While Chinese consumers do much of their shopping with the click of a mouse or a fingertip, some foreign products aren't so easily obtained.
Chinese and foreign e-commerce insiders gathered at the China International Fair for Investment and Trade, which runs Sept. 8 to 11 in Xiamen, Fujian Province, to discuss challenges to cross-border online retail.
China is the world's largest online retail market, with a total revenue expected to reach 3.1 trillion yuan (502.4 billion U.S. dollars) in 2014, according to data from the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT).
Many of 332 million online shoppers, among the total Chinese population, have higher income, better computer knowledge and more fashion-sensitive.
"E-commerce in China is entering a golden era," said Cai Hua, co-founder of the Global Cross-border E-commerce Association who has 12 years of experience managing three foreign e-commerce platforms.
Cai's optimism was shared by Nigel Sims, director at a British company Union Jack Marketing, which provides logistics and support for e-commerce businesses in the United Kingdom.
"I'm establishing an online platform in China next year, because China is a very exciting market," Sims told Xinhua, adding that he plans to sell brands Chinese people are not quite familiar with.
"Mostly smaller and specialized brands," he said. "Not everyone can afford a French handbag or an Italian suit."
Sims's company is just a drop in the ocean of foreign businesses looking to access the Chinese market through e-commerce, said Stephen Phillips, chief executive of the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC).
UK Trade and Investment signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the e-commerce giant Alibaba during British Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to China last year to help raise the profile of British companies among Alibaba's huge user base.
Last month, fashion retailers Top Shop and Miss Selfridge announced partnerships with Shangpin.com in hopes of reaching Chinese customers. So far, over 20 British brands have established flagship stores on China's major business-to-customer platforms.
At the same time, a growing number of foreign online retailers, such as Mothercare and Wiggle, are now running Chinese language websites.
Along with foreign big names "looking east," Chinese e-commerce companies have already started targeting overseas customers.
Lightinthebox.com is a Beijing-headquartered retail website that sells and delivers products directly to consumers around the world. More than 90 percent of the company's revenue comes from overseas sales
Lightinthebox Vice President Jiang Yong said the company has built warehouses overseas and hired locals for after-sale services.
"Customers around the world can easily buy high-quality, low-price products on our website," Jiang said.
"Chinese products are competitive, as the production costs in China are still well below Western levels," said Li Yansheng, senior vice president of Shenzhen 4PX Information Technology Co., Ltd., which specializes in helping foreign e-retailers set up platforms in China.
Moreover, China's middle class families have enough money to buy European-made products and luxuries, said Li, making e-commerce between China and the rest of the world profitable.
Prospects for cross-border e-commerce may be bright, but insiders warned much should be done to tap the market's full potential.
Building a presence in foreign e-commerce markets typically requires trusted local partners for technical and logistics support.
"England is a small country, which means it is easier to move things around on the same day or next day. Obviously, in China it's more difficult given longer distances," Sims said.
Conference attendees said cross-border shipments require cooperation between the two countries' customs, tariff reductions and other preferential policies to help the industry thrive.
Phillips said tastes, preferences and buying habits vary among customers in China and the West, which means foreign companies must localize product offerings and marketing.
"But our view at the CBBC is that these challenges can be overcome," said Phillips. Cai is also confident, while his association begins training business professionals in cross-border e-commerce.
"The cake is big enough for domestic and foreign companies to share," he said.