07 Apr 2023
by Rebecca Norris

The Tech Connect: 1860s Heritage Meets Modern China | #techUKDigitalTrade

The world’s largest online marketplace – China – requires innovative solutions and one UK eCommerce firm is blazing a trail in this field. Interestingly, Scotland’s oldest herbal apothecary, founded in 1860, now finds itself doing significant trade with thousands of Chinese consumers thanks to its digitisation and Samarkand Global. We take a look at how more than 160 years of Edinburgh heritage, livestreaming and tech integration are accelerating international trade; #techUKDigitalTrade

“Going live” notifications are a regular feature on most social media channels these days, but few people are aware that UK and China livestreams and the resulting digital trade are wildly different. COVID-19 greatly accelerated digitisation in business-to-consumer (B2C) applications and channels, and since the December 2022 lifting of restrictions in China, cross-border trade is back on track.


China has a market size of almost 44 trillion yuan (approx. 5 trillion GBP) and boasts the largest online retail marketplace in the world. It’s easy to hop on Instagram Live, link a product and ship internally in the UK but when you take the same concept and apply it to this immense Chinese market, a complex and somewhat unchartered digital ecosystem must be navigated.

PWC’s March 2023 China Economic Quarterly stressed that “thanks to the accelerated adoption of the Internet, especially mobile technology and payment systems, logistics and distribution systems, there have been profound changes in people's consumption patterns, making online shopping an important growth engine of China's consumer market.” Worldwide cross-border eCommerce is becoming an increasingly competitive field and advances in making a clearer digital Silk Road from the UK to China come from Samarkand Global, a company which counts logistics behemoth ﷟SF Express (China’s largest integrated logistics service provider and the fourth largest in the world) amongst their investors.


China’s livestream industry allows brands to leverage the consumer networks of established voices of authority in the market and while Alibaba’s Taobao Live has top market share, competition from the likes of Douyin (China’s TikTok), JD.com, Kuaishou, and Baidu is heating up. Utilising their tech expertise to build connections with platforms, eCommerce stores, Key Opinion Leaders, China customs and logistics partners, Samarkand is closing the gap and making selling in China simple, accessible, and profitable. In Q2 2021, Douyin launched its cross-border eCommerce functionality, and this year Samarkand has seen real traction and amazing results using their Douyin, WeChat and custom API solutions in the livestreaming space. These specialised integrations can drive revenue for small and large businesses, enhancing their digital presence and trade.


One such business is Scotland’s oldest apothecary (Napiers), founded by Duncan Napier in 1860. A store that began with one man picking herbs in the Scottish countryside now finds itself doing booming trade with thousands of Chinese consumers through its digitisation. Unique overseas livestreaming content combined with a seamless tech integration on the Douyin platform (amongst others) allows Samarkand to facilitate a BC (Business to Customer) route - shipping parcels from outside of China to customers in China directly. Chinese diaspora living in the UK are increasingly using their unique position, close to international merchants, to introduce new products to their millions of fans and generating momentum for these tech solutions. In addition to Napiers, award-winning UK based skincare brands MZ Skin and TEMPLESPA have tried and tested these solutions with impressive results. You can see Napiers history meet Chinese consumers in the digital age of Douyin here.

BC logistics routes and this digital infrastructure are at the heart of ensuring door-to-door delivery from first to last mile in China. With some businesses generating significant China revenue to rival local sales figures via digital trade, and a Napiers livestream reaching the number 1 overseas livestream spot on Douyin, the future of cross-border is bright and it’s clearly reliant on innovative tech solutions.

 To learn more follow Samarkand on LinkedIn.

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Rebecca Norris

Rebecca Norris

Corporate Marketing Manager, Samarkand Global