentum Works’ Blooming Ecommerce in Indonesia Part 3: Social commerce and cross border report, we see cross border ecommerce in Indonesia has exceeded US$ 4.5B in 2020. Among that, 41% of the items came from China. 

In the last year alone, we see the sector reaching multiple milestones, riding on export of China’s manufacturing capabilities and cross border ecommerce tailwind: Shopee and J&T are going global; SHEIN surpassed RMB 100 billion (US$ 15.7B) revenue milestone. 

The shifting macro environments under the covid-19 pandemic present significant challenges but also opportunities to market participants – major sellers and brands. 

With that, in collaboration with our friends at 01VC (a Shanghai and Beijing-based early stage venture capital fund and active cross border ecommerce investor), we looked deeper into these dynamics in our Cross border ecommerce from China: Still a worthwhile sector to invest in? report.


Five key insights from the report: 

  1. Cross border ecommerce from China is a huge space with new leaders emerging every few years 

Ecommerce infrastructure and consumer adoption have grown rapidly, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. It has room for more upcoming, promising players. 

2. The optimal strategy before 2018 no longer works

In the past, sellers could easily achieve volume of orders and even profit, simply by selling through all major channels, followed by mass promotion. 

However, with increased competition and changing macro environment, many who have been accumulating orders without investing adequately in product quality, brand story and marketing lose out. 


3. Major cross border ecommerce platforms have undergone major changes in 2021, bringing opportunities but also challenges to sellers 

In most platforms, we see continued commitment and growth in cross border ecommerce: 

  • Amazon is on slowing growth and increasing advertising revenue (i.e. higher customer acquisition costs for sellers) – already a red ocean for third party sellers, coupled with ongoing crisis of account suspensions  (Since May 2021, > 50K Chinese shop accounts have been suspended); 


  • Shopify has strong revenue and GMV growth, with potential to overtake Amazon’s online stores (Sold by Amazon) in GMV in 2022; 



  • Tiktok has been aggressive in pushing ecommerce, particularly in test markets like Indonesia and the UK. It can be a serious disruptor. We also talked about TikTok’s recent initiatives and potential challenges in detail in a previous report


  • Alibaba is relaunching its global ambitions and efforts, with recent re-organisation to bring overseas business under a single command. It has, after all, accumulated an array of platforms through its subsidiaries and investees, including (Lazada, Paytm, Daraz, Trendyol and Tokopedia. 


4. Opportunities in building brands at US$3-5 billion valuation

With SHEIN and Anker leading the market, there is a clear gap in the US$ 3-5 billion valuation range where no player is in yet. 

This presents opportunities for upcoming companies to fill in this gap, if not growing to the higher range where SHEIN and Anker are in. 

5. Balancing profit and growth

From the experience of brands that recently went public, to become a sustainable DTC brand, a company needs to be profitable and show considerable growth. 

DTC brands would also need to achieve the healthy balance of “quality” (brand quality), “quantity” (sales) and “speed” (growth) – to be profitable in a sustainable way. 


Our perspectives

With the commitment and continued growth of major platforms, it is reasonable to believe that cross border ecommerce business is still promising, and there are further opportunities to explore. 

To capture these opportunities, sellers and brands need to be more efficient in many aspects (organisation and management, supply chain and product, sales channels, marketing and traffic, operations as well as inventory / cash turnover), which we outlined in detail in the report. 


Access the report 

You can get the above and more from a copy of the Cross border ecommerce from China: Still a worthwhile sector to invest in? report here.  

As usual, we welcome burning questions, enquiries and sharing at [email protected].

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].