China’s Pinduoduo quietly expands e-commerce operations in Hong Kong, wooing consumers with bargains and direct shipping
- Pinduoduo has started accepting Visa and Mastercard directly on its platform and now offers direct shipping to Hong Kong, bypassing freight forwarders
- The social e-commerce platform is still largely unknown in the city, which it hopes to change as competition with Alibaba, JD.com and others ramps up overseas
The Shanghai-based company, which takes advantage of users’ social networks to promote deals and woo new buyers, has proven to be a formidable player in China’s “sink” market, referring to low-income consumers in rural areas. But as consumer spending in China has weakened, the platform, started by young Chinese billionaire Colin Huang in 2015, is now trying to test its services outside the mainland, including Hong Kong.
The brand recognition of Pinduoduo among Hong Kong consumers is limited compared with rivals partly because it has not widely marketed itself in the city. And unlike rivals with public listings on the local bourse, Pinduoduo is only listed in New York.
For those familiar with the platform, though, the cut-rate pricing can be irresistible.
Waiwai Lau, a local YouTuber, said that she turned to Pinduoduo to buy all the balloons, toys and pens for her son’s birthday party. The entire haul came in at around HK$400 (US$50), a deal that would be hard to match at a local bricks-and-mortar shop.
Lau tried the platform for the first time three years ago and found some of the deals attractive, including the additional incentives offered with group buying and writing comments that offer a cash return.
Pinduoduo’s expansion of tests in the city has largely been a quiet effort. It has not conducted any promotion of extended services outside its platform, only notifying users of the changes through a banner on the app’s landing page. The company did not respond to a request for comment on its plans in the city.
Success in Hong Kong specifically is not a sure thing, though. Some local consumers are still sceptical of new services, and shopping on Pinduoduo appears to not yet be as seamless as in the mainland. In a Facebook group where community-buying enthusiasts share bargains, some users said they were still unable to link their credit cards to the app.