The Best Ways to Sell in China (2021 Update)

China is a huge country with over 1.4 billion people who are eager to buy new products and services, but there are many barriers that stand in the way of brands trying to sell their goods and services in this market. Many companies have tried to enter this vast marketplace with little success because they didn’t realize how different things operate in China compared with other countries. This post will cover some of the best ways for companies looking for insights into how they can successfully go about selling their product or service in China! We are talking Tmall, Taobao, Pinduoduo, Jd.Com, Kaola, Vip, Little Red Book (Red), Douyin, Kuaishou, etc…

To sell in China, don’t shy away from ecommerce

China is the world’s largest market for online shopping, and as of 2020, there were already 782.41 million shoppers! The revenue generated by eCommerce in China is expected to reach1,556.2 billion dollars by 2024.

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KPI and Results focused. We are the most visible Marketing Agency for China. Not because of huge spending but because of our SMART Strategies. Let us help you with: E-Commerce, Search Engine Optimization, Advertising, Weibo, WeChat, WeChat Store & PR.

There are many options when it comes to eCommerce in China, and companies should be able to find the online marketplace that fits their needs and budget the most when entering the Chinese market.

Taobao: a Giant that never ceased to evolve

Taobao’s greatness comes from the fact that it’s open to everybody and every budget and one of the best entry options to sell in China. It’s one of the best entry points for anyone, and it features everything you can imagine: from clothes and shoes to furniture or appliances!.

The desktop version of Taobao – Note that most sales Taobao are made through the mobile app

On top of that, Taobao has been working hard on improving its image in the last few years to compete against the growing competition but also to attract young designers and unique creators It started with developing live streaming and a Kol network to increase conversion but also traffic on the platform.

In 2019, Taobao launched an affiliate program with Weibo extending its live stream service. In 2020, Taobao launched its affiliate program for users, encouraging everyone to promote the app and encourages sales. This last comes into an effort to not only engage more with its users but also to fight its biggest competitor: Pinduoduo.

Taobao over the years has become more and more social, with the development of group tools by location, interest, shops can also manage group chat where they are able to promote their new products.

Tmall: an eCommerce platform for big brands to sell in China

Tmall, which also belongs to the group Alibaba is the biggest eCommerce platform in the Chinese market, it does not have a competitor that comes close in terms of revenue generated. Choosing Tmall to sell in China, is a smart move, as the marketplace is widely trusted by the general public.

How did Tmall achieve this? High and strict requirements to enter the platform. Only brands that are invited can enter the platform. By controlling who is in, Tmall was able to control the quality of the products being sold as well as the customer’s services while taking no risks.

If today, Tmall is opening a little bit more to smaller brands with initiatives such as Tmall Oversea Fulfillment, it is still rather complex to get in and even more to get sales when competing with a brand such as loreal, Philips, Zara, etc.

When starting to sell in China and entering Tmall as a brand, a huge effort will have to be done on e-reputation. Conversion rate is key to success, especially when competing with brands that are in China for years now.

Learn more about selling on Tmall

Tmall also has a platform dedicated to high-end brands: Luxury Pavilion. The idea behind the Tmall Luxury Pavilion is to become more attractive to big names of the luxury world such as Cartier or Kenzo. It’s worth noting that China is currently one of the most prolific markets when it comes to Luxury & eCommerce. We invite you to read our article introducing the Top eCommerce 5 platforms to sell luxury in China.

Pinduoduo: can supplier and producer sell in China with ecommerce?

Pinduoduo was founded in 2015 and has grown to be the largest e-commerce platform for Chinese consumers (surpassing Tmall users number in 2021), generating over RMB1.45 trillion gross merchandise value as of 2020 with 643 active monthly users in 2020. The reason behind Pinduoduo’s success is its low price.

Pinduoduo is the main competitor of Taobao. This online marketplace started its journey in smaller Chinese cities where consumers typically have fewer resources and are looking for good deals, which Pinduoduo offers.

Pinduoduo is growing fast for the simple reason that it is centered around the customers. It included its users in the promotion and buying process. It is called social eCommerce and this practice has found a lot of followers all over China.

The idea behind Pinduoduo is simple: Low price by encouraging group purchases directly from factories and suppliers.

Sell on Pinduoduo

The platform not only offers interesting prices but is also pushing users’ affiliation in a partnership with WeChat. Users can get sweet deals by inviting a friend to download the app for instance. It is a great option to sell in China if your company does not have too many resources.

Pinduoduo has successfully been pushing impulsive buying behavior which is not always working so well in China. Anyone that knows China’s buying habits, knows that Chinese consumers do a lot of research, so it’s quite the exploit Pinduoduo managed to achieve.

Pinduoduo not only appeals to Chinese consumers but it has many benefits for Brands. No commissions fees, custom tools, low requirements, low deposits, etc

Learn more about selling on Pinduoduo

Little Red Book Aka RED the king of High-end Cosmetics & Fashion Reviews

Little Red Book aka Red aka Xiaohongshu, was the revelation of 2018 and kept growing through 2019 to become a strong place for foreign cosmetics brands to be and brands to promote their products via Kols and reviews. If you are a beauty/lifestyle brand looking to sell in China, this app is for you.

