First of all, what is the overview? How big is the chemical market in China?
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China unsurprisingly dominated the chemical sales in 2021-2022 €1,547 billion.
European Union (Germany and France are the two largest producers in the EU) was in the second position with €499 billion and sold 34% of it outside of the EU to its 3 biggest export markets China, the USA, and the UK.
The USA came in the third position with €426 billion worth of sales. source
China is not only a leader in chemical export (valued at more than €72 billion in 2020) but also the world’s largest consumer of chemicals with consumption in 2020 worth €1.59 trillion.
China is the biggest for chemicals and is full of opportunities, but…
Opportunities for foreign chemical companies are thinning in China as local Chinese chemicals companies are being more competitive. They understand better the preferences of Chinese customers and know how to optimize their products and offers to the local market. Following the reinforcement of environmental laws, and rules on norms in 2017, when 40% of chemical manufacturing units had to shut down for inspection (80 000 units were fined), they better understand as well the local regulations.
If you are in an innovative chemical sector, with advanced technologies, R&D, and molecules that are rare or are not available yet in China, then you have definitely a card to play in China.
How to successfully reach and sell to Chinese chemical firms?
Sorry to tell you that even though you have the most innovative product, it will not sell by itself and it will require a specific strategy for the Chinese market.
Not only the competition is huge, but also the Chinese buyer’ mindset and process are very different from a European or an American, and it is mostly influenced by China’s unique digital space.
Because when a Chinese buyer needs to buy new products, and source new suppliers, he relies on the Chinese digital environment. He will do industry monitoring and research for new suppliers online, on the Chinese internet. The biggest Chinese search engine is Baidu.
You may (or may not know) that China has its own internet network cut from the outside world and has its own internet “ecosystem”. The Chinese great firewall blocks all access to Chinese people to Google, Facebook, and Twitter…. To all the foreign internet sources.
Therefore, your first step will be to make your company visible on the Chinese internet.
- Would you look for info on Google in Chinese?
- There is a high chance you answered no.
- Would Chinese buyers will look for info in English on Baidu?
No. Not only because like you Chinese buyers instinctively use their native language to do their research but also because Baidu does not index English content.
To make your Chinese buyers find you on Baidu, first, you need to have a website in Chinese.
Not only you will have to care about having a qualitative translation (especially for a highly technical industry like chemical), adapt content, and avoid using censored topics, words…
But you will also have to make sure that your website is available in China. If your website is hosted in Europe, chances are high that your website will be blocked by the firewall. In that case, you might have to host your website locally (e.g.: China mainland or Hong Kong)
Other parameters are to take into account to fit with local buyers: the architecture of your website, use of metatags, use of a chat box instead of a form to get in touch, use of local app links (WeChat, Weibo, Baidu maps…) ….
Use SEO on Baidu, AKA keywords strategy
You will never be visible on Baidu among the sea of competitors if you don’t have a good SEO strategy. Using the right keywords for your website is essential to be found easily when the buyers will do their research.
Patience you will need.
An SEO strategy A.K.A natural referencing takes time. It is a matter of several months of patience and hard work before getting results, but in the end, it will be the most sustainable way to improve your ranking. And consequently, receive quality leads.
An option, PPC on Baidu
Paid ads on Baidu are a good way to make your website quickly visible on the Chinese internet. You will receive leads but they might not be the most qualitative ones. PPC requires an important budget and should not be used in the long term. It has to be seen as a booster for a new website.
Your reputation: The core of your strategy
When buyers in the chemical industry need to buy a certain product, they will first look for suppliers online, this is the first step (this corresponds to the Chinese website and SEO step from you).
In a second time, once he found you, he will check if your company is reliable or not.
To do so he will check on specialized forums and online media if anybody talks about you positively.
Chinese buyers will never buy your products if they don’t find positive feedback or information about you from third parties.
Acceleration of E-commerce / E-Business
In 2021, the B2B transaction value of e-commerce reached 29.11 trillion RMB, 4.7 times more than 10 years ago. Considering the astonishing acceleration of buying behaviors of professional buyers online, having a presence on these e-commerce platforms is something to consider but not necessary at first.
Two main possibilities:
-B2B general platforms like 1688.com by Alibaba, Gongpinyouxuan 工品优选 by JD.
-B2B specialized platforms for the chemical industry: 摩贝Molbase, 找塑料 Wozhaosulia 我的塑料网 Wodesuliaowang