There are a lot of people out there who think that doing business in China is impossible. They couldn’t be more wrong. While it is admittedly more difficult to make sales in China than in some other countries, it’s certainly not impossible. With the right approach and some perseverance, you can sell your products or services and start making money on the Chinese market.

China, the second-largest consumer market in the world with retail sales of consumer goods exceeding 44 trillion yuan in 2021 creates a huge opportunity for foreign companies. Chinese consumers are willing to nurture new relationships with worldwide brands. The middle-income group in China was over 400 million people in 2021, which creates an opportunity for businesses to develop their foreign enterprises in China.

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In this blog post, we will cover the 10 most popular goods and product categories on the Chinese market and discuss some of the creative marketing solutions that will help your brand succeed among other domestic and international brands. If you’d like to get more insights regarding your specific industry or if you have some questions, contact us to discuss your project.

Selling International products in China

The rapid urbanization combined with a growing and evolving Chinese economy sets the stage for both great opportunities and great threats to Western brands. While some jobs are being outsourced from the U.S. and Europe, they can indeed also leverage China’s new-found buying power by offering to sell on the Chinese consumer market.

Basically, the types of products that you will decide to sell in China should be interesting to Chinese buyers in order to get their attention and engage with them. Nowadays agricultural products, food & beverage, baby and maternity goods, wellness products, and luxury fashion are trending in the Chinese eCommerce market.

What to sell in China

What products can I sell on the Chinese market?

Chinese middle and upper-middle class is growing and they are more and more hungry for Western brands. They are increasingly wealthy and willing to spend money in online stores. Additionally, the Chinese government is supportive of e-commerce and has invested heavily in infrastructure and logistic improvements. The time to enter China market is now, but which product types will sell well?

Top 10 product categories among Chinese consumers

There are a lot of products that are winning the domestic market but not all of them will be suitable for foreign brands, as some products are reserved for domestic brands. Here are 10 main categories of goods that many Western companies can easily start selling online on Tmall Global or any other Chinese marketplace in order to succeed:

Clothing

A few years back, Chinese people were buying clothes mostly from local shops or fake markets and China was known for very cheap fashion. Nowadays all the big clothing chains like H&M, Zara, Gucci, Massimo Dutti, etc. are present on the Chinese market and people are more aware of the quality and willing to pay more to have good clothes from well-known brands.

What is most important in terms of fashion is that online retail is becoming more important than offline one, with Chinese consumers, especially younger generations, purchasing goods mostly online. This is why it’s important to invest in online advertising, presence on social media, or at least one Chinese e-commerce platform like Tmall Global or VIP Shop.

When it comes to clothes, there are a few categories that are very popular at the moment. One of them is definitely sportswear, as many Chinese people from first-tier cities started to live active lives. Maternity clothes are also trending, but one of the major trends in 2022 is second-hand clothes. Chinese people are slowly growing out of excessive spending and are turning more and more towards ecological fashion choices.

Here is one of our luxury fashion case studies:

Shoes

For similar reasons, imported shoe brands are also popular in China. Chinese netizens are changing their shopping habits and Chinese business culture, pushing the trend of sports shoes, especially after Winter Olympics. Although high heels and elegant leather shoes are still popular among the Chinese, especially older generations, younger consumers are choosing sneakers way more than their parents, driving online sales.

Jewelry

The jewelry market in China is one of the fastest-growing sectors when it comes to luxury goods. Jewelry was present in Chinese culture since the beginning, as it was used during rituals and religious events.

According to a Statista report, the Chinese jewelry market is expected to reach a value of $865 billion by 2026, up from $116 billion in 2016. It’s the third largest investment category in the country, just after real estate and automobiles.

Metal jewelry, especially gold is the type most favored by the Chinese, followed by diamonds. But young consumers are gaining interest in silver and unique jewelry, made from aluminum, wood, plastic, and so on.

Apart from women’s jewelry, which is driving the growth of this sector due to the fact that women started earning more and therefore buying more jewelry for themselves, jewelry for kids and men are also gaining popularity, presenting huge opportunities for international brands.