Little Red Book Agency

RED concept is focused around UGC (users generated content), more precisely product reviews – shopping notes. The platform is a dream come true for Kols who have naturally conquered the platform.

80+% of RED users are women from first tiers cities. The app has its own marketplace and strong logistic services. It also displays shorts videos and influencers can add hyperlinks to platforms such as Tmall, Weibo, or Taobao.

Learn more about Selling on the Little red book

We won’t get into details for every Chinese e-commerce platform that exists ( JD.com, Suning, Kaola.com), however, we strongly suggest you have a look at our eCommerce-related blog posts if you are not familiar with them yet.

Use Branding to Increase your Sales in China

Chinese consumers are often suspicious of new things, which can make it challenging to market your product or idea. They also have a tendency not to trust easily so you may need to work extra hard on building up that relationship before getting them interested in what you’re selling! That is where working on your brand awareness and reputation with digital marketing comes in handy!

To sell in China, your brand need A well-translated brand’s name

To sell in China, it’s important to adapt oneself to the Chinese consumer’s needs. A Chinese name is required. For choosing a brand’s name, you need to combine the characteristics of the product and the brand values. Chinese consumers always feel more comfortable when they have in front of them a product with Chinese references.

Your Chinese company name is the first step in creating a localized branding strategy for your brand in China. When you have one, it allows people to identify your brand a lot faster but also shows you care about the market.

Just to give you an example carrefour:  家乐福 which can be translated to the house of happiness

Carrefour-explanation-in-Chinese
Carrefour Chinese Name 家乐福 means House of Happiness

A Chinese company name is like a stamp to your brand’s personality and story. It can be used as an advertisement for what you want customers in China to think about how they feel when interacting with the product. It can take a long time to come up with an adapted Chinese name for your company, make the effort to collaborate with people that master the language and the culture before settling for one.

Learn more about Brand Naming in China

Chinese websites, Chinese design

In order to be successful in China, your website needs a Chinese-specific design. While Westerners prefer sites with clean and clear design, Chinese netizens like sites with Chinese references, easy communication, and convenience: Live Chat, QR code, Shop Adress easy to find

Not only the website needs to be optimized to appeal to Chinese consumers but also to Baidu. The internet is a global marketplace, but not all countries have access to the same resources. In China for example Google’s pluggings don’t work.

NB: A website is not the best way to sell in China, but it will help you support your flagship store. This phenomenon is explained by the lack of trust of Chinese consumers that favor online marketplace to the single owned website for the simple reasons that online marketplace in China will have consumers back in case of issue, while a single owned website can do as it pleased.

The real interest of having a Chinese website is brand credibility and visibility. A company can significantly increase its visibility through SEO on Baidu, thus reducing its cost of (customers) acquisition. Not only that, but a strong presence on Chinese search engines will improve the trust netizen accord to your brand and consequently your conversion rate.

Click here for more info about Baidu SEO/SEM

To sell in China, use Mobile Payment

Everyone uses mobile payment. Alipay and WeChat are the most popular way of mobile payment; as a matter of fact, China’s online payment users penetration reached 86% in 2020. This online wallet is linked to user bank account and allows them to pay easily for anything you need online and offline.

WeChat Pay & Alipay

When setting up a payment method for China, you better make sure that your buyers can use Alipay or WeChat pay. As the trend goes: Consumers use Alipay to pay for a bigger amount of money whereas WeChat pay is mainly used for small expenses

It can be rather complicated or inconvenient to use a card when purchasing online, most people use their online wallet. Therefore if you are serious about wanting to sell in China, you need to hop on the online payment bandwagon.

Chinese Social Media and Social eCommerce

This is nothing new to you but Social media in China differs from the rest of the world and is extremely important for a company wishing to succeed in China. For the last decades, we have seen the rise of social e-commerce notably in the form of live-streaming sales that have been adopted by every major Chinese social media but also with the integration of social networks in eCommerce platforms (ex: Weitao) and eCommerce platforms on social media (ex: Douyin Flagship Store). Most of these platforms have also adopted an online waller or developed their own.

Wechat: China #1 social media

Wechat is the king of Chinese Social Media. Regardless of the size of the company, WeChat has become an essential medium to integrate into your marketing strategy in China. Hell, WeChat is even a good option to sell in China.

Wechat over the year has launched new tools and started new collaboration (cf above with Pinduoduo). But has also launched its mini-program (integrated app) in 2017 that have become a must in 2021. This mini-program can take different forms: Game, mini-app, store, etc

Another hot trend of WeChat is H5 Brochures. These brochures are similar to the PDF listing (One would even dare say they’re better) goods producers are mass mailing in the hope of finally finding a Chinese distributor. However, not only in the west, blindly mass mailing is a bad idea, in China, it is even more pointless as mailing is not part of the culture.

