With all the buzz about growth in China, entering the market there seems like a logical next step for brands. And it may well be – but making money in China can look deceptively easy. The reality is it can take a long time.
To speed up the process and put themselves in the right place to catch consumers’ attention, brands first need to understand the unique challenges of the Chinese market:
Recognition – It’s only been in the past generation that Chinese consumers have had exposure to international brands, because unlike countries like the U.S. – where media is a huge part of the equation – the media in China is very small, government-controlled and censored.
Chinese consumers get most brand information via social media using mobile devices. Brands must teach Chinese consumers who they are from the ground up, telling their story, and taking consumers on that journey. And be advised – making Western assumptions about their needs won’t help you reach them.
Trust – Getting Chinese consumers to trust your brand can be even trickier, and the rules as you know them don’t necessarily apply.
For example, most brands – unless they’ve got an established national presence in China – don’t have their own website. Why? Because Chinese consumers are looking for the full brand experience they’d get in a brick and mortar store. Without that, they aren’t going to buy from you.
So then how DO brands break in and establish the recognition and trust that will inspire Chinese consumers to buy?
To create a national presence, you need a national platform
Most international brands use Tmall – an online, discount-led “trading mall” owned by Alibaba. Since consumers already consider Tmall reliable for shopping and shipping, a presence there can help create brand awareness as well as a shopping venue.
China leads the way in mobile device shopping, to it’s also the best way to replicate brands’ offline experience in a way consumers recognize – reaching them where they are in “space” versus geography.
Setting up your online store on Tmall is straightforward enough – a few forms will get you up and running. The challenge is in translating your brand’s values from the brick and mortar experience to the online world. Here are some tips:
There’s a lot more your brand will need to manage as you enter the Chinese market, and we’ll be talking more about those things in future posts. But using Tmall is an important first step in creating brand awareness and building trust with Chinese consumers. Once you have that, you have everything.