Can Specialist Retailers Survive against Alibaba and Amazon?
It is said that whoever hits first, hits twice. Some days ago, Zalando signed a partnership with its biggest competitors, Amazon and Alibaba. Far from thinking that they were wrong, we feel confident about the future of these new alliances between Europe, China and United States.
Zalando was founded in Berlin (Germany) in 2008. Born as an European electronic commerce company, the brand already holds the leadership as the largest online fashion retailer, while also has become the second largest group in Ecommerce in European region.
Although originally its activity was focused in marketplaces, in 2010 Zalando starts its jump into developing and selling its own brands. Online selling shoes, clothes and fashion items constitute the core of the company, under a cross-platform perspective.
A step to break: boundaries to online shopping
Even if such perspective still remains today, observers enjoy its dramatic effects: to an unique Refund – Return policy in retail and a highly attractive shipping, have joined an effective logistic management and a recent prospection in offline context.
Although timidly, its development in the offline environment constitutes a new movement to establish its brand in the retail market and its visibility on some physical multibrand markets in Germany. To this point is joined an attractive shipping policy that enhances its appeal to the consumer: it is fast, secure and in case the users feel dissatisfied with their purchase, they have the chance to return them within 90 days.
Even if its payment and reimbursed model is constantly criticized for its high risk, it is also truth that this pillar has become an emblem for Zalando, its trademark and distinction over its competitors.
Zalando pushes online to grow
The company shows a steady growth in its presence in Europe, while designing its jump to the international area. The future seems promising according to their latest analysis prospects, with a year revenue growth close to 20%.
This rise is the result of three main reasons:
- Its total adaptation to mobile user experience: U-commerce is the new king in sales –check our articles “How to Take Advantage of the Latest E-commerce Revolution? U-commerce Trend” and “5 Things to Avoid When Doing Business in China” to discover a bit more!–
- Mobile purchases are already more than half of its sales
- A wide range of products and therefore, a great audience to address
- Its advantage of using a vast network of online platforms
A twist to Ecommerce
The desire of the Group is boosting its international sales and take advantage of the huge possibilities that the electronic market and their highly developed logistics presents to them.
To achieve its goals, Zalando has woven alliances with the giants of E-commerce: Amazon and Alibaba. Although its presence on Tmall is expected for the coming months, its bet for B2C trade -previously discussed by us in our article “Do Other Ecommerce Platforms Stand a Chance Against Tmall?”- some steps further on international distribution are already in discussion.
It is worth noticing that this giant enterprises are transforming traditional business into a new business model. Digital Marketing and Ecommerce helps to create new partnership systems for other companies around the World, and it will become more and more important in the following years.
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Europe and China Partner to Provide Mobile Payment Solutions by Alipay
Not quite a month we woke up with the news that two technological giants had joined forces in creating an alliance with huge chance of success. The alliance between Ingenico Group and Alipay is focused on payments innovation as part of a wider international push, but is also a recent demonstration of the growing momentum of Chinese companies in Europe.
Over recent years, Chinese ambitions in Europe are clearly visible: just in 2016, Alipay has forged alliances with Uber app and Wirecard to offer mobile payments services around the World.
The alliance is based in European mobile payments
Ingenico Group is a french company specialized in designing a wide range of payment solutions, whatever the sales channel or payment method is chosen, according to three main needs that merchants and consumer ask: a secure, easy and seamless experience.
In recent years, China has created a vast and well integrated digital ecosystem in which highlights Alipay– a Chinese equivalent to PayPallaunch by Alibaba– which is already China’s leading third-party online payment solution with no transaction fees. The company already has more than 400,000,000 active Users.
Although there are many reasons behind this alliance, the clear purpose was to tap into the huge Chinese tourist flow in Europe. As we wrote in our previous article “How to Acquire Chinese Tourists through Digital Marketing“, the Chinese tourism consumption is already estimated to be the highest in the World. Moreover, Chinese tourism market will keep growing even faster: in year 2019, estimations says that consumption will reach US 264 billion dollars.
