How Sportswear Brands Can Win in China

The Sports Market in China is just booming 

 

The fitness market is growing in China, the number of members at gyms has doubled since 2008 to reach 6.6 million in 2018. Running has become a popular hobby, with more than 100 marathons organized in China last year against 51 in 2014. It is estimated that yoga practitioners increased from 4M in 2009 to more than 10M in 2019.

This trend obviously boosts sportswear brands that are increasingly demanded by Chinese sports aficionados. According to Statista, the sportswear sector in China is currently growing by almost 12%.

Even as the sportswear market grows, competition is increasingly fierce and retail is under pressure by the rise of e-commerce. A boon for consumers that are pushing brands to reduce their prices because of a more appealing and affordable competition.

 

Sports brands trying to set up in China have to adapt to the specificities of the Chinese market, namely:

#1 E-Reputation is everything in China, the brand needs to work on its brand image and reputation if it wants to sell to Chinese customers

#2 Leverage Social Media through Chinese platform WeChat, Weibo and Xiaohongshu. China has its own digital ecosystem and is, therefore, using different social network compared to western countries. Companies have to adapt their digital strategy to these apps/websites if they want to succeed in China.

#3 E-Commerce is the way to go! China is the host of the biggest e-commerce market, companies should leverage this opportunity.

#4 Work with a local partner, the Chinese market can be very frightening and working with local partners who know China and the Chinese market can prove to be unparalleled support. Especially as with the guanxi culture (business relations go through a personal relationship) the links are often tightened with the Chinese spokesperson.

 

Xiaohongshu Effect?

 

This fitness trend is led by the development of beauty criteria around the world: a filiform body but with more curves than before for women, large shoulders and a slender body for men. These bodies require more training than a simple diet and it pushed the Chinese to go to the gym. On Xiaohongshu, many young women turned into a gym addict, they sometimes became KOL and grew a community around their passion: fitness.

Xiaohongshu Accounts of fitness KOL 

So more and more of these “fitgirls” are putting themselves in the position of a coach by giving tips to their community on gym training and outfits. But they also represent an excellent means of communication for sports brands who wish to market their product to Chinese fitness addicts.

While it is sometimes difficult for international brands to set up in China, this market represents many opportunities and some facts allow international brands to gain a bit of a competitive edge.

  • Chinese consumers naturally associate quality with an international brand, often a European brand will be better welcomed than a local brand.
  • E-Commerce Cross-border (global Tmall Global & JD) makes it possible to start selling its products in China before being fully implanted in China.
  • Social Networks strongly influence Chinese users in the decision process, therefore, a good strategy can help foreign brand setting up their business in China.

 

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