Taiwan has a surprisingly big eCommerce market and its structure of consumption brings many similarities to Europe’s. Even if the way of consuming products is closer to that of Japan, the Taiwanese often have a great appetite for foreign food products.
Worth mentioning is also that two-thirds of all products sold from Europe to Taiwan are electronic products, bringing similarities to Sweden where electronics are the most imported products via eCommerce channels.
Even if Taiwan brings many opportunities for foreign exporters who want to penetrate the local eCommerce market, you will most likely have challenges ahead. Thus, it’s important that you learn about local regulations, the export process, and make sure to connect with the right people.
In this article, we review the following topics:
- Which products are in demand in Taiwan?
- Top eCommerce Platforms
- Trade Fairs for Exporters
- Shipping & Fulfillment
Which products are in demand in Taiwan?
The Taiwanese have a strong appetite for foreign products, a trend that we’ve seen going on for years. Being one of the biggest importers in the world according to the European Economic and Trade Office, plenty of consumer products are in demand.
Below I have listed some of the most popular and that we have seen a particularly high demand for during the pandemic. Let’s start with the most important one.
Food & Groceries
Despite being the eighth biggest export market of food from the US, mainland China receives most of the attention among US exporters. With that said, you shouldn’t neglect Taiwan and where we see a particularly high demand for food products from overseas, including:
- Snack Foods
- Dog and Cat Food
- Prepared/Preserved Seafood
- Chocolate and Confectionery
- Beer and Wine
- Processed Fruit
- Food Preparations
- Processed Vegetables And Pulses
- Non-Alcoholic Beverages
- Processed/Prepared Dairy Products
Fresh food remains more important than frozen food, as you can see. We also see an increased demand for health products and the Taiwanese become less cost-conscious, which further increases the opportunities for foreign exporters.
Some outspoken disadvantages of selling food products to Taiwan are that local food standards are often not in line with Western dittos. At the same time, American products aren’t price-competitive and we see increased competition from countries that set up FTA with Taiwan.
Cosmetics & Beauty Products
Cosmetics is in high demand and Taiwan is a big exporter of these kinds of products. Before we go into further details, let’s review the definition of cosmetics in Taiwan:
- Cosmetics are applied to the human body
- It’s used to moisten the skin or hair, covering body odor, and improving facial appearance
Skincare is the biggest product category and that made up 52% of the total demand in 2016. Color cosmetics came second with a market share of 17%. Other popular products include hair care (9%), oral hygienic products, perfume, and more.
Worth mentioning is also that Japan is the biggest exporter of cosmetics, accounting for 26% of the total market. France is second with 17% and the US with 16%.
Worth mentioning is that it’s comparably difficult to export food products and cosmetics to Taiwan as the products are edible or applied to human skin. More stringent import regulations apply and you have to work closely with local authorities to assure product compliance and registrations.
Clothing & Apparel
Fashion products and clothes are in high demand as well and other websites claim that clothes are in fact in the highest demand. According to SpeCommerce, clothes and accessories account for 45% of the market, followed by tours and hotel reservations at 42%.
These products are commonly bought via cross-border channels and where the mainland accounts for 50% of the cross-border market, followed by Japan at 48.9%.
Compared to food products and cosmetics, it’s generally easier to start exporting clothes due to less stringent import regulations, non-existing shelf-lives, and decent sales margins.
Top eCommerce Platforms
The eCommerce market has been around in Taiwan for some time and many foreign marketplaces have managed to penetrate the market. Let’s review the most popular ones among Taiwanese online-shoppers.
Shopee is one of the biggest eCommerce platforms in Asia and available in the following countries:
- Singapore (Shopee.sg)
- Malaysia (Shopee.com.my)
- Thailand (Shopee.co.th)
- Vietnam (Shopee.vn)
- Indonesia (Shopee.co.id)
- Philippines (Shopee.ph)
- Taiwan (Shopee.tw)
- Korea (Shopee.kr)
Headquartered in Singapore, Shopee was founded in 2015, and Tencent one of mainland China’s biggest companies currently owns a large stake in the company. Its main competitor is Lazada which is owned by Lazada, one of Tencent’s biggest competitors.
Shopee has both C2C and B2C sales channels but with less developed cross-border functionalities compared to Lazada. With that said, the latter has still not entered the Taiwanese market.
Shopee is currently the most popular website as of 2020 in Taiwan.
Ruten is a subsidiary of PChome Online Inc and has grasped many market shares in the past years. Cross-border eCommerce becomes increasingly important for the website and they have recently started to collaborate with eBay and Rakuten in the industry.
There are currently around 420 million products sold on Ruten and 70 million products were added during the Single’s Day. 60% came from the US and 20% from Greater China.
Ruten isn’t as famous as Lazada, Shopee, Tmall, Rakuten, and other major eCommerce platforms in Asia but it’s indeed interesting for sellers who wish to enter the Vietnamese online-market.
Taobao.com is the biggest eCommerce marketplace in mainland China and primarily focuses on C2C and low-cost products. With that said, you can also find various famous and premium brands here, including Nike and Adidas, just to give you two examples.
Taobao.com serves the Taiwanese market in addition to the mainland and it’s undoubtedly one of the most popular platforms.
Products in demand on the website include:
- Clothing Products
- Food & Beverage
- Consumer Electronics & Smart Devices
- Mom & Baby Products
- Health Products & Supplements
- Sports Equipment
Taobao requires that you have a Chinese entity and you cannot sell cross-border on the website. Thus, this option is most suitable for sellers located in China that can increase sales by targeting the Taiwanese market in addition to the mainland Chinese market.
Trade Fairs for Exporters
Taiwan is the home to some of the most popular and well-known trade fairs in Asia. As food and cosmetic products are in high demand, we have decided to include the following two fairs in this article.
Food Taipei is an international trade show that is held in December each year. Here, you’ll find various kinds of food products and beverages on display, including:
- Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
- Poultry, Seafood, Meat & Processed Meat Products
- Edible Oils
- Dairy Products
- Organic and Vegetarian Food
- Frozen Prepared Food
Thousands of visitors and exhibitors visit the fair each year, offering buyers and sellers the opportunity to network, learn more about the local market, and market their brands.
Taiwan International Beauty Show
Taiwan International Beauty Show is held in November each year and is one of the leading beauty shows in Asia. Hundreds of exhibitors participate in the show and you can find products such as:
- Cosmetics and Beauty Supplies
- Cosmetics Container & Packaging
- Machinery & Equipment
The same as it goes with Food Taipei, the show is managed by TAITRA, Taiwan’s foremost nonprofit trade promoting organization. For more information about the show, I recommend you to visit their website.
Shipping & Fulfillment
Shipping and fulfillment are some of the most important issues for exporters to Taiwan. Long distances, time-sensitive products, and disruptions in supply chains make shipping a crucial part of the sales success.
Worth mentioning first is that the mode of shipping also depends on the eCommerce platform you sell on. Shopee, for example, offers its Fulfillment-By-Shopee (FBS) solution to overseas sellers.
As such, storing your products in Hong Kong and shipping them cross-border into Taiwan is probably your best option. There are plenty of fulfillment centers that cover the Taiwanese market, including names like:
- Stork Up
For local eCommerce sales, you better store the products in a Taipei warehouse to be close to the end consumers. Just keep in mind that this will require that you import the products into Taiwan first, which will inevitably result in more stringent import regulations and increased demands for registrations.