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Six top tips for UK retailers entering China online

As part of Drapers continued international focus, this week we talk to Paul Kelly, group marketing manager at Allport Cargo Services, a global logistics firm with operations in China, to find out his top tips for making fashion retail work online in the country.

1. Channel strategy: This is a critical point for all businesses, whether entering into or continuing to grow within the Chinese online market as the business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer channels such as Tmall, 360Buy and Taobao make up the majority of online retail purchases in China. By 2015 there will be an estimated 800 million population online, spending around US$436 billion [£279.9m]; 8.5% of the country’s retail sales.

2. Local e-fulfillment: Most Chinese consumers have become comfortable with competitively priced next day delivery services and now subsequently often demand immediate delivery at low cost. Businesses without a local fulfillment operation will struggle to meet standard expectations.

3. Geographical differentiation: Trying to tackle a population as large as China’s with a single country wide strategy can become difficult when provinces differ largely. This is where regional strategies need to be considered to maximise available opportunities.

4. Reliable SEM and SEO: Search engine management and search engine optimisation is important for any online business in any region worldwide. The already challenging impact of a foreign language’s terminology having alternative meanings when translated into Chinese is unfortunately enhanced by thousands of SEM/SEO agencies simply employing someone to ‘fake click’ a customer’s site. The ‘fake click’ agency will get paid while costing the foreign business money and as these illegitimate agencies do not generate real sales, they need to be avoided in order to lower costs and increase profits. It is important to find a good and legitimate agency to work with for SEM and SEO.

5. Social Media: With thousands of companies online in China that are selling products similar to your own, it is important to stand out. This is where a business building and maintaining a healthy, trustworthy and recognisable online identity comes into effect. This is an area where China’s social media networks can assist; networks such as Weibo (China’s version of Facebook), YouKu (China’s version of YouTube), for example, can be used to engage the public for feedback, advertising directly to those that are already interested in your style or product.

6. Engaging KOL’s and Shopping Guides: Key opinion leaders and shopping guides are bloggers and review sites who through dedication and good judgment have amassed large communities of fans and followers who listen carefully to their words of wisdom when reviewing products. A business working with the right KOL’s and shopping guides for their type of product can potentially grow their online identity much faster and more effectively by targeting the correct and relevant markets.

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