Here is one of our luxury jewelry case studies:

Makeup and skincare products

Beauty and makeup are major products of the most popular categories for Chinese shoppers, especially those using Tmall. In fact, China is the second-largest cosmetics market in the world and one of the most promising ones in terms of cosmetics, as it offers a wider range of consumers than markets of the West. Although cosmetics and makeup are usually reserved for women, in China men are equally interested in taking care of their looks as women are.

One of the biggest segments of the cosmetic market is skincare, as Chinese people have always taken a lot of care of their skin and the pursuit to have it the whitest possible. China is also being influenced by South Korea, with its skincare products and techniques known around the world.

What is interesting about the Asian market is that men are also using makeup on daily basis, which is a huge opportunity for foreign brands but it’s also a challenge, as makeup for men is not something we are used to in the West.

Here is one of our cosmetic case studies:

As you can see above, men are advertising makeup products just like women do and any foreign company wanting to sell products on the Chinese market needs to adapt its marketing strategy to this trend.

Fresh Products

Chinese people are becoming more and more aware of the importance of a healthy diet and sporty lifestyle. Apart from turning into sports, they start eating more vegetables and fruits, trying to change their diets into more plant-based version. The vegan movement got to China and young generations of Chinese from big cities are also more eager to change their eating habits.

Chinese government is also very supportive of plant-based meats, as the country is fighting with a big problem of obesity, especially among children. Vegetarian and vegan places are becoming more and more popular, and so do instant healthy dishes, smoothies and frozen veggies.

Taobao – the biggest Chinese online marketplace with it’s selection of fresh products

Foreign businesses wanting to sell products from food and beverage in china should consider the growing trend for a healthy diet. Additionally, they have a big chance to succeed, as Chinese consumers don’t trust local food producers, due to many food scandals that happened in recent years.

There’s also a growing demand for seafood in China, both because of the increasing health concerns over local Chinese seafood and western access to some types of seafood that can’t be found in China.

Food supplements and vitamins

Apart from trying to eat healthy, as a part of healthy movement lifestyle trend, Chinese are also beginning to buy more vitamins and supplements. Although Traditional Chinese Medicine is still very popular and valued in the Chinese culture, young people are gaining interest in overseas vitamins and health supplements.

The most popular categories are weight-control supplements and vitamins for good skin, as skincare plays an important job in China’s daily life.

Here is one of our vitamins case studies:

Packaged Healthy Foods

You can also appeal to Chinese consumers with healthy foods that are a bit easier to ship. Think packaged food items that include healthy ingredients like dried fruit and whole grains. Chinese consumers, especially young people, are more interested in food trends. Sometimes Chinese consumers can’t get these trendy food items from local Chinese sellers, or, as we mentioned earlier, they don’t trust them.

Wine

Few years back, a typical Chinese consumer interested in buying alcohol for some occasion, would most likely visit the favourite Chinese online marketplace or other online store and bought Baijiu, a local strong alcohol. But nowadays, with Western trends flooding the market, young Chinese alhohol enthusiasts start to purchase other alcohols, especially imported wines from international brands through China cross-border e-commerce platforms.

There are more and more international businesses looking for Chinese distributors that will help them sell wine on the Chinese market, as the demand is growing fast, changing local and business cultures.

Here is one of our wine case studies:

Baby Food

Baby products is another of the most popular product categories among Chinese shoppers. And baby food is a huge product within that niche. Gerber, for example, has gained a lot of success by expanding its offerings into the Chinese market and introducing healthy food for the growing number of babies in China.

Moms also want to make sure they have the best possible products when it comes to taking care of their new babies. So companies that provide breastfeeding accessories and other products from this category can appeal to new parents looking to get the very best products for their growing families.

In addition, baby accessories like bottles, rattles, and playsets can also be interesting for those family-oriented consumers who are willing to pay more to get the best possible products for their kids.

China online – baby products on Xiaohongshu, JD and Tmall Global

Sporting Goods

As we mentioned earlier, Chinese people are becoming more and more interested in sports and healthy lifestyle, increasing the demand for healthy foods, plant-based meat, supplements, sports shoes, and of course, sports equipment.

This category can range from outdoor gear to equipment for specific sports or workout activities. These areas aren’t really developed from a brand standpoint in China,  so there’s a great opportunity for other brands and resellers to take the lead in this sector and sell products to the new Chinese sports enthusiasts.

