Year of the Rooster – your year to reach out to China?
It’s Chinese New Year and communities across the globe are celebrating with festivities lasting up to two weeks. Many British businesses will also be celebrating the potential of the Chinese market – Emma Jones, founder of small business support group Enterprise Nation, outlines the opportunity.
For the past two years we’ve led annual trade missions to China for British companies looking to research the market, meet customers, and do deals. During both trips, first to Shanghai in 2015 and then to Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou in 2016, my eyes have been opened to the massive potential that China offers.
This is a country that is home to 1.3 billion people, with an increasingly affluent middle class, and a thirst for products and services made or designed in Britain. With the phasing out of the one child policy, the population is set to increase, as is the wealth of the nation with projections that China will overtake the US by 2024 to become the largest economy on earth.
If you’re in business, this is a market that’s worth considering. Here are my suggested steps for going about it.
Research the market
As you would with any expansion, it’s good to start with research. Look online for industry reports focused on your trade, sector and customer demographic. The China Britain Business Council has a wealth of knowledge, and a free guide from the British government offers a useful start.
Embrace online channels
Chinese consumers shop online – a lot! To be a success in China, it’s critical to understand how WeChat works, the difference between Taobao and TMall, and the value of KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders – an important element of marketing in China) You can find out more about the social media channels in this post which explains how the standard social platforms of the West (Facebook, Twitter, Google) are not present in China on account of the country’s internet firewall.
British brands are selling to the Chinese through marketplaces such as Amazon, which enable you to upload products and have your page translated into Chinese, plus sort logistics and customs too. The largest marketplace in China is Alibaba with whom Enterprise Nation shared Singles Day on 11 November 2016 – a day in which $17bn worth of goods were sold on one platform in the space of a day. You can learn more and watch videos about that here. Embrace these online channels and marketplaces to build sales and profile, as well as understanding of the market.
There’s no better way to understand your customers than to meet them. I’ll never forget Robert Fairman of Fairman Trading meeting consumers during our 2015 trade mission and getting instant feedback that his traditional English fruit cakes were simply too big for the average Chinese family. He listened, reduced the size, returned for a show a month later and sold out. That’s the benefit of a trade mission. Enterprise Nation returns to China in 2017. Register your interest for the mission here.
With sales coming in and commitment building, consider investing in localisation which could involve getting your website translated, developing Chinese promotion materials and/or setting up a physical presence in the country.
Wishing you a Happy Year of the Rooster and a year of business success!
Enterprise Nation launched in 2005 and has since helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder Emma Jones MBE, it’s also a leading campaigning voice for small business with the Government. See more Enterprise Nation stories
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