Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Personal shoppers for clients in China a runaway for success

Weet-Bix, manuka honey and a brand of cod liver oil are among some of the most popular products being snapped up by a new kind of shoppers known as daigou.

Daigou - "on behalf of" in Chinese - are personal shoppers for clients in China. A client orders various items, including food and health products found in New Zealand, for their daigou to buy and send to China.

The service has become increasingly popular in New Zealand and Australia, where up to 40,000 daigou are thought to be in business.

The New Zealand China Trade Association said although New Zealand had not reached those kinds of numbers, it was vital for Kiwi companies to get familiar with the practice in a bid to boost their own business brands.

Executive member Johnathan Chen said the daigou market was helping Chinese-based clients better understand Kiwi goods.

"It's almost like a direct referral because I'm here in New Zealand as a Chinese student, [for example], telling the consumers back in China: 'I've used it, it's great. I could help buy it for you.'

"It is big in New Zealand, but I think it's something a lot of the brand owners from New Zealand companies still haven't got their heads around yet."

Chen said New Zealand's clean, green image was also helpful.

"We are the total opposite to what they have and know. What they know is cities, urban, crowded, polluted air. The products that are associated with here are automatically deemed to be clean and healthy and great because of that New Zealand image that's associated with it."

One Auckland shop that specialises in daigou services has customers in China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

Business owners of Daigou Health & Beauty, Emily Liang and Coco Zhang, opened their store on Dominion Rd three years ago after starting off as daigou.

They had been sending products to friends and family in China for several years before word of mouth led to a fast-growing list of customers.

Liang said when it came to beauty and health, the Chinese trusted products from New Zealand and Australia.

"New Zealand is the last pure nation in the world," she said. "They want to give the best things to their kids and for their health."

Customers placed orders through their website or social media site WeChat.

Products cost around retail price, with a small premium added.

And although daigou provided a unique marketing network, businesses also needed to make sure their products - and brand - were kept safe, the NZCTA warned.

Chen said: "They need to manage the risks that are associated with that because the daigou who are selling these things, they're not professional traders.

"A lot of these descriptions that are going up on the e-commerce are in Chinese - so there's no way New Zealand brand owners know what they are saying about their product."

- Herald on Sunday

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