Sell Into China: The Silk Road A Retail Global and Getting into Global Event Recap
On a very typical, cold, January Manhattan night, there was a warm gathering hosted by Australia’s Retail Global. Retail Global’s event was enlightening and educational. Plus, Australian’s always tend to bring the warmth, even when it’s freezing. Below you’ll find a recap of the event. Hopefully you’ll use it to get started selling in the world’s fastest growing market, China.
Guest 1: Carl Miller, Global Retail Insights Network
Josh Halpern from Getting to Global started the event off interviewing Carl Miller from Global Retail Insights Network. The most important take away from Carl Miller was to “enter new markets in start up phase. Test incrementally.” For those of you who don’t know what “start up phase” means, it means to creep in, fly under the radar, remain flexible, utilize your resources, start small, keep your eyes out for opportunities, don’t throw money at problems, conserve.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What can I do with very little?
- Can we make something out of nothing?
- How do small companies gain momentum and brand awareness?
- How do I gain exposure organically?
The reason you want to approach China (or new markets in general) this way is because you’ll have no idea what works. It’s the wild wild west metaphorically, east, literally. The only way you know is by testing a lot of different things. Throwing all your resources into one solution with an unpredictable outcome is the equivalent to shooting in the dark. Spread your resources, test the market, see what the market wants, put more resources into what works.
Guest 2: James Eron, Kung Fu Data
The next interviewee of the night was James Eron from Kung Fu Data. James brought up some really good points when asked, “What key factors let you know you’re ready for China?” His response, simple but profound:
Questions to ask yourself:
- How activated is the brand in China? What he means by “activated” is, are consumers requesting your brand, searching for it, talking about it, purchasing etc. Is there a buzz? Is it more than a buzz, a frenzy perhaps?
- What’s the volume?
- How rapidly is the volume increasing?
- Do you have a Chinese name?
- Are your Chinese trademarks in order?
- Have you worked out your distribution…calculated import duties, etc?
To answer some of those questions he suggested observing Chinese tourists. What have they become obsessed with? Are they buying your products and taking them back to China? Search for your brands on tmall, JD worlwide, WeChat and Taobao.
Guest 3: Rafael Lanfant, Alibaba Strategic Partnerships
It’s difficult to talk about entering the Chinese market without addressing and consulting Alibaba, the Chinese superpower. Luckily Retail Global and Getting to Global thought this through. Their last (but not least) guest interviewee was Rafael Lanfant from Alibaba’s Strategic Partnerships. Rafael recommends using trade partners to enter new markets. Alibaba works directly with some proven companies that you can find on their website or by googling “Alibaba trade partners.” You don’t have to use Alibaba’s recommendations, of course. From what I understand, trade partners specialize in select local markets. This means they know what type of design, wording, launch strategy, etc, works in their certain areas of expertise. I imagine it’s like hiring a consultant that can help with strategy and execution.
Rafael encourages brands to ask themselves:
- Are we unique?
- How do we differ from competitors?
- What’s our brand awareness potential?
- Can we understand China?
Rafael mentioned how different consumerism is in China. Chinese consumers identify with certain brands and products. Before they buy, Chinese consumers ask themselves, “what does this product say about me?” and “what’s my identity?” So, in order for you to succeed in China, you need to get inside the head of consumers. What types of identities do consumers want? These are the kinds of questions trade partners might be able to help answer but I think you’ll need a variety of different inputs.
There was another concept Rafael introduced called key opinion leaders. Think Chinese equivalent to US social media influencers, celebrity brand ambassadors etc. Chinese consumers are heavily influenced by key opinion leaders. Find out who they are, learn how they can help you and use them to your advantage. Thank you for the info Rafael!
If you’re thinking about entering the Chinese market, start with baby steps. Learn the market, know who’s influencing the market, adapt to fit inside the market but with a unique product. Someone (don’t remember who, apologies!) said referral marketing is of the utmost importance. Study successful referral marketing strategies and test them among users of your brand. Entering a foreign market can be unpredictable and risky but it doesn’t have to be! This event outlined some very actionable steps on getting your foot in China’s door. Use the resources that are out there! Getting to Global assists with new market expansion, Kung Fu Data specializes in digital information within China’s market specifically, Alibaba lists trade partners and there’s plenty of successful examples out there to model.