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.
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 about all the main e-commerce platforms like Tmall, Taobao, Pinduoduo, JD.com, Kaola, Vip, Little Red Book (Red), Douyin, Kuaishou, etc…
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.
Understanding the Online Buying Culture of Chinese Consumers
It is common in the West to shop from an app or company’s website. Customers looking for Nike Sportswear will usually visit Nike.com. Even though Nike gear is available on Amazon and other marketplaces, customers would prefer to purchase directly from the company’s website. Chinese consumers are not affected by this and prefer to buy from trusted online marketplaces instead.
Foreign enterprises find it difficult to access the largest market in the world and do business in China, because of the Chinese government’s preference for domestic brands and the huge differences between technology and business cultures. Chinese don’t use email addresses, but Phone or WeChat ID.
There are many things to consider before making the decision to include China in your target markets.
Overview of the E-commerce Landscape of the Chinese Market
The Chinese e-commerce market is unmatched in its growth potential and exciting opportunities. With cutting-edge technologies, booming cities, and increasing wealth comes an ever-growing appetite for foreign products among the Chinese consumer base.
This remarkable surge of interest has created a lucrative cross-border industry with sales revenues reaching 2.49 trillion dollars anywhere from 2021 to 2025 – averaging 15% annual growth!
By now it’s no secret that international brands can cash in on this unprecedented wave of online purchasing activity; offering shoppers more than just quality but also exclusive access to overseas goods only found through top-tiered digital platforms catering towards consumers looking for their next big purchase abroad or at home.
The most popular Chinese eCommerce platforms
There are many options when it comes to eCommerce in China, and companies should be able to find the Chinese online marketplace that fits their needs and budget the most when entering the China 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 is one of the best entry options to sell your products online 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. Alibaba is listed on the stock market and has offices everywhere in the world.
On top of that, Taobao has been working hard on improving its image in the last few years to compete against the growing competition and 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 encourage sales. This last comes in 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, and interest, shops can also manage group chat where they are able to promote their new products to Chinese customers.
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. 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.
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 foreign brands that are in China for years now. ( informational purposes)
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 in 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.
Pinduoduo: can suppliers and producers sell in China with e-commerce?
Pinduoduo was founded in 2015 and has grown to be one of the largest e-commerce platforms for Chinese consumers. The reason behind Pinduoduo’s success is its low prices and group purchasing options.
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 includes 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 prices by encouraging group purchases directly from factories and suppliers.
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.
Xiaohongshu: best platforms for cosmetic & fashion brands
Little Red Book aka Red aka Xiaohongshu, was the revelation of 2018 and kept growing 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.
RED concept is focused on 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 short videos and influencers can add hyperlinks to platforms such as Tmall, Weibo, or Taobao.
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 in China. 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!
Your brand needs a well-translated brand 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.
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 and make the effort to collaborate with people that master the language and the culture before settling for one.
Chinese website, Chinese design
In order to be successful in China, your website needs a Chinese-specific design. While Westerners prefer sites with clean and clear designs, Chinese netizens like sites with Chinese references, easy communication, and convenience: Live Chat, QR codes, and 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.
The real interest in 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 (customer) acquisition. Not only that, but a strong presence on Chinese search engines (with a Mandarin website hosted in China) will improve the trust of netizens according to your brand and consequently your conversion rate.
Offer mobile payment options
Everyone uses mobile payments in China. Alipay and WeChat are the most popular way of mobile payment; as a matter of fact, China’s online payment user penetration reaches around 90%. This online wallet is linked to users’ bank accounts and allows them to pay easily for anything they need online and offline.
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).
Wechat: China’s #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 years has launched new tools and started new collaborations (cf above with Pinduoduo). But has also launched its mini-programs feature (integrated app) in 2017 which has become a must in 2023. This mini-program can take different forms: Game, mini-app, store, etc
Another hot trend in 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.
Collaboration with Chinese KOL can help you sell in China
KOLs or Key Opinion leaders are “key” to 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 for a 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.
Need a cost-efficient e-Commerce Agency to start 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 to 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!
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.