The motivation to exploit the partnership is shared: on the one hand, Europe has become the major vacation destination by a sector of the population with high standard of living; on the other hand, Alipay seeks to exploit the existence of more than 120 million Chinese tourists arriving in Europe every year and an approximately cost of $ 875 on average, while offering a payment experience nearest to their day to day.
Chinese tourists in Europe will be able to pay via Alipay App at any store that uses the Ingenico solution
The announcement not only underscores the growing relationship in business between two increasingly interconnected areas, but also the enormous benefits that such collaboration can mean to both. With such a perspective, it is not surprising the happy ending. As Philippe Lazare, Chief Executive Officer of Ingenico Group said,
“We are very excited to partner with Alipay and contribute our unique omni-channel expertise, products and services to help them optimize the user experience and boost sales all over the world. Their choice for Ingenico is a tribute to our high success rate and ability to meet even the most demanding customers’ requirements.”
Chinese tourists are accustomed to using electronic payment methods, an innovation that fails to catch on among European citizens. Presumably, this cultural difference has become a barrier that discourages expenditure among Chinese tourists. As Jacques Behr, Ingenico’s executive vice-president for Europe and Africa said,
“Payment becomes a friction for business so we are removing this friction by allowing the retailers to capture sales to the Chinese tourist population.”
The measure therefore seeks to stimulate Chinese people expenditure in their major holiday destination, but also tries to take advantage of the huge market Alipay already has in China: more than 450 million users liable to become target audience, and a market share in mobile payments in China higher than 80%. As they themselves spelled out,
“We are building international business step by step. There is much still to do with our customer base, and is still expanding.”
Such collaboration not only benefits the Chinese people, but also means a qualitative leap in technological enjoyment for Europeans. The alliance seeks to provide to European online retailers and to customers the possibility to pay and accept payments through Alipay´s eWallet through some marketplaces. An excellent way to boost e-commerce and sales in China and Europe.
Although the operation has already begun, both companies estimate that Alipay won’t be fully operational in Europe yet.
Just to start
While Alipay makes its movements, the rest of the world watches. Only companies that have a deep understanding of Chinese market can cope with the changes that are to come.
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5 Bugs To Avoid When Doing E-Commerce In China
Have you ever tried to build a new overseas brand and fail in your attempt? In any approach to China, foreign brands often make some common mistakes when trying to sell their products in China mainland. Although such misconceptions are not exclusive to online environment, we will focus on those that particularly affect your approach to e-commerce in China. China is already the world’s first e-commerce market.
Are you going to miss its enormous potential?
First bug: China is mobile, and you better record it
It is not the first time we tell you this, and for sure it won´t be the last. As we mention before in our article “How to Take Advantage of the Latest Ecommerce Revolution?”, Ecommerce has been a great revolution for both companies and customers.
Nowadays, Chinese prefer to use their mobile devices rather than their laptops and according to the new trend, companies have already starting to adapt themselves to portable devices. Moreover, those companies using U-commerce are focused on improving the customer experience through customizing and navigation created in cooperation with the User.
Second bug: E-commerce may be an asset in your country, but in China is irreplaceable
We cannot fail to mention Frank Lavin, CEO of Export Now, when he says,
“In China, Ecommerce is the cake.”
This may mean that you will need to adapt your business to the new environment. Do not expect it to be China who suits you, this does not work this way.
Remember that whoever hits first, hits twice. Embrace e-commerce as the enabler of your business it is, and take advantage of the immense benefits that electronic commerce can bring to your company to start selling around the World!
Third bug: Social Media is there to stay. Register your account and start moving!
Surely you’ve never heard the words Baidu, WeChat and Weibo… and let us tell you that you have a huge problem in China.
Not only around the 93% of the online searches in China are done in their own search engines –Have you ever heard Google does not work in China?– but also about a 68% of the customers take a look on the official Social Media account before buying.
Do not miss the opportunity to have a voice in that huge chicken coop is the network, start developing a tailored communication strategy for your brand and gain your piece of the cake!
