Is it safe to buy from the Chinese Shopee, Aliexpress’s rival?

Large international online stores have arrived in Brazil, connecting sellers of the most varied products and customers eager to buy items manufactured in countries like China, the United States or Russia. It has become common to access applications or websites from foreign marketplaces (virtual malls) such as AliExpress, Shein and Shopee.

O UOL heard specialists to understand the movement of these platforms in the Brazilian market – especially Shopee, which has stood out from its competitors. It was the company in the sector that had the biggest increase in sales between April 2020 and April 2021: 1,419%.

Shopee arrived in Brazil in 2019 with an aggressive marketing strategy, drawing the attention of specialists, consumers and small suppliers who see the platform created in Singapore as a relevant sales channel. The company was contacted, but did not manifest itself until the publication of this text.

What makes Shopee different?

Ricardo Moura, director of market intelligence at the consultancy GfK, assesses that the growth of 90% in retail sales online in 2020, mapped by the consultancy, was partly driven by marketplaces international.

Foreign platforms fought with national giants such as Magazine Luiza, Casas Bahia and Americanas. “We have a very strong growth scenario not only for Brazilian companies, but also for foreign ones,” he says.

He notes that Shopee is the most dynamic foreigner at the moment, albeit far from its main competitor, AliExpress, whose average traded value is ten times higher. GfK does not reveal the numbers for contractual reasons with the companies, which are privately held and are not required to make the information public.

Promotions of BRL 1.99

For now, the focus is to operate with an average value lower than that of AliExpress in order to attract consumers and make them aware of the platform. In July, for example, the company promoted products for R$1.99.

The company also created a program to attract small national sellers to improve delivery speed. The strategy is similar to that of the Free Market when it arrived in Brazil.

“The Free Market attracted small sellers while building muscle to bring big brands,” says Moura.

Books, Gardening, Cell Phones

While Shein specializes in clothing, Shopee innovated selling books, but offering 20 different categories of items ranging from DIY (handicrafts such as gardening and crafts) to cell phones. AliExpress offers the same variety.

In common, companies give discount coupons on products and freight, in addition to the possibility of buying in countries with reduced tax burden – especially in China. Last month, Shopee offered products for up to R$10, free shipping coupons and discount vouchers.

The other side of this coin is the longer delivery period – which can be more than a month, Brazilian Marketplaces offer delivery in a few hours in capitals.

Is it that of the ‘stepping’?

Marketing is a differential in relation to competitors, especially Shein and Chinese giant AliExpress.

It’s almost impossible for someone with access to TV not to have seen Shopee’s commercials, which have developed a tropicalized language.

For starters, the predominant color is orange. In the videos on the platform, a song in the ‘pisadinha’ style rocks the dance of actors, while they hold a cell phone and click on the application to make products appear like magic (Barões da Pisadinha is an electronic forró and tecnobrega band).

That’s how it was in the advertising campaign for Black Friday 2020, when the brand became known, and in Consumer Month 2021.

And what is the strategy of Shein or Aliexpress?

Shein was created by a Chinese based in the US and mostly sells products made in China. The company is more focused on clothing produced in the Chinese region of Guangzhou, which it sells in Brazil since 2019.

Shein has been gaining prominence since last year as the darling when it comes to fashion and has bet on youtubers from the fashion world as a marketing strategy.

AliExpress is one of the companies in the Alibaba group, owned by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma. Brazilian consumers started to buy on AliExpress in greater volume in 2017 and, in the following year, the platform became the third site with more sales here.

In 2021, the company hired singer Ivete Sangalo for a marketing campaign. Ma’s company also announced that it would start delivering international purchases in up to 12 days in Brazil

The Wish platform started selling in Brazil around 2018, with the promise of cheap products and fast delivery. She was raised in the USA by a naturalized American Pole. The company lost ground in Brazilian e-commerce throughout 2020.

How is Shopee doing on Reclame Aqui?

According to data from the Reclame Aqui Institute, Shopee consumer complaints in the first half alone were 121% higher than the number registered in the entire year of 2020. Last year, there were 11,240 complaints, against 24,849 between January 1 and June 30, 2021.

However, the company’s sales increased much more than that. According to the E-commerce in Brazil report, prepared by the Conversion agency, Shopee’s sales grew 1,419% during the pandemic, between April 2020 and April 2021. Sales growth is 12 times greater than the rise in complaints.

Sales surpassed AliExpress (48% growth), Amazon (38%) and Magazine Luiza (23%).

Its direct competitors, which grew less, also had lower numbers of complaints, which is within expectations. AliExpress had a 5.3% increase in complaints on Reclame Aqui

Shein had a 2.15% drop in the number of complaints, dropping to 10,646 in the first half from 10,881 complaints over the previous year.

In general, the main complaints involving all companies are delay in delivery and difficulty in returning products, with reimbursement of amounts paid.

What to do if I have problems with delivery?

Any delay in delivery or damage to products must be questioned directly at the company in order to seek an amicable solution. In more serious cases, the consumer can go to court.

André Salgado Felix, a specialist in digital law at Ernesto Borges Advogados and a professor at PUC-SP, says that the Consumer Defense Code protects clients because the company has a legal representative in the country.

Local legislation allows, for example, to return a product after seven days of delivery. The lawyer says that, initially, the platform did not allow for withdrawal.

“The Shopee would not let you return the product within seven days, but changed this because there were many consumers complaining,” he says.

Is my data secure?

Digital commerce expert Arthur Igreja claims that large electronic sales platforms are secure, with low risk of customer data exposure. “The most important [para a credibilidade] of these companies is to maintain security for the consumer,” he says.

Church recommends an important measure to take regardless of your preferred marketplace: do not leave credit card information saved on platforms. “Part of the security issue relies heavily on user behavior,” he notes.

Another tip from him is to check the seller’s reputation within the platform itself to see if he delivers what he promises. “Learn how to use the platform before making more expensive purchases. Make a test purchase at a low price to see if the delivery is according to your expectations. See the reputation of the sellers, observe their history and the opinion of other consumers” , claims Church.