Instead of mailing in the dark, we suggest manufacturers and producers actively prospect while setting up a lead generation strategy. Once in touch with Chinese resellers, it will be easy to share a good design WeChat H5 brochure to introduce your company, your products, etc. Wechat brochures are also wildly used to promote new products, events, etc A multi-purpose tool that we can’t recommend enough.

We recommend you read our Wechat Marketing Guide for Small Businesses

Collaboration with Chinese KOL can help you sell in China

Kols or Key Opinion leaders are “key” in building a brand e-reputation in China. Influencers are more than just a face of the brand, they become an extension of it and can really help to build consumer loyalty. They make consumers feel like they belong in their community with people who share similar values as them. Consumers tend to trust KOL more than an official brand communication because in theory they only promote brands they believe in and are legit. Keep in mind, that Kols are picky when working with brands, indeed, they are putting their reputation on the table every time they choose a new partnership. Don’t be bump out if when getting started you struggle to find reputable Kols to work with, instead keep working on your online presence with SEO, PR, Social media marketing and so on.

Not only not all Kols will be willing to work with you but also Finding the right Kol and the right platform to campaign on is not easy. When going through the process of selecting Kols to work with, it is important to have a long-term vision. You need to find a Chinese influencer, who will respect the values and image of your company. Long-term collaboration is also better than short-term.

The most popular platforms of 2021 are without a doubt short video apps like Douyin and Kuaishou. Taobao and its Kols platform are popular as well. Little Red Book has a service to help brands work with verified Kols inside their platform.

The choices are multiples and in 2021, micro-influencers are still a hit with consumers and brands. They are less expensive, closer to their community, and more reliable than the biggest stars.

To conclude on the Best ways to sell in China

Selling in China? If you are looking to sell products or services in the world’s second-largest economy, we can help. Our team of experts has extensive experience and expertise working with Chinese businesses and markets, enabling us to offer a wide range of digital marketing services tailored for your specific needs. We’ll make sure that your online presence is not only visible but credible as well – all while reducing costs associated with acquiring new customers by making it easier for them to find you!

Need a cost-efficient e-Commerce Agency to start selling in China?

China SEO Agency
SEO Agency China: Who are we?

Gentlemen Marketing Agency is a specialized Digital Marketing firm based in Shanghai. The agency has expertise and experience in establishing online stores for foreign companies on TMALL.com and TMALL Global and is a certified TP (Tmall Partner)

For any questions or help needed in establishing an online store in China’s e-marketplace, please contact us, we’ll be happy to guide you.

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13 Comments

  1. This is Mahsa Zeini from Iran .I am an Iranian businesswoman.during my business trip to your country,China, I bought some of your products for myself and my family.
    The quality of your product is very appealing to me and my family and in Iran there are no companies representing your products so If you would like, I want to present China Products to the Iranian market and I’m sure that your SEO agency will be find many customers in Iran.
    Please let me know your opinion about this cooperation

  2. Hello
    I work with an active Businessmen in Toronto, Canada and we’re willing to extend our services to people in China who have intention to buy real estate in Canada, particularly in the Great Toronto Area.

    If you’re interested in working together, please let me know in order to discuss the specifics.

  3. Hello 
    dear partner 
    We ,Darabgerd medicinal greenery co ,specialized in some kind of organic ,natural dried herbal medicine and dried fruits , nuts in Iran specially our main products are sun dried fig and dried rose bud tea which are popular in China if you’d like to help us launch our products it would be fairly and make mutual adventages
    Warmest regards

  4. HI, I AM A LOCAL MINER AND SELLER OF GOLD AND DIAMOND IN SIERRA LEONE WEST AFRICA. I NEED TO MARKET OUR PRODUCT OR FIND BUSINESS PARTNERS

  5. We are really big supporter of International Brands using Chinese distributors/Agent to sell products in China. We imagine 2scenarios :
    many Western companies spend way too much time & too much money trying to sell their products in China, and failing…

    1. big supporter? What do you mean? You like this idea? we also like this concept for small medium Brand.
      And yes, you are also right, limite time and money spend via this WAy.

  6. Thanks for this useful guide! I recently learned about the existence of Pinduoduo and its strategy to get over its competitors is well crafted! I think we should all follow its ascension very closely!
    Indeed, collaboration with kols is an interesting point you mentioned, especially on big platforms with a large audience. For example, using kols in RED is a strong tool to gain your customers’ trust in a soft way.

  7. Sell in China for US companies will be complicated… Why?
    The President of the United States published this Friday, August 7, an executive order to ban the use of TikTok and WeChat applications in his country. It will be effective within 45 days. Donald Trump had previously announced his intention to ban TikTok, the most popular video creation and sharing app at the moment, but the addition of WeChat was unexpected. The criticism leveled at the two applications is that they are the fruit of Chinese companies, ByteDance and Tencent respectively.

    The document released by the government is relatively vague and has for a time raised concerns about some claims due to Tencent’s large investments in the video game industry. Officials later clarified that only WeChat was being targeted, with the objective clearly being to remove the app from Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store. This act by President Trump is quite unusual and it is not guaranteed to be legally enforceable.

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