Fourth bug: Domestic and lazy thinkers, or how the triumph from a day doesn’t make it daily
Do you think you will keep doing in China pretty much the same things you were doing before and as a result you will achieve success?
A basic rule you should never forget again is, no matter the experience and the many different markets in which you have entered before, is that new horizons always implies a new starting on your understanding of the target, so we definitely encourage you to start a market analysis.
Will your brand be competitive in China?
Do you offer something different regarding your competitors?
Is there a suitable market niche in the country ?
These and a thousand more questions require a prior discussion, keeping in mind that China should not be underestimated: the country enjoys some peculiarities you definitely must know before starting your landing.
We strongly recommend you seek assistance from professionals focused on the Chinese market, in order to enhance your chances of success in the country.
Fifth buf: Do not try to do everything by yourself, ask for advice
We are not tired of saying it, and will do so again: China is not a flat road. Do not try to embark on this mission unaccompanied, but pick very well with whom.
Look for complementary partners interested in joining forces, go to Government agencies dedicated to external actions and internationalization and definitely search for specialized agencies in the country to start outsourcing some tasks.
Already in search of a consulting expert in digital marketing and e-commerce? You have come to the right place.
Infographic: 10 Things You Need To Know To Build a Chinese Website
A picture is worth a thousand words
After the great success achieved by our two articles 10 Things You Need To Know To Build a Chinese Website (I) (II), in the team we have thought it would be a good idea to summarize and turn them into an infographic.
We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed its elaboration 🙂
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10 Things you Need to Know to Build a Chinese Website (Part 2)
In the first part of this article, we showed and identified 5 main points that differentiate a Chinese website from its western counterpart that we need to keep in mind in order to build a good one.
Let us summarize some of the main points addressed in the previous article:
- The style, design and structure are more complex and with much more information in opposition to the cleanness of the western websites
- Where to host your Chinese website is one of the first decisions to make. The most of the times we advise you to have a hosting in China. For that you will need a Chinese company to apply for an Internet Content Provider (ICP License)
- The Chinese Great Firewall blocks all websites that do not meet the content requirements that marks the Chinese government
- Your website needs to be ready to integrate with the main Chinese players. Google, Facebook and friends are banned in China; instead you will need to use the BATs (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent).
After this little updating, we would like to further develop this post showing you 5 more crucial things to take in consideration when building a good Chinese website.
When building a chinese website, What else should I know?
6 – CHINA IS MOBILE. BE RESPONSIVE
Adapting our website to mobile is very important in any country, but in China is mandatory.
The Smartphone is, in many cases, the only way they have to access the Internet. Therefore Chinese users are much more familiar with the use of mobile devices. Keep in mind that almost the 50% of all Ecommerce transactions made in 2015 were done via mobile, compared to the also quite high 22% in the United States.
Don’t think any longer and start working on a nice mobile design… Mobile first!
7 – DOMAIN. WHICH ONE IS THE RIGHT OPTION FOR ME
In your approach to domains, three are the main options:
– Not that long ago, to have a .CN was a must. It was not possible to get it if you didn’t have a Chinese legal entity. This has changed over the time and now you can easily get a .cn domain, no matter where your company comes from, just providing a copy of your Company’s ID. As the Chinese international top level domain, your brand might be perceived as having a strong presence in China and might also bring some trust
– On the other hand, we have the .COM domain. Chinese Internet users are increasingly getting used to this domain. Major Ecommerce platforms like Tmall.com, JD.com or Sunning.com may bear much of the blame for this. It can be very good for foreign companies trying to sell their products in the Asian giant to have a .com domain as it might help to highlight the international feel of the brand
– .COM.CN is the ugly duckling in the middle still in use by many brands mixing the good things from the previous mentioned domains, but without reaching their full advantages. In any case it can also be a good solution.
Which language should I use?
Another point to think about is the language to be used. Does your brand have a Chinese name? Then you can also use its pinyin term. Pinyin is the romanization system for standard Chinese: Chinese search engines recognise the pinyin words in the URL and then link them to what they stand for in Chinese characters in order for the website not to lose coherence.