Gadgets and consumer electronics

Electronics is definitely the category of products that will newer go out of fashion in China. This tech-savvy society is loves to be up to date with all newest mobile devices and gadgets on the market and technology is a big topic in China. This category might be hard for foreign brands, as there is a lot of local companies doing a great job on the market, changing technology and business cultures of Chinese people. But if you sell something very unique on the world scale, you sure have a huge market full of technology lovers in front of you.

How to sell your products to Chinese customers?

In order to successfully sell your products in China, you’ll have to make some adjustments to the way you’re used to do business. Chinese market is different than any other in the world and it might be challenging for companies that are not used to Chinese search engines, marketplaces, social media platforms or regulations. Here are our tips for all international brands that want to sell in China;

Chinese Website is a must if you want to be competitive among Chinese companies

Channel Chinese website
Channel Chinese website

China is the most connected country in the world, so the first thing to do if you want to reach Chinese customers is to create a website localised for this market. The website needs to be in Chinese and you need to take care of search engine optimization to rank high in Baidu, otherwise no one will visit your own website, but rather another local business that does its online marketing better.

Having a Chinese website won’t only give you more visibility but will also proof that you are reliable as a brand. It is important to know that your Chinese Website should be hosted in Hong Kong or Singapore for speed access. In fact, it’s always good in terms of SEO to be hosted in Asia. Prepare a customer service available 24h/24, able to answer all the customer’s questions.

Build Brand Awareness with Chinese Social Networks

The rise of Chinese social networks such as Weibo and WeChat facilitated person-to-person connections. Social networks are the best place to start if you have a moderate budget. Social networks won’t generate direct sales (although there are options to sell products there as well), but they will help you build e-reputation and branding on the Chinese market. We will present you three most popular Chinese social media platforms at the moment; Wechat, Weibo and Little Red Book.

WeChat

WeChat is the most popular super-app in China, with 1.26 billion monthly active users. Wechat allows companies to start their own public accounts, where they can share news and insights in forms of something similar to ur newsletters. Apart from WeChat Official Accounts, there are other features, like Wechat mini-programs, where companies can build their own stores within the platform and pay using one of the most popular online payment platforms in China, Wechat Pay.

Bulgari e-shop on WeChat

Users can subscribe to and view the brand’s accounts both directly on the accounts and in “WeChat Moments.” (the feature similar to Facebook’s “Newsfeed”). Recently Wechat also introduced WeChat Channels, which is a short-videos mini-app inside WeChat, that allows users to post short videos, just like on Tik Tok.

Weibo

Weibo is a popular Chinese microblogging site. It was launched in 2009 by Sina Corporation, and has since become one of the most popular social media platforms in China. Weibo allows users to post short-form text and images, and also provides features such as live streaming, video hosting, and Follow Function similar to Twitter. Weibo is often seen as a key platform for public opinion formation and political discourse in China, given its large user base and unique features compared to other social media sites.

Weibo is a great platform to reach to new customers in China. Although you can’t have an online store there, you can direct traffic from your Weibo account to e-commerce platforms like JD or Tmall Global, where you sell your products.

ikea weibo official account
Ikea on Weibo

Sell in China with the help of Chinese influencers

KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) are Chinese influencers with big followers bases and huge influential power, that have accounts on China’s biggest social media platforms. As Chinese people spend a lot of their time scrolling on their mobile devices, it’s easier to influence them through their favourite KOL than other types of advertisement.

It is currently the top choice for luxury brands in China that create advertisements in a variety of different media formats. KOL ads allow companies or brands to post advertisements on the official accounts of KOLs.

Chinese influencer streaming Chinese company

The price range is huge because there is no set price and each Key Opinion Leader is free to decide the cost of advertising on their account. Generally, they determine their pricing based on the quality, price, and type of products brands would like them to endorse.

A portion of the advertising fee paid to celebrities is shared with the specific platforms, thus KOLs tend to charge higher marketing costs to maintain their profits. The key to success with these advertisements is finding the right KOL for your product and your budget.

Sell in China: find your customers on Chinese e-commerce platforms

Most Chinese users will go directly to Alibaba’s properties, Tmall, Tmall Global and Taobao, in order to buy things. The marketplaces themselves have cross-border offerings for foreign companies. However, these are often costly and foreign companies have to go through a demanding selection process (like acquiring Chinese phone number, commercial ICP license, Chinese business license or Chinese bank account).

