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5 Things you need to do business online in China

Updated: Feb 27, 2022

As many of you will already know, China is still focused on a zero case strategy regarding China. This means that doing business the traditional way in China is more difficult as entry is restricted fortunately China is one of the most advanced ecommerce economies in the world and this opens a number of options for you to enter the market.

1. eCommerce channel to market - There are many options here from the big ecommerce channels such as Tmall, JD, or Taobao the local Chinese business online retailer channels that sell both western and Chinese products. There are also the social commerce platforms such as Wechat stores & LRB (Little Red Book), alternately you could set up a Mandarin version of your current ecommerce website (does not work if you are using platforms like Shopify, WIX, Fouresquare etc as these are not accessible in China) and start selling products directly.

2. Chinese Payment service plugged in to your website - In China there are two main ways in which people pay for good they purchase online. Alipay which is owned by the Alibaba group and Wechat Pay which is owned by Tencent. These are the two key payment services you will need to integrate as this allows your China customers to pay in RMB and with you receiving payment in the western currency linked to your account. Setting these services up can be challenging as you will first need to find a suitable gateway partner for your geography, then ensure that their API will work with your site. Chinese consumers will not use western payment services so this is critical.

3. China logistics services - There are a range of specialist logistics companies that know how to negotiate the complex cross border channels and requirements to get products into the country and then delivered in a timely and efficient manner. Chinese consumers do not expect to pay duty or to have any requirements related to customs etc when purchasing international products so freight & logistics charges need to be included in the purchase price.

4. Chinese Social Media accounts - at a minimum you will need to set up a Wechat account for marketing your rand in China. This channel will also be used by the Chinese consumers to contact you and to engage in other ways with your business. While you can also use it to advertise some products and services this is dependent on the type of product, industry and sector you are in. In addition to Wechat we recommend you consider at a Weibo account (a broadcast channel like facebook), Little Red Book (LRB) a social channel that is features a lot of discussion and reviews of products (many from the west) particularly a female focused channel, Douyin (Tik Tok) is also a good recommendation for some brands but is often difficult to access and expensive to use as a western brand. There are in fact many many social and digital channels to consider depending on your product and target audience.

5. Chinese Search - at this point Baidu is the primary SEM channel for western brands and offers both a key word CPOC channel and a DSP style network across a range of apps and sites. Again, SEM is only available to certain industries and products.

The China online & digital ecosystem is probably the most advanced and consumer utilised in the world. There are many many applications and channels that you should consider but beware, there is also significant restrictions and it is a challenge to get your services set up and operating effectively. Make sure you understand what and why you are using these channels and that the services are registered under your business license or you can quickly find you no longer own your brand in China.

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