Lessons Western Businesses Can Learn From The Biggest Chinese Ecommerce Trends

As the world becomes increasingly globalised and businesses look for new ways to win over market share from their competitors, many are turning their attention to China. Over the past decade, China has revolutionised the way consumers spend money online, taking concepts from the West and flipping them on their heads to better serve consumers and businesses. Latest data suggests the Chinese ecommerce sector is now worth more than $1.6 trillion.

From the record-breaking Singles’ Day shopping event to WeChat, the “app for everything” where shoppers can buy groceries and Gucci handbags, Western businesses can learn a great deal from China, and implement some of the country’s tried and tested concepts into their own business models. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the biggest to get you started.

Singles’ Day (Double Eleven)

Singles’ Day, also known as 11/11 or Double Eleven, is the biggest shopping event of the year in China, with consumers celebrating the “opposite of Valentine’s Day”. Though the event was originally designed for singletons, it’s now a bonafide celebration in itself, with virtually every Chinese brand getting involved in the one-day shopping extravaganza. And what’s particularly interesting to note is that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way consumers think about their finances, the event reached new heights in 2020, with more than $100 billion spent over an 11-hour sale, beating last year’s sales record of $38 billion.

In the UK, imported shopping events such as Black Friday have become significant dates in the retail calendar, helping companies shift stock and prepare for the Christmas season. But with “discount fatigue” causing sales to dip in recent years, brands have to work harder than ever to persuade customers to part with their cash. Last year, £8.6 billion was spent in the UK over Black Friday weekend, but as consumers cotton on to inflated prices and sales tactics, perhaps a new model could be worth considering. Some of the UK’s biggest brands, such as Mountain Warehouse, Domino’s, Adidas, Boots, and Pretty Little Thing have adopted Singles’ Day, shifting their sales peaks forward a couple of weeks, and helping to reduce the demand on their logistics and distribution arms in the run-up to December. Getting involved or even creating your own shopping event could be the key to increasing ecommerce sales.

Live stream ecommerce

Over the past several years, Chinese brands have been steadily upping their live streaming budgets, investing in influencers and key opinion leaders to push their products on social media. Consider it an evolution of the traditional TV shopping channel, with friendly faces demonstrating everything from jewellery to juice pressers in front of a camera, answering questions from viewers and persuading them to hand over their cash. COVID-19 has only further accelerated the craze, with reports suggesting sales will top $129 billion this year.

Unlike traditional shopping channels, however, live stream ecommerce requires you to piggyback off of an influencer or Key Opinion Leader in the country with an established audience. Chinese consumers place great value in transparency and authenticity; if you’re paying someone to promote a product they don’t care about, you’ll struggle to drive sales. Here in the West, brands such as Amazon are experimenting with live shopping channels, and social networks such as Instagram and Facebook are baking in live shopping events. It’s up to you exactly how you utilise the technology - from a “Meet the Creator” Q&A live stream to a paid promotion with a well-known figure in your niche, there are dozens of possibilities.

Social shopping experiences

Another Chinese trend that’s making its way over to the West is social shopping. Platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook have all introduced new ecommerce integrations over the past year, partnering with platforms such as Shopify to display products on videos, social media posts, and on users’ timelines. And the idea is simple: if a product is featured in a music video, vlog, or Instagram post, it should be easy for users to find it and buy one for themselves - and reward Facebook and Google a kickback for their involvement.

There are lots of ways that you can drive ecommerce sales through social networks. As well as signing up to Facebook Shops, adding your inventory to the Merchandise tab on YouTube and tagging your products in your Instagram photos and stories, you can build your brand around social media partnerships, offer freebies to influencers in exchange for promotion, and keep on top of your own social presence. The more engaged and active you are on key social channels, the more likely you are to find customers and build trust and brand loyalty.

There you have it - three of the biggest Chinese shopping trends, and lessons that Western businesses can learn in the process. Do your research, see what’s working in China, and experiment with concepts here in the UK. If you need assistance in building a digital strategy for your ecommerce brand, depend on Zudu. Call us on 01382 690080 to discover more.

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