The Increasing Trend
As technology and internet access improve over time and the way time is becoming a scarce resource in the Chinese community, consumers are now embracing the steadily sleeping giant which is E-Commerce.
Choosing between Selling Platforms
So if you are planning to sustain and expand your business in China, you have to adapt to the situation and keep up with the competition by also making use of online selling platforms that are very accessible to the common folk. Let’s take a look at the best options that you have:
Messaging App Stores
The best example of this is the WeChat selling option, in which you need to be a verified merchant to use the platform. This lets you sell products to millions of WeChat users across the globe. With WeChat being the top Messaging app in China, there is no limit to how much traffic and reach you can obtain if you strategize your marketing plans on these types of platforms.
Flash Sale Platforms
These types of platforms are testing grounds for Foreign products that are trying to break the Chinese market, the most common thing you can find here are new products + numerous amount of sales. While the products here are mostly excess from production to delivery. The quality of goods sold here are still top notch, if you are seeking minimal investment when it comes to advertising then this is the type of platform for you.
One of the most prevalent sites that offer these kinds of the option is VIP.com – As of 2017, Vipshop had 52.1 million customers, and there were 269.8 million orders for the year 2016. Following Tmall and JD.com, it is now the third largest e-commerce site in China. According to iResearch, VIP.com’s online discount sales model is one of the three mainstream e-commerce models in China (the other two are marketplace model of Tmall and general B2C model of JD). And VIP.com is ranked No.1 in China’s online discount market with 38.1% market share
A specialty platform is generally a type of merchant who buys products overseas for customers then ships it to the customer. For example, brands that are not being sold in China and also do not have a counterpart are the best sellers here. These types of platforms have the best visitor to verified purchase conversion rate as most users who visit these types of platforms are really going to buy a product that they need.
One example of a specialty platform is BeiBei.com, the website sells a wide range of clothing, accessories, toys, and diapers. It has a special section just for overseas products for parents who don’t trust goods made in China, along with a handful of daily deal flash sales. CEO Zhang Lianglun says Beibei now has 5,000 brands, 10 million registered users, RMB 200 million in monthly sales, and 100,000 items sold daily. 70 percent of orders come from mobile devices.
These are basically your average businessmen – the platform buys foreign, even local products and sells it for profit, usually through a little mark up from the original price. They do offer promos for bundles, or even free shipping for certain criteria depending on the marketing strategy being used. Think of it as your online convenience store, so if you are dealing with products that already have a name for itself then you can pretty much earn the profit on these types of platforms too.
The best example is Jumei who is China’s No. 1 online retailer of beauty products as measured by gross merchandise volume (“GMV”) with a market share of 22.1% in 2013, according to the Frost & Sullivan report. Jumei has grown rapidly and substantially since it launched the jumei.com website in March 2010.
Online Selling Platforms
The simplest explanation for these is really easy to understand, think of them as your online mall. They offer hundreds, even thousands of brands that range from clothing to electronics, which have both localized and original versions. They still also offer promotions and shipping promos, a lot of e-commerce businesses have flourished using these types of platforms, but they are the hardest to break into but are also the most profitable among the rest.
JD.com is one example, also known as Jingdong and formerly called 360buy, is a Chinese e-commerce company headquartered in Beijing. It is one of the two largest B2C online retailers in China by transaction volume and revenue, a member of the Fortune Global 500 and a major competitor to Alibaba-run Tmall. As of September 2017, the platform has 266.3 million active users.
Crucial details for Decision Making
So now that you know which types of platforms you can invest and work on, how are you going to choose one? While it is advisable to venture into each one of them, it will require a lot of effort, time and money to be able to sustain all of them right away, and you will be bound to fail. So the best practice is to choose one first and then work your way through the list depending on the status of your business and profit level. However, there are basic factors that will determine which of the platforms you should choose first and concentrate on.
- Your Product – proper research will let you know in which of the platforms you product or similar products is selling and depending on your resources it may be best to enter the platforms where you will be the pioneer, however if you have enough resources and based on research can outsell the competition then it is better to go in and try to beat competition in platforms that already have the same product as you. Or as simple as searching product rankings in Baidu, or a quick survey on Weibo. Even WeChat can be an effective platform to test the product viability.
- Resources – this will be the determining factor on what type of strategy you need to do when you have already chosen your product, if you have a lot of advertising money and allowance, it will be very easy for you to break into the market with ads, discounts, and promos. However if budget is small, you will need to make strategies that will bring in organic traffic to your e-commerce store some techniques include affiliate marketing, search engine optimization, and social media optimization.
- Man Power – the number of people you have working on the e-commerce business will also determine which platform you should choose. If your team only has 2~3 persons then an online mall is not going to be for you. The higher you get on the list the more people who specialize in 1 or 2 things will need to fill in for each department. Like for example an online store platform-based business will need at least 5 or 6 people ( customer relations manager, inventory and listings manager, product researcher, manufacturing/delivery manager, a Search engine optimizer/Social Media Manager, and an accounting person to calculate if you are earning or not, there are also some major positions like the marketing expert and strategist but they can be in tandem who is the SEO/SMM)
There are more factors that should be the basis which platform to use but these three are the most important ones. So you have to really do a lot of research, planning, and allocation of tasks as well as invest a lot of time before venturing into the E-Commerce market.
Also always take into consideration how the Chinese market operates, which is entirely different from the rest of the world. Common high ranking sites are usually inaccessible to Chinese netizens so it is important to know which platforms, especially the social media, have Chinese counterparts. So that you can fully maximize the potential of your e-commerce store.
Top China Digital Marketing Platforms are:
- WeChat: All-in-one Social Media
- Sina Weibo: Twitter Counterpart
- Tencent QQ: Popular Instant Messaging App
- Toudou Youku: Youtube Counterpart
- Baidu Tieba: A Search Engine Forum
- Douban: Lifestyle Discussion Platform
- Zhihu: The Quora of China
- Meituan – Dianping: The Chinese Versions of Yelp
- Momo: Tinder of China
- Meipai: Chinese Instagram for Video
Making use of these platforms will help you grow your eCommerce business into the ideal income generation opportunity that you want, especially on the platforms that are available on mobile devices as China has a really big amount of eCommerce traffic generated through mobile applications and mobile transactions.