Jack Ma said in 2013 that “e-commerce had become a lifestyle in China“. Chinese customers can buy anything online, from food to cars. They love shopping online because it’s convenient and cheaper. This is why the e-commerce market went from only 3% of the Chinese total retail in 2009 to 15% in 2014 according to the Mintel research firm, therefore surpassing the American e-commerce sector.

shopping china online

Brands are therefore choosing to launch their stores online only:

 

Lauching your brand online only

Online launching used to be a way for brands to reach the 150 million Chinese belonging to the flourishing middle class without risking much. Chinese e-commerce has become so much a lifestyle in China that foreign as well as Chinese brands are coming to launch in China without opening offline shops, because sometimes it is just not really worth it anymore.

In September this year, Topshop, launched only via ShangPin.com, a popular online retail platform specialized in garment. The brand even organized an online to offline in Beijing event to celebrate its launch. Chinese customers could scan QR codes to order clothes.

topshop shangpin 2

Cosco did exactly the same kind of online only launch on the Chinese market. Simply by opening its own store on Alibaba’s Tmall online platform.

Not only foreign brands but also Chinese brands are choosing this option. Xiaomi, a mobile devices manufacturer that sells China’s currently most wanted smartphones. The company also started its successful sales online alone at first; offline stores have recently begun to open.

phone xiaomi

Risks

As said earlier there are fewer risks with the launch of an online store than with an offline retail shop launch. But brands still have to be careful on certain points when launching online. The counterfeit is a growing issue in China and even online platforms with good e-reputation can be fooled by the quality of certain counterfeit goods. So that brands have to find ways to protect their products against the counterfeit.

Launching online means that you have to advertise you brand a lot, maybe even more than when opening an offline retail shop. China has more than 618 million Internet users and 90% of them are using social networks platforms and other types of online communities such as forums. These platforms are one of the first sources the online shoppers will turn to, in order to inform themselves about the brand. So that brands will need to implement a tailored online marketing strategy to target the Chinese internet users. Topshop chose to advertise offline with displaying advertising boards on buses.

topshop shangpin

But the brand’s biggest marketing success came from the buzz it created around its Beijing launching event. Topshop had celebrities blogging about the event on Weibo such as Wang Luodan.

weibo wangluo dan

Wang Luodan’s weibo page has more than 34 million followers.

This famous Chinese actress and singer has a large community of millions of fans online so the event was largely covered all over the leading micro-blogging platform. On D-Day in Beijing there were 5,000 people attending the offline launching event. 250,000 others checked in with their mobile phone on Topshop’s online shop on ShangPin in only 48 hours. The online retail shop indeed has about half of its business going through mobile devices.

E-commerce in China has come to be so important that international brands are even able to open online retail shops alone while. E-commerce is convenient for them because it provides fewer risks as offline shops. However they have to be really present on the Chinese internet via social media platforms if they want to succeed online.

 

To go further:

  1. Better your understanding of the Chinese e-commerce 
  2. Chinese women are the biggest spenders on e-commerce shopping
  3. https://twitter.com/ecommerce4china
  4. emarketing.fr
  5. Linkedin Gentlemen Marketing Agency