Attempt you can take to tackle e-commerce in China

First there are two ways you can attempt to tackle e-commerce in China.

Method 1: Direct & Social selling

This means selling outside an existing marketplace. You will have to generate your own traffic, most likely by partnering with bloggers.

This is the most efficient way to get started if you don’t have existing search volume or brand recognition. You can set-up your e-shop through WalktheChat’s cross-border e-commerce platform

If you already have a registered company in China, you can use some of the local equivalents of WalktheChat such as Weidian, Youzan, Lewaimai, etc… We conducted a detailed comparison of these platforms here.

In general, whichever path you choose, there are rules to designing for China:

  • Enabling Chinese payment methods (we integrate WeChat payment cross-border and Alipay Cross-border)
  • Using WeChat and other Chinese services for log in, in order to smoothen the user experience
  • Ensuring that speed is optimal in China
  • Having a mobile-first approach as most of the WeChat social traffic is happening through mobile devices
  • Following Chinese design and UX guidelines from Tencent and other leading local tech companies for so that users feel safe (trust is a huge barrier to purchase in China)

Caption: Example of China-friendly design

Option 2: marketplaces

There are plenty of marketplaces which enable foreign companies to sell in China.

  • Tmall cross-border: it is the largest cross-border platform and is part of the Alibaba group. You’ll find everything on it from cosmetics to clothing
  • JingDong (JD) global: JD is Alibaba’s main competitor. It is a better fit for companies selling consumer electronics
  • Jumei cross-border: Jumei is a booming platform for sale of cross-border cosmetics and beauty products
  • XiaoHongShu: is another up-and-coming platform, which started as a content sharing platform and is now focusing on the cross-border sale of luxury items

These platforms have pro’s and con’s:

  • Pros: they have pre-existing traffic and can help with the whole logistic / customer side of business (including returns, etc…)
  • Cons: most of these platforms will require your company to make at least $100 million in annual revenue to even let you apply for them. It’s a brutal selection process and only companies which are already famous in China have a chance to get through

Conclusion

  • If you are an existing brand with more than 100 million USD of annual sales and existing search volume, go for the big cross-border marketplaces. You might have to put around 1M USD on the table to really see results, but you have a good chances of making your money back multiple times
  • If you are an SME trying to break into the Chinese market, go through social e-commerce via Key Opinion Leader (KOL) campaigns which will enable you to get started at a much more affordable cost.

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