Let’s talk… selling to China

Business Mentoring

Hailing Yu, pictured, (@Hailingyu2) is the China Business Adviser of the UK Northern Powerhouse, China-Britain Business Council (CBBC), drawing on 20 years’ experience working in, running and supporting businesses in both China and the UK. Here Hailing discusses the exciting potential for Leeds City Region businesses to tap into Chinese markets through social media and e-commerce.

What are the current consumer trends in China?

E-commerce is driving massive retail sales growth in China. With a growing middle class and a quickly changing business environment, British retailers who want to sell their products to this market need to be proactive.

Fashion, clothing and footwear, are the biggest sellers online, followed by computer products electronics and household electrical devices. Together, these make up 80 per cent of total spending online.

I think it’s really important that people understand how fast consumer behaviour is changing there.  Last year, Chinese people purchased 28.5 per cent more food, 18 per cent more clothes and 12 per cent more items like mobile devices, online. Use of mobile phones to pay for purchases is prevalent, and is 50 times more likely than with American shoppers.

How do shoppers discover these products?

It’s similar to here. Social media is a key way for Chinese people to find out about new fashion trends, brands and share information with friends and family. It’s no surprise that younger people are embracing social commerce.  Yorkshire brands who want to get into this market need to think about how they use Chinese digital channels to achieve this.

The social media statistics speak for themselves. In 2016, WeChat had 768 million daily logged-in users, and 60 percent of Chinese shoppers searched Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, for brand information. A great example of a British brand who has effectively used Weibo and Wechat as a platform to promote their brand in China is airline British Airways.

Want to find out more about selling overseas? There is a guide to increasing online sales with social media here.

Can you give examples of British and Leeds City Region businesses who successfully trade in China?

There are quite a few that spring to mind. Tangle Teezer, a company originally turned down on Dragon’s Den, made its China breakthrough when a famous Chinese model recommended the product on her microblog, causing a flood of 200 orders a day from customers in China.

An exciting new Leeds-based business called Ross Barr have announced they are to launch in China in the British House, a new department store concept in Beijing.  The proudly Yorkshire brand is keen to capitalise on the appetite for heritage brands, and see strong potential for their high quality woollen knitwear.  The new retail experience, modelled on a London town house, aims to tap into the demand for UK brands and desire to learn more about British culture and language. Shoppers will pick the products they like in-store then buy them online.

What types of opportunities are there for Leeds City Region businesses?

The growing Chinese middle class seek out premium quality products, which they usually research online first. Foreign brands are perceived as high quality, and we have great producers here who I think have real potential in China.

Dyson is an extremely popular brand in China because its products are perceived as innovative and high value. Similarly Mulberry is desirable due to the perception that British-made represents heritage and quality.

The blending of social media and E-Commerce platforms offers a great opportunity for shrewd businesses to target specific demographic groups with their high quality products.

If you are thinking this is potentially for your business, I would suggest employing an in-house Chinese digital marketing specialist or a social media agency to engage as effectively as possible with Chinese social media.

What top tips would you give a business owner thinking about launching products in China?

  • Take advantage of the support through the China-Britain Business Council and DIT to help you research the market to see if it is right for your product or service
  • Define and understand your target market and decide which products will be popular with this group
  • Protect your intellectual property, make sure that any existing Trade Marks are registered locally in China
  • Choose the right online platform to provide the greatest chance of building your brand awareness when you start out, use a popular platform such as Kaola.com to tap into their vast customer base, it requires less effort in terms of payment, promotion and delivery

Want to know more about Kaola? Find out more about our partnership with the Chinese ecommerce platform and the type of Leeds City Region businesses they’re looking for.

  • Select your partners carefully, spend time identifying partners with the right “fit” for your business, consider issues such as reliability, trustworthiness, experience, and E-Commerce expertise
  • Use digital marketing to build brand awareness and track how effective it is using analytics

Want to know more about how we can help you expand your markets and sell overseas? Contact our Growth Service on 0113 348 1818 or businessgrowth@the-lep.com.