China already has the largest online shopping market in the world, and it’s continuing to grow, with predictions it will reach $US1.1 trillion by 2020.
But success in e-commerce in China requires more than simply posting products at a good price online, and hoping enough people from that huge pool of potential customers will buy them.
Here are six tips for effective online selling in China.
1. Understand what the customer wants and needs
A good knowledge of what consumers want and need is always the basis of retailing. So what do Chinese consumers want?
They do want to be able to buy goods online at discounted prices. But when it comes to fashion and luxury items, for example, authenticity is often more important than the lowest price. In fact, if a price is too low for these goods, it might create suspicion and cause consumers to think the product might be a fake.
Chinese online shoppers also want a wide product range to choose from, convenience and ease of use when accessing online sites, and to have all the information they need to make a purchase available at their fingertips.
2. Consider using various e-commerce channels
If using China’s B2C online sites, it’s important to do some research to find those that best suit your business. Some of the top ones include:
• Alibaba’s Tmall – a site for high-end branded products.
• JD.com – online marketplace with similarities to Amazon.
• Shangpin – newer online site majoring in fashion items.
• Suning – e-commerce site with a wide range of products.
You might also want to create your own website – one that is adapted for China’s consumers in terms of language, content and design, and that is optimised for China’s local search engines (Baidu in particular).
3. Recognise the power of mobile and social
A great deal of e-commerce in China is being driven by mobile and social media.
A recent survey by Nielsen showed that 71% of urban online shoppers used their mobile phone to make purchases in 2015, up from 51% the previous year. Mobile apps are making it easier for customers to purchase using their phones, and are something for e-tailers to consider.
A social media presence is also important, particularly as consumers will often discuss their purchasing experiences on platforms such as WeChat and Weibo, and also use social media to check out what others are saying about a product or service.
4. Realise the power of the review
Chinese consumers like to research the opinions and experiences of others before making their own purchasing decision. Inviting customers to post reviews and making use of key opinion leaders (KOLs) in marketing programs should be considered by e-tailers.
5. Do not overlook the importance of prompt delivery
A customer benefit of buying in-store is that goods are usually received as soon as money changes hands. With online shopping, there is a delay between the two. The shorter that delay, the better for customer satisfaction.
6. Recognise the various stages of purchasing transactions
Customers tend to go through several stages in the purchasing process, which includes online research, making the actual purchase, and doing online reviews.
All of these are equally important, but it is usually at the final stage that the potential for repeat custom is realised. For instance, offering incentives such as discounts on future purchases, sending reminder ‘alerts’ to customers when they are likely to have run out of a consumable product, and better customer targeting based on past purchasing behaviours, can all be good for encouraging repeat custom.
Need some additional help?
If you’re working in the e-commerce space in China and would like more insight on how you can make the most of the marketplace, get in touch with our China marketing team. We can help you decide which channels and methods to focus on for success.