Over the last 12 months, a number of our clients have asked us about operating a Shopify Plus store (or via an existing global or ROW store) in the Chinese region of Macao, following a significant uplift in premium brands opening physical stores in the region.

Why Macao?

Macao, often compared to Las Vegas, is a small city within China, with a population of around 680,000 people. Macao is an administrative region of China, but it maintains a separate set of operating regulations and essentially has a separate government. Macao is a hotspot for premium tourism and gambling and is a well-known hotspot for luxury shopping, again similarly to Las Vegas. 

What are the concerns with Shopify and Shopify Plus?

Shopify has well-known and fairly well-documented issues with China, as a result of the Chinese firewall (which restricts a number of non-local services from operating in China) – resulting in stores typically being very slow or in parts, disfunctional. This usually results in brands either investing all their attention in other channels (e.g. a WeChat Mini Program or TMall) or building a bespoke Chinese site on a separate technology stack (e.g. one of the local platforms such as X or an on-premise / self-hosted platform, which can be hosted in a more compliant manner).

Although Macao is close to China, those in the region do not have the same issues with the firewall, however there are still a number of considerations when looking to create a store in the market. The biggest one is that a large proportion of people visiting Macao are going to be tourists visiting from mainland China, meaning these users could well follow up and buy post-visit. 

Although not perfect, we’ve recently been testing Chinafy and ## and have seen better loading times across desktop and mobile, bringing the average page load closer to 5 seconds, rather than 20 seconds.

Does Shopify work in Macao?

Whilst doing due diligence for a recent project, we tested a number of Shopify stores from Macao, which all worked as expected, similarly to places like Singapore and Hong Kong. There weren’t any issues with performance / site speed. So, in short, users accessing the store from Macao shouldn’t have any issues.

Do I need a separate store for Macao or could I use multi-currency and Chinese language?

In theory, depending on other variables (such as avoiding FX charges, warehouse location, POS setup etc), you could add Chinese language as a locale and add MOPS as a currency to an existing store. You could also just introduce currency options to an existing store and simply ship to Macao from that store.

The first option is likely to be fairly restrictive when it comes to managing the site, so typically when clients of ours want to create a local language store, they end up wanting to introduce a separate store to give them more control. This is, however, likely to change over time as Shopify improves this area of the platform.

What other considerations are there for operating a Shopify store in Macao?

  • Local language – the local language expectation for the Macao region is Chinese Mandarin. Typically, brands tend to offer both this and English. 
  • Shopify POS – merchants aren’t able to use Shopify Payments for a local Macao store, which can limit the effectiveness of Shopify POS.
  • Currencies – there are three main currencies for the Macao region, these are MOP (Macanese pataca), CNY (Chinese Yen) and Hong Kong Dollars.
  • Local payment methods – as with the rest of China, key payment methods for Macao are credit card / debit card, AliPay, WeChat Pay and UnionPay. Offering these payment methods via Shopify isn’t easy, however Citcon is one solution that’s available directly within Shopify. 

Overall, a Shopify store can be a viable option for selling in Macao, but there are likely to be workarounds in places and if you’re really looking to push the market – you may well want to opt for a setup that’s fully optimised for selling into Mainland China as well as Macao users.