As British businesses increasingly turn their attention to international markets to bolster sales and diversify their revenue streams, China is becoming a priority. From luxury retailers to businesses operating in the fast-moving consumer goods market, there’s no doubting the value of a market like China, whose middle class will swell to 65% of all consumers by 2025.
If you’re thinking about making the leap towards China and want to maximise sales and grow your brand at breakneck speed, tapping into your British values is a sensible move. Below, we’ve put together things Chinese consumers look for when buying from British brands…
Products not currently available in China
Though e-commerce and the ease of international travel have changed the way we view and consume brands, Chinese consumers still desire British luxury products that they cannot get on home turf. The UK has a reputation for its iconic brands and products made from the very highest quality materials and manufacturing processes, hence why “Brand Britain” continues to hold value in markets like China, with consumers willing to part with big money for quality.
The key, of course, is to build a brand that Chinese consumers want to talk about. Though a relatively unknown brand in the UK can make great waves in China with the right marketing strategy, you should start by working on your reputation here in the UK, and then look to other markets.
Easy to buy in China
Though products from brands that aren’t officially available in China command higher prices and encourage counterfeits, it’s important that you make your merchandise available to as many Chinese consumers as possible - and doing so is easy through Chinese e-commerce.
According to one report, half of all luxury purchases in China will be made domestically by 2025 - so whilst some businesses can rest on their laurels and enjoy trade from Chinese tourists in the short term, your goal should be to develop an omnichannel e-commerce plan.
Chinese e-commerce continues to defy the odds and grow at a record pace, with latest figures suggesting the industry will be worth $1.8 trillion by 2022. With rising income levels amongst middle-class families in China, British brands are within reach, so make sure your products can be purchased from Taobao, JD.com and Tmall - the more platforms you embrace, the merrier, but also consider developing your own e-commerce store on top.
Another reason Chinese consumers buy British products is because of their British-ness.
British brands like Burberry and Rolls-Royce have exploded in China in recent years, with their respective owners pumping millions of dollars into digital marketing campaigns that sell the elegance and craftsmanship of British brands to a young, affluent Chinese audience.
It is all well and good relying on Brand Britain and the Union Jack to sell merchandise, and limited-edition UK-inspired products may perform well, but you must adapt your branding and strategy to meet the changing demands of the country’s buyers, without compromising on your overall brand ethos. Work with a Chinese marketing company to assist with this.
The ability to customise
One trend that British brands must be able to adjust to is customisation. Chinese consumers are, generally, not satisfied with out-of-the-box products and are increasingly turning towards unique items that can be customised to aid in their sense of individuality and authenticity. A strategy some businesses are following as a “middle ground” is launching limited-edition products sold in small quantities to increase the demand and encourage impulse buying.
According to GlobalWebIndex, just 10% of consumers in the UK want brands to offer product personalisation, whereas in China that figure is double. Whether it’s embellishing initials onto a leather handbag or selling a high-end bottle of whisky with a personalised message for dad, the right strategy can catapult sales, but only if your production facility can handle it.
For a brand to truly take off in China, consumers must be able to trust them. Savvy buyers need to believe a brand is what they say they are, and that they can deliver an authentic and friendly experience from the first customer interaction through to a repeat buy. The simplest way to win over the trust of foreign consumers is to focus on Chinese social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo, posting consistent content promoting the benefits of your products.
Delve into the history of the brand, with interviews from your founders, a look at production lines and brainstorming meetings, and make consumers part of your journey. Brands with a long and rich history will no doubt find this more straightforward, but even startups can spin a story in the right direction to show to Chinese consumers that they’re a brand for them.
With more than 100,000 Chinese students in the UK at any one time, it’s little wonder that the “Daigou” has grown in popularity. Simply put, Daigou are buying agents to take orders from consumers at home for British products. When a Chinese student returns home, they’ll buy merchandise for their friends, family, and customers, and sell it to them at a premium.
The Daigou method has suffered in recent years as governments crack down, but it’s proof that influencers are king. Chinese consumers find brands they trust from WeChat, and then pay over-the-odds to have those products in their hands. If you can replicate that level of advocacy and loyalty with a Chinese e-commerce store, relying on KOLs to promote your products to the masses, you’ll find it easy to shift merchandise off your shelves pretty quickly.
Relying on Brand Britain can make it easier to sell your products and services, but it should only form part of your strategy. Listen to the ever-changing demands of your target market, deliver to them, and your expansion into China should be relatively straightforward. If you need a hand developing a Chinese digital marketing strategy, depend on the team at Zudu.