Companies that are already appealing to Chinese customers will find it easier to get listed on a Chinese online marketplace. For the others, they might be fighting an uphill battle.

Top 3 e-commerce platforms in China

Pinduoduo now is the second-largest e-commerce platform in China in terms of the number of users and the number of orders. It has pioneered several new trends including social e-commerce, team purchase, and consumer-to-manufacturer (C2M) that have revolutionized online shopping in China. JD in China is popular and has a good reputation for its efficient logistic system and product assurance.

Other growing players like Little Red Book (小红书) are sharing similar characteristics with Tmall cross-border or JingDong. Using cross-border marketplaces can be an extremely expensive strategy (expect 1 million USD to get a significant measure of success). However, for big players with an existing brand name and Chinese business license, they can be a good strategy to pick in order to sell in China.

Little Red Book App

Tips For E-commerce Success in China

Here are some important rules to remember if you want to sell online in China:

  • Presence on established e-commerce platforms should be part of your strategy to reach a large portion of the market who rarely shop elsewhere. The biggest player, Tmall, accounts for 45.1% of online B2C sales. You can expect big sales from those platforms, especially during any big online shopping day, like 11.11 or Chinese Valentines.
  • Social Media such as WeChat, Weibo, Little Red Book or Douyin (Chinese Tik Tok) are tied to online shopping and should also be a key pillar in your digital marketing strategy. 85% of consumers frequently use social media to share their online shopping experiences and 55% have participated in a discussion about a foreign brand.
  • Customer Service is important for Chinese customers who often chat or call before making online purchases. It’s always good to get someone to respond to queries when the Chinese are online shopping 24h/7.
  • Online Payments are not like in most western markets where credit cards are widespread. In China, you have to offer trusted Alipay or WeChat (you can attach your foreign bank account there).
  • A Chinese website is not only imperative for online sales but also for offline sales. 37.6% of Chinese consumers regularly increase their brand awareness through brand websites and a further 47.5% claimed official websites increased their purchase intent; much more than the traditional channels like TV, radio, and newspapers.

The e-commerce tools and platforms in China are different, and the underlying method of selling online is essentially the same. It comes down to having a quality product with an established brand. Because of the e-commerce war in China between Alibaba (owner of Tmall.com) and Tencent (owner of Wechat and investor in JD.com), you have to know if the product that you are selling is right for each platform. Some advice:

  • If you need to have social media to help push it, then WeChat would be the place to go.
  • If you have a product that is discovered by people going to a marketplace and searching, Tmall.com is a better place.
  • If you are planning to do more social media marketing to sell your product, and that would involve Wechat marketing, then JD is your go-to.

Selling in China: Use Tmall B2D

From a business perspective, taking products into China is a massive task for any foreign company. China is a big and diverse country and it should be viewed as many markets.

Using an experienced Chinese distributor platform such as Tmal B2D is the best way for international companies to sell their product in China. And from a strictly legal perspective, distribution relationships between a foreign and Chinese company is fairly straightforward. Distribution contracts with Chinese companies can have stark and important differences.

Contact Gentlemen Marketing Agency to start selling your products to Chinese consumers

Gentlemen Ecommerce Agency knows the digital in China. We have an immense amount of experience in Chinese social network management & viral strategy. There are many ways to sell your products online in China. We set up Stores and run smart and innovative Digital Marketing Campaigns in China.   

Contact us now to discover which solution fits your business best!

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38 Comments

  1. Dear Sirs good day!

    I would like to know do you have such kind of cooperation as i will promote your agency and your service in Russia.

    Like agent via my own way of communications and will look for Russian manufactures who wish to expand their business and go in to Chinese market.

    I have 13.5 years of experience in sourcing/manufacturing/purchasing in China for Russian B2B (mainly industrial sector).

    And year by year i see need change the direction from China to Russia to next level from Russia to China.

    Because China already the most potential and desireble market for all ober the World.

    Soon i think will go to China for new sourcing of manufactures and place production orders and will be near Shanghai.

    I think i can visite your office and know more about your agency and how i can bring you value in Russia.

