In the last decade, consumer behaviour in China has radically changed, powered by one of the most dynamic digital environments in the world. Both the speed of penetration and resulting number of users of social media, online shopping and mobile payment are unequalled.
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Having spent 12 years in this unique market, I am often asked what my learnings are. When it comes to eCommerce, they are simple: be FASSST!
When asked how long it takes to create a simple promotional campaign to boost sales, most Chinese eCommerce marketers would reply 2-3 days. The most frequent answer I receive anywhere else in the world is 2-3 weeks. Digital and China, and even more digital in China, set new global pace standards for more than one industry, starting from retail. Speed has become a key factor of success for any business there.
When speed increases, agility must increase too. Otherwise, what increases as well -and exponentially- is risk. In China, and particularly in eCommerce marketing, the rules of the game change very often, mostly dictated by Alibaba and Tencent. So, marketers must constantly adapt to new environments, yet maintaining their brand consistency and integrity by rooting all their initiatives into the expression of a strong and authentic brand DNA.
Consumers are constantly exposed to ads, both in the analog and digital space, and marketers have less and less time to catch their attention. So, marketing messages have to be extremely straightforward and clear. On top of that, in an omnichannel – or O2O as it is called in China – environment, any campaign or promotion has to be easily understandable and actionable in any channel. This prevents the usage of complex promotional mechanism and favors simple ones, that do not require the assistance of a sales representative to be understood, and can be grasped instantly by looking at an online banner.
Social networks are one of the biggest social revolutions of the past few years, globally. In China, they play such a central role in the life of so many people that they have become the backbone of any marketing campaign, for either branding or sales purposes. And because only genuine and valuable content resonates with consumers, marketers have to dig deeper into their brand DNA to produce meaningful and original content. They also have to rely on influencers to do so. In China, KOLs are more popular and impactful than brands themselves, their posts boost awareness, sales and loyalty more than any other authorities.
China, in most people’s mind, does not rank among the world’s top countries when it comes to standards of service. Well the truth is, when it comes to eCommerce, it actually does. Alibaba and JD.com have set extremely high standards for their platforms, and consequently for the industry as a whole. The quality of online customer service, completeness and accuracy of the products descriptions, and speed of delivery proposed by all leading Chinese eCommerce website – the top 10 of which represent >90% of the total market – has reached and even redefined world class standards.
China has a large population spread across a vast country, which means there is a huge demographic and behavioral diversity. This diversity is often overlooked, as it is easy to be blinded by the sheer size of the overall market. It is critical for all marketers to always keep in mind the importance of clearly defining their target audience, describing their various customer segments and personas, and constantly learning more about them. And then act upon it.
China is a very dynamic market, in constant evolution, and has reached such a size that it has now started to influence other markets as well. So, everyone should adapt to this new world order and… do it FASSST!
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Alex Misseri joined Bluebell Group in 2017 as Head of Digital Transformation and Revenues. Alex works with brands such as Pandora, Davidoff, and Lululemon to build their online presence and grow their online sales.