I recently came across a brand index study by an online luxury curator called Bomoda (although it looks like they are fast becoming a retail consultancy of sorts). Although the study itself focuses on the fashion industry, I thought it made a number of useful insights with regards to China’s online retail environment.
I picked out a few that I thought might be interesting, if you are interested in finding out which brands are doing well it the Chinese online retail space.
1. You are in China even if you are not in China.
This is such a relevant point for so many businesses in the west, which is that Chinese are talking about your brand, whether you choose to invest in your brand or not in China.
Even if you don’t have a retail presence in China, many Chinese have been exposed to your brand through either their travels, daigou (when other Chinese study, travel, or live abroad and buy stuff to resell those living in China) through friends, family orTaobao, or buying knockoffs of your products online.
There’s also the inevitable online chatter, when those that have purchased your product or service show off or discuss their experiences online.
On top of the Chinese market itself, brands are also jeopardizing their businesses in their core markets like Europe and North America. Since over 60% of the luxury purchases are made by Chinese while they are abroad versus domestically, not actively investing in your brand in China may very well have a measurable impact elsewhere in the world.
All of these are happening whether you decide to have a “China strategy” or not.
2. An integrated approach is required.
It’s not enough to just have a Chinese language site, a few Chinese social media accounts, but an inferior mobile experience. The majority of netizens in China now access the Internet through a mobile device, so not having an integrated online/offline approach won’t get you very far.
3. There are platforms other than Weibo and WeChat that might be pertinent to your business.
Everyone talks about WeChat and Weibo like these are the only games in town.WeChat has certainly taken over the social conversation in China, but depending on your specific business, there are a number of other platforms to pay attention to.
The report talks about Dianping as a platform that ranks offline retail experiences,Meilishuo that allows brands to identify organic brand advocates, Nice as an Instagram model that allows brands to identify grassroot consumers, Huaban as a Chinese Pinterest that does well to showcase seasonal collection of products.
4. Creative KOL influencer management.
Paying off KOLs based on their perceived fan base might not be the wise approach anymore. Nowadays, fan counts on Weibo can be bought or faked, and doesn’t always give you the return on reach and awareness.
Instead, the report advices brands to seek out informal brand advocates through user-generated platforms like Meilishuo and Nice.
Bomoda also lays out a few dimensions (reach, engagement, and experience) through which the brand report is based on, and offers a neat checklist of measurements that any brand would benefit from running through:
- What does a Baidu search return on your brand’s Chinese and English name?
- Are popular KOLs talking about your brand?
- How many authentic or fake products related to your brand are there onTaobao and Tmall?
- Are there videos made about your business?
- How actively engaged are your Weibo fans?
- How many fans do you have across all your channels?
- Are consumers discussing or generating content around your brand?
- How do your customers rank your in-store experience?
- If you deliver your products, how long does it take?
- Does your store accept Alipay?
- What’s the average markup for your products? (This is to assess whether your brand’s products are priced too high relative to your products sold in the west)
- Do you offer customer service in Chinese over phone, live chat, and email?
The report in its entirety is here. It also has a pretty extensive list of brand rankings in a number of sub-categories like luxury, accessible luxury, contemporary, high street, beauty and cosmetics, etc. Even if your brand does not have the budget or resources to market in China like those multinationals, it’s still helpful to reverse-engineer some of the success those brands have enjoyed for your own business.