Although China is now returning to “normal” following the COVID-19 outbreak, all indicators suggest that consumer habits have changed forever. China has long embraced online shopping, but growth in ecommerce is showing no signs of slowing down, despite most physical retail outlets reopening. In the first four months of 2020, retail sales dropped by 16% year-on-year, whilst ecommerce climbed 8.6%, representing $360 billion in transactions.
The coronavirus pandemic has unlocked new opportunities for foreign brands considering entering the Chinese market. Below, we’ve rounded up some emerging trends to consider…
WeChat Mini Programs
WeChat Mini Programs aren’t a new concept, but their popularity has soared during the pandemic as consumers spend more time at home on their phones. The idea behind these is to serve as secondary apps inside of the WeChat platform, offering functionality that can’t be found elsewhere. Whether it’s a pop-up shop, an augmented reality experience, or a fun game, Mini Programs are built with engagement and shareability in mind. Create your own Mini Program that can double as a secondary sales channel for your business, whether you sell direct on the platform or create a tool that fosters brand loyalty and drives purchases.
Another exciting ecommerce concept from China is group/social buying, where products or services can be offered at a reduced price - but only if they’re purchased en mass. This takes the “limited time only” concept to the next level and is designed to attract consumers in third and fourth-tier cities, as they band together to unlock lower prices and exclusive offers.
Think of it as a modern take on the old television shopping channels like Price Drop TV. A secondary benefit is that interested consumers will share your products on social media, as if you don’t reach the required number of sales, they’ll miss out on their discounted product.
Live streaming to sell
Although live streaming is beginning to grow in the West, in China it’s already a proven sales method that works. With platforms such as Taobao Live and JD Live offering businesses a place to promote their products in realtime, it’s never been easier to persuade consumers to part with their cash whilst selling the benefits of your products. Of course, you’ll need to find an experienced Chinese host who can answer questions about your brand and competently sell your wares, but that shouldn’t be difficult in today’s influencer-focused market.
Known as “live commerce”, brands are increasingly taking to video as they can feature a large range of products in a short period, tap into the aforementioned social selling, build awareness amongst their target market, work with influencers, and ultimately drive sales.
The rise of Amazon and its next-day delivery concept has made Western consumers more demanding than ever before. The same is happening in China. Thanks to major investments from ecommerce platforms like Alibaba and an ever-evolving distribution network, it’s now possible to order an item from an online store and have it delivered to your door within half an hour. Granted, this is only in select cities and suppliers right now, but it’s a glimpse of the future and consumers’ changing habits. Partnering with an innovative distribution network for your sales makes sense; if you’re slow to deliver products, you’ll develop a bad reputation.
Chinese consumers place great value in foreign brands and their merchandise, particularly those from markets like the United Kingdom. One emerging trend that’s worth considering is cross-border ecommerce channels. The idea behind this is to sell your products to Chinese consumers from your country of origin, using specialist websites like Kaola.com, which lets sellers showcase their products across online forums, portals, and marketing channels. As you generate sales, you’ll then ship out products direct to consumers, though this can be a slow and expensive process, so is only advisable for luxury goods or products with markup.
According to data from China Internet Watch, cross-border ecommerce in China is worth over 620 billion yuan (US$96.98 billion), a figure that’s growing double digits year-on-year.
If you’re ready to take advantage of these ecommerce brands and promote your products in China, reach out to the marketing experts at Zudu China. We specialise in helping brands make an impact in China with a unique blend of digital marketing and public relations.