    I think You can bring value to the Russian market and to Chinese market too and i can participate in this great way.

    May be soon i will get some briliance ideas for Russian manufacturers and enterpreneurs who want to sell in China and you will be the bridge who will support and will tell everything they need.

    I like China and doing my day to day job always looking for new interesting and great opportunity where i can be usefull for the people and for the market.

    Wait for your ASAP commenst.

    Best regards!

        1. Hi Oliver,

          I work with your agency already. My KAM is Alexis and others in charge for the Welltiss Mind project. And yes, I look forward to success on China market.

  2. Hello,

    I am Chinese and I confirm that at this moment lot of Consumers are searching to buy small brands from oversea, and with the cut of the daigou, difficult to find these Products. Most of my friends like also Foreign Brand with history, and prefer foreign Product.
    Thank you for you article, it is very helpful for my research

    1. Im in florida looking to supply goods in demand in china someone please contact me with the brand and products that are needed thank you. bakedbatterinc(at)gmail(dot)com

  3. Hello I have a relatively new pet accessory label that is rather different and was wondering how I could go about launching this on the Chinese market? I think it would gain a lot of interest. Thank you

    1. Hi Casey, I run a pet store chain in Beijing and am interested to learn more about your accessory label. I also raise a gold retriever myself, so I’m interested as a pet owner as well. Please reach me at sheilaguo6(at)gmail(dot)com. Look forward to hearing from you!!

  4. Hi
    I am a Chinese Distributor and importer, and we are searching for Foreign Good niche Brand, with good word of mouth in China.
    We would like to resell them on our 300stores and 15online chanels.
    Contact me for more information

    1. Though our product Red Chilli S17 is not branded, it has huge demand in China. If you are interested revert on aravind.manpra(at)gmail(dot)com

      1. Hello,
        I am an Italian fashion designer looking for a chanel to reach the Chinese fashion market. I would really like to connect with people who can benefit from this and vice versa.

    2. Hi we are a skin care brand, manufactured in uk, would like to sell to chinese consumers, all products natural and organic.
      Please contact leftyakgmail.com

    3. Hi,
      We work in the skin care/health products and also we sell to over seas manufactures chicken feet to be used in natural skin products. However, I got to know that far eastern cultures they cook chicken feet in soaps.
      That would be another channel to work on.
      Let us know how we can work together.
      Thank you

    4. hi Harry,

      we are distributor of luxury italian bathroom equipment (bathtubs, washbasins, faucets, mosaic, radiators, etc), we try to find good contact in China.

      please write me if You are interrested in lucas(at)italian-bathrooms.co.uk

    5. Hi,

      I’m presenting the Nefis company from Moldova. Nefis Company is one of the largest confectionery producers in Moldova, and Nefis trademark is well-known not only in the Republic of Moldova but also abroad. Presently, the range of NEFIS products comprises over a hundred of products: candies, cookies, wafers, caramels and snacks. Please let me know if you’re interested to work together.

    6. Hi Harry,

      My name is Pasai Masaire. I am based in Cape Town, South Africa. I represent Finest Collections and we are distributors of high quality genuine Ostrich and Crocodile leather goods made by skilled craftsman. I would like to explore the potential of our products in the Chinese and Asian markets. Let me know if there is any way for us to cooperate?

  5. Hello,
    I am an Italian fashion designer looking to Break in the Chinese fashion market.
    Would really love to find a store or boutique in China to collaborate.

  6. Hi,
    We manufacture designer Silver and fashion Jewelry in India and Thailand.
    Looking to sell in China through an agent.
    Very good quality and finishing.
    Please contact me.

  7. Hello,
    We are a new online distributor, and we would like to resell quality premium foreign Brands in China, maximize online sell, and livestreaming to sell.
    We have partnership with 30 000 KOL in China, and stars.
    Please send us your Brand information and wechat please

  8. The most important thing was not mentioned here.

    In order to list any product on Tmall, Tabao, Aliexpress etc. one needs to register a China company.

    There are many hidden costs in doing so and becomes expensive, it is also complex with the tax system.

    Lots of research to be done before one can put their products in China for sale!

  9. hi, we are looking for distributor in china. we sell malaysian favorite food online.

    pls contact and we shall discuss further.

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