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5 ways to enhance your e-commerce presence in China

By Sylvia Wei

E-commerce has been growing rapidly in China in recent years, becoming a massive and lucrative market for Australian retailers. According to the Chinese Commerce Ministry, the e-commerce market in China grew 31.6 percent in 2015 to 3.2 trillion Yuan, or US$490 billion.

China is currently transforming from an investment-based economy to a consumption-based one. As Chinese consumers become more sophisticated and mobile friendly, it’s important that Australian retailers keep on top of their growing interests and demands if they want to take advantage of this market.

As traditional marketing channels continue to lose their impact in acquiring new consumers in China, here are five ways you can raise brand awareness and increase online sales.

1. Product sales promotion

Apart from the common promotional practices such as discount, coupons and free delivery, there are two sales promotion activities that are very effective in China: conditioned sales promotions and bound sales promotions.

A conditioned sales promotion is intended to appeal to new users, navigate them to place orders and make your website more active. There are three ways you can do this:

  • Time conditioned allows a specific range of time (e.g. 24 hours) when customers can get a discount of newly advertised goods, this is known as “seckill” in China.
  • Amount limited allows a certain amount of products to be sold at a discount.
  • Single item provides a single item at a very favourable price to customers. This promotes user loyalty, as well as attracting more orders.

A bound sales promotion focuses on recommendation and repurchase. After a customer adds a specific product to the cart, a retailer will then recommend some bound items and offer a discount if they purchase together. By doing this, retailers can navigate existing customers to buy more and make them happy at the same time.

Under the repurchase scenario, customers are offered a coupon for their next purchase. For example, retailers give a customer 50 Yuan of a coupon that’s applicable only when they buy the same product next time.

2. Campaign calendar

For campaign strategies to be effective, it’s highly advisable to make a campaign calendar, which arranges the major campaigns throughout the year and takes into account many internal and external factors. This enables you to plan every detail in advance.

Some campaigns follow business conventions, such as “double 11” and “double 12”, which are China’s two biggest days for shopping and discounts and generate a large number of impulse purchases. Other campaigns can be self-invented, such as an anniversary day or other memorable dates. It’s a way to foster customer loyalty and keep them anticipating.

3. Payment tools

Payment platforms aren’t just for providing convenient payment options, they’re also ideal for product promotion. Australian retailer Pharmacy Online, for example, recently did a promotion offering consumers $5 off their purchase when they processed their payment using Alipay. In addition, if the customer spent over $95, the shipping fee was reduced to only $5. Not only does this encourage consumers to use Alipay as their preferred payment method, it also helps entice them to buy more from Pharmacy Online. Joint promotions like this mean valuable traffic for retailers.

Alipay also has a “Red Envelope” scheme in the lead up to the Chinese New Year, which allows users to gift random amounts of money to one another in an attempt to lure users to its mobile payment system. After a user makes a payment via Alipay, it offers Red Envelopes (or lucky money) that they can share with friends, who can use the money only when they buy from a particular retailer’s online store. This is very effective for new customer acquisition.

4. Mobility

The movement of e-commerce sales from the desktop to mobile devices has been under way in China for a couple of years. According to data from Analysys International Enfodesk, nearly two-thirds of retail and consumer-to-consumer e-commerce sales in China in Q4 2015 occurred via mobile. That was up from 55.5 per cent the previous quarter — the first time mobile accounted for a majority of e-commerce sales in the country.

Nearly every e-commerce player in China makes use of H5 to enhance the customer experience and get more orders. H5 is an abbreviation of HTML5, a web coding language that’s suitable for creating interactive and lightweight web applications.

It’s also common to create a dedicated mobile page within WeChat, China’s highly popular messaging app. The page usually offers interactive content featuring events or incentive-driven games. Participants can easily share the page on social media. This is an effective way to retain regular customers, acquire new customers and boost traffic.

5. Social media

Social media marketing in China mainly focuses on content marketing. Useful, interesting and trending content will always grab users’ attention and convert them to customers.

  • Be useful: Provide high-quality, exclusive and useful information to users to address their specific needs. Most are curious about foreign information, especially on healthcare. Feed their curiosity and provide them with what they need.
  • Be interesting: Social media users are drenched in a wealth of information every day. It’s extremely important to grab their attention to continue reading. You can also present your content as comics or in other graphical ways to entice them finish reading.
  • Be on trend: Understand the demographics of your customers. Chinese overseas online shoppers (Haitao) are mainly young females with decent salaries. They love to follow the latest trends and share online. Creating content using their language and focusing on what they’re interested in is always effective.

If your business is thinking of expanding its footprint in China to capitalise on the country’s booming cross-border online shopping market, then you need to consider different avenues to reach consumers, stand out and take your e-commerce business to the next level.

Sylvia Wei is Azoya’s deputy managing director for Australia.

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