China’s ecommerce industry has ushered in a new era for the country’s economy, with modern consumers spending more time on their phones than ever before. Shopping events like Singles’ Day (which in 2020 generated US$74.1 billion, 25% up on 2019’s figures) further demonstrate the incredible power and potential of the sector and explain why so many international businesses are trying their luck in the market, hoping to boost their presence.
It’s little surprise that, in 2019, Chinese ecommerce sales eclipsed those of the United States and Europe combined, with consumers favouring buying from brands on their smartphones than heading into physical retail stores. The COVID-19 pandemic has only further solidified the sector’s growth. Building a strong digital presence for your brand is a sensible strategy.
There are now close to 800 million mobile ecommerce users in China, fueled by the rise of mobile payment methods like WeChat Pay and AliPay. But how can your business best benefit from the meteoric growth in ecommerce and put your products and services in front of potential buyers? Below, we’ve rounded up three avenues to an ecommerce store in China.
Integrate with WeChat
Earlier in the year, WeChat hit another major milestone: reaching 1.2 billion monthly active users (MUAs) around the world. Over the past five years, WeChat has become a staple of virtually every Chinese consumer’s life, used as the “app for everything,” from ordering a taxi to paying for goods and services at their local markets. Add on top of that the WeChat Mini Program, which allows businesses to connect to consumers in new and exciting ways, and the app is now a must-have for any international business wanting to make inroads in China.
One of the reasons why many brands favour Mini Programs for their ecommerce stores is because they serve as miniature apps inside of the WeChat ecosystem. Users don’t need to visit the App Store or remember your website; they work like native apps, open instantly, and can include ecommerce functionality such as shopping carts, user accounts, and checkouts.
Where WeChat Mini Programs afford a greater level of control and customisation, WeChat Stores offer a more straightforward and direct approach to ecommerce. These mobile sites allow customers to shop directly on WeChat, share your products with their friends, and track their orders from their home screen. Although the traditional WeChat Store has fallen out of popularity since the launch of WeChat Mini Programs, where businesses can choose their preferred payment methods and have greater control over their customer journey, the truth is that WeChat Stores are still a viable option, easily integrate with mobile payments, and save you time. Consider launching a WeChat Store before investing in a Mini Program.
Build your own ecommerce app
As we’ve already touched upon, having more control over your ecommerce store allows you to set pricing, avoid high platform fees, and differentiate your business in a crowded market. For this reason, developing a mobile app for your ecommerce store could be another option, as you’ll be able to build a platform that works for your brand, without following guidelines or restrictions from third-party vendors. Granted, developing an ecommerce app in China from the ground up will be more time-consuming and expensive than using WeChat’s tools, and the ongoing maintenance will also require some investment, but if you’re serious about your venture into the country and anticipate a high level of sales, it could be a preferred solution.
One of the biggest benefits of building an ecommerce app is that you can fully integrate it with an existing ecommerce offering, such as your website or inventory system in the UK. You can also experiment with cutting-edge features such as augmented reality to allow users to “try on” your products in the real world, or receive custom message stickers when they buy a particular product. It’s this level of customization that you cannot get from third parties and, ultimately, affords you more flexibility in marketing your products as you scale a brand.
Join a third party platform
Finally, don’t underestimate the value of selling your products on third-party marketplaces and platforms such as TMALL and Taobao. We’ve rounded up a list of the best places to sell your luxury goods on Chinese ecommerce platforms. Similar to selling your products on eBay or Amazon in the UK, working with a third-party platform allows you to tap into their vast user base, and reach consumers who are in the market to buy something. With the right sales and product optimisation strategy, you can outperform existing manufacturers and ensure your products appear at the top of searches, massively increasing your sales figures.
There are, of course, some downsides to selling your products on such platforms. The first is brand recognition - you’ll miss out on building a brand, connecting data on users and email addresses that could help you increase your sales. You’ll have less control over the look of your products on third-party platforms, with product page designs limited, and you’ll have to compete with other brands selling similar products to your own, sometimes at a considerably cheaper price. On top of that, you’ll have to pay a commission which can eat into margins.
There you have it - avenues for opening an ecommerce store in China. Let us know which of these is most attractive to you, and get in touch with Zudu China on 01382 690080 today for a free consultation. We specialise in helping UK businesses expand into the Chinese market, utilising advanced digital marketing techniques to promote ecommerce stores.