• Through a deal with JD.com, Unilever is set to expand its e-commerce presence in China.

Through a deal with JD.com, Unilever is set to expand its e-commerce presence in China. (Photo : Reuters)

Unilever PLC, one of the world’s leading consumer-products firms, eyes to expand its online presence in China, as it announced its latest agreement with JD.com. The deal allows the company to open a store on the e-commerce giant’s cross-border portal.

The move comes as an effort to keep up with the growing number of consumers purchasing deodorant and shampoo via e-commerce sites.

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On Monday, Unilever stated that it will be selling its Dove, Ponds and Vaseline brands on the said website. Its best-selling Lux shampoo products in Japan will also land on the Chinese market for the first time through the deal.

Previously, Unilever had already been selling its products via storefronts both on JD.com's direct-sales site and on the e-commerce firm's rival, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Unilever's new venture in the Chinese e-commerce market puts focus on JD Worlwide, an avenue where players can sell products as imports, veering them away from the lengthy registration process required for their items to be marketed in the country.

The launching of the new store coincides with the month when JD.com gives deep discounting as part of the e-commerce firm's anniversary celebration.

"If brands sell very well, we will import them in bulk," Andy Li, director of Unilever's e-commerce business in China, remarked, adding that they also eye to sell them on other online platforms in the country.

Li added that the firm's sales on JD.com tripled in 2014, a growth rate faster than that of Alibaba's Tmall's. He also revealed that their total online sales in China tallied up to 1 billion yuan.

However, Unilever's China sales decreased during the second half of last year. The firm said that the slowdown was due to the slowing Chinese economy's growth rate.

Li said that compared with other consumer-products companies, Unilever is ahead in terms of boosting sales by foraying into the Chinese e-commerce market.

"Everybody is having this situation with how to balance online and offline," he remarked, further emphasizing that one of Unilever's challenges is accurate online demand forecast for its products.