How Western Brands Can Win in China’s eCommerce Market

China’s eCommerce has emerged as the largest in the world, and while some western brands have found ways to break into this new market, many have floundered.

Read our Emerging Market Profile: China

What Makes China’s eCommerce Market Unique?

There are a few key areas that make China unique compared to other markets, and brands that recognize and move to capitalize on these differences will jump ahead of the competition. These differences include an emphasis on cross-border sales, the predominance of mega-shopping days, the ascendency of Tmall for foreign brands, and much more. Of course, your brand marketing and localization efforts are key, but fulfillment issues can sink any efforts getting off the ground.

Cross-Border eCommerce in China

The value of goods that Chinese consumers purchased online from other countries boomed to more than $40b in 2015. Tmall has established itself as the go-to marketplace for Chinese shoppers looking at the cross-border category. The number of international brands on Tmall grew by 169% in 2016, reaching 14,500. These brands come from 63 different countries, but most notably from Japan, the United States, Korea, Germany, and Australia.  Of these 14,500 international brands, 80% of them had zero presence in China before being listed on Tmall.

Tmall: A Store Within a Store

To win in China means to win on Tmall. Western brands are able to set up their own “brand store,” complete with custom page skins. Tmall pages can be packed with gifs, images, videos, and promotions. In comparison, the shopping experience on Amazon in the US is based on product search results. While search is still a major metric to track in China, custom brand pages add a new dynamic to online shopping, and a new way for brands to boost conversions.

China’s Massive Sales Events

Sales events in China drive spending on a magnitude not seen in the U.S. or other markets. On Singles’ Day 2016, shoppers spent $17.7B on Alibaba, growing 32% over 2015. Cyber Monday is the single biggest sales day in the United States, an event which “only” brought in $3.9B. On top of this, the chart above shows that the growth rates are also higher for Singles’ Day, meaning this event will only continue to dominate the sales cycle in China in the coming years.

During the 2016 Singles’ Day over 80% of sales were made on a mobile device, another key data point for brands breaking into the Chinese market. Content must be mobile-specific to be successful, and daily tracking of content accuracy and optimization as well as sales performance against competitors is necessary.

China: The World’s Biggest eCommerce Market

Breaking into the Chinese market is a bigger challenge than breaking into other markets, but the rewards are massive. Clavis is the only global solution for brands, with expansive coverage of Chinese stores as well as an expert team on the ground in China.

Read our Emerging eCommerce Market Profile: China to find out how your brand can be successful in this must-win market.




Danny Silverman

Danny Silverman

Danny Silverman is CMO at Clavis Insight. He is an established industry thought leader with over 14 years of experience helping CPG/FMCG brands grow online presence and sales. Prior to joining Clavis Insight, he led the Sales Strategy & Support practice at Catapult eCommerce. Before that he spent eight years at Johnson & Johnson where he was responsible for spearheading J&J’s eCommerce strategy and capability.