How to sell online to China and market your e-commerce business?

City view of Shanghai - photo by Carrie Kellenberger, from Flickr with some croppingChina is a challenging market for new entrants. One of the ways to directly get access to a huge part of the population is through internet. But you have to adapt to China standards.

Three big players in China for online sales

There are three big internet players in China. Baidu is the main search engine provider, comparable to Google in the rest of the world. Baidu is collecting traffic data and offers products based on this data. Alibaba is best comparable to or Ebay and was first developed from B2B services of SMEs, and then extended to the B2C platform Taobao and Alipay, the online payment solution. Tencent focuses on social media applications comparable with Twitter and Facebook as manages platforms like Qzone and Wechat .

Host your website locally in China

As a result of internet traffic monitoring by the Chinese government, locally hosted website load much faster than foreign websites, for which loading time can be 10 seconds or more. Keep in mind that all your Facebook, Twitter & Google plus efforts will have no or limited effect, as these websites are blocked for the Chinese.

Please be aware that Chinese website can have a very different look and feel from US or European websites. The information density is often much higher. Not all companies put so much effort in their website, so it’s relatively easy to stand out with a local Chinese website. You can link to your (international) corporate site. Make sure your local website if fully in Mandarin (and optionally in Cantonese) and can be found in Baidu.

WeChat is the most popular social media tool

WeChat has functionalities that combines Whatsapp (instant private messaging), Skype (free voice and video calls) and Twitter/Facebook (sharing content). Apart from your personal account you can set up a so called public accounts, both as a private individual or as a company. These public accounts can have many followers and it’s easy to share info, links, pictures and even offer products or services, WeChat even has a payment function.

A huge e-commerce market through Alibaba and Taobao

The Chinese market can’t be reached with and other ‘Western’ internet platforms. But there is a whole ecosystem available with websites as Alibaba and Taobao as the front end, with payment options for the Chinese, feedback possibilities, and there are many service providers for the local storage, packaging and delivery of goods.

With over 1,5 billion people in one market, with more or less the same regulations and the same time zone, there is a huge supply and foreign goods and services are just a fraction of the total offering. So everything is in Mandarin, and you’ll have to provide all your information and commercial texts this way.

In Taobao you can have your own store and build your corporate identity there as an alternative for a Chinese website. Taobao has its own search system, and in general Taobao products can not be found in Baidu. In order to get your products promoted, there is a pay-per-click system to get them on more attractive spots.

How to start and promote your export online?

It is advised to test the possibilities for your product first and use a service provider with an import license for this, before setting up everything yourself. Alliance experts can find you the right marketing and distribution channels, see our approach.

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