The second Western E-business Development Summit kicks off in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province on October 25, 2015. (Photo/Xinhua)
E-commerce development in China's rural areas has topped the agenda of this year's Western E-business Development Summit in Sichuan Province, as the country is seeking to expand the domestic market to boost a slowing economy.
E-commerce in China's rural areas has been developing quickly in recent years.
Data shows the country now has 77 million rural residents shopping online, a 40-percent growth rate year on year.
Shoppers in rural areas contributed some 180 billion yuan to China's economy last year.
The figure is expected to hit 460 billion yuan by the end of next year.
Noting the importance of online-to-offline model, Hou Enlong, chief operating officer of e-commerce giant Suning, said the company has expanded its online shopping to offline service centers to better accommodate rural customers' needs.
"We need to do three things. The first is to deliver industrial products to the countryside, and have the rural shoppers buy things at the same price as those in the cities. The second is to transfer agricultural products to the whole country by Suning's self-run courier services. The third is to connect farmers to an online payment system so that they can learn to use the Internet to purchase, sell and promote products."
However, building offline service centers in rural areas and attracting farmers to shop online is no easy task.
Logistics and infrastructure still remain the biggest barriers to the e-commerce development in rural areas.
E-commerce company Tyfo has come up with a plan - setting up rural cooperatives as service centers.
Founded by China Telecom, Tyfo.com is the largest e-commerce platform in Sichuan province.
Tyfo CEO Zheng Chengyu said they are working on turning the telecom operator's branches into rural cooperatives.
"There are China Telecom office branches in almost every village and city across the country, which helps a lot in solving the problem of setting up offline service centers. Asking rural residents to use the Internet to open online stores would be a very unrealistic dream, so we've got to take the form of rural cooperatives and select a few leaders to help the farmers achieve this."
Another barrier for rural e-commerce development is the shortage of young talents in rural areas.
Feng Quanlin, Alibaba's regional managing director of rural business in west China, explains the urgent need for human resources in the countryside.
"The core problem of developing rural e-commerce lies in the difficulty of buying and selling products, and the fundamental method of solving the problem is to attract young talents to work in the countryside. One difference between Alibaba and other enterprises is that all our rural e-commerce staffers are full-time workers. We have university graduates, demobilized servicemen as well as returning migrant workers. "
Despite these barriers, rural e-commerce is nevertheless booming in China.
Alibaba is planning to invest 10 billion yuan within the next three years to build a rural logistics network that covers 100,000 villages.
In the meantime, Suning is also going to have 10,000 service centers set up throughout the country in five years.
As China has vowed to eradicate poverty in the next five years, rural e-commerce is expected to become a major means for achieving that goal.