Don’t get crazy about the domain, they are usually not that expensive. So, in case you can afford it, try to get the three of them (.com, .cn and .com.cn), plus their pinyin variants and redirect them to the main one; depending on your strategy.
8 – CONTENT. DON’T GET LOST IN TRANSLATION
It is important to know very well your main target markets as the language will differ depending on it. It might be obvious to mention it, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a company’s target consumer is in Hong Kong, Taiwan or Macao and the language used for the website translation was simplified Chinese instead of traditional Chinese and the other way around. That is a major and silly mistake that takes a long time to revert.
I don’t want to mention either the fact that a Google translated web does not help at all, but I am doing it because I have seen too many. It is mandatory to let a professional team take care of the translations. In 2 Open we separate this process in three parts:
- Translation, interpreting the main message that the customer wants to transmit to the final customer, done by a marketing professional in our team
- External review, done by a professional translator outside the team
- Final review, done by another marketing professional in our team
You might not believe it, but in certain cases we still get minor complaints. This is because Chinese language can be interpreted in many different ways. Therefore translations are always a difficult point in the list.
Is Customization a mandatory requirement?
Let’s not forget about the Chinese cultural customization. Website localization embraces translating and localizing a site into different languages making sure all content (text, images and videos) is translated correctly in an accurate, cultural and technical manner.
As stated before when talking about content, we are also talking about images and videos. There are no written rules and it has similarities to the domain section we discussed above. There are brands like Nike or Zara that prefer to maintain their international feel using western models in their multimedia strategy. Many young Chinese users welcome this method, but not all of them. Depends on the strategy you want to follow.
9 – PAYMENT OPTIONS. CREDIT CARDS? NO, THANKS
In the previous post, we wrote about the BATs (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent). In China, the online payments market is currently dominated by two of these two tech giants – Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat payment with 49.2% and 20% market share respectively.
These companies try to increase their market share by adding more brands and merchants within their ecosystem; something that both companies effectively handle. Also cash is king, as cash on delivery holds a strong position. The fast and vast adoption of electronic payments via mobile is likely to counter this trend in due time.
It is actually China and not the US at the leading edge of the trends towards mobile payments technology. Just for putting an example, both WeChat and Alipay have long used the now famous QR codes to let Chinese netizens pay for purchases and transfer money. It seems they have jumped over some natural technological development processes. This kind of behaviours can be quite normal in undeveloped countries that start to grow very rapidly.
What happened is that they adopted the mobile payment technologies even before implementing some existing ones as a huge percentage of the Chinese population accesses the Internet via mobile devices.
Get ready to integrate Alipay in your website as first and mandatory option. And seeing how fast Tencent WeChat payment is growing, that would be your second natural option.
10 – SEO
Once your website is ready, you will need to submit it to Baidu creating a Baidu Webmaster Tools account (only available in Chinese). That way Baidu will be able to index the site properly and your great Chinese adventure starts!
Search engine optimization done in Baidu is not so very different as the one you could do for Google. Anyway, we would like to note a few differences I think you need to know:
– Meta description – unlike Google and Bing, Baidu still uses Meta descriptions as a ranking factor. Keyword targeted description match users’ queries and their demands, which would help with the click through rate (CTR).
– Indexation – Baidu’s web crawling bot, Baiduspider, is not as advanced as the one from Google. As a result, you will need to help Baiduspider to discover and index your pages in different ways. Without mentioning that you can go to sleep and wake up with huge traffic losses or de-indexed pages usually caused by a penalization. Be careful what you do!
– Link building – On Baidu, it is not about the quality of the publishers’ website, it is more about the unique relevancy of the content (as it relates to your content) and the quantity of links to your pages. Baidu penalizes duplicate content and it also disallows irrelevancy. Authority and quality of the publisher is not that important (for now). In short, the more the merrier as long as it is not duplicate.
– Baidu services – Baidu offers a lot of different products apart of Search; use them and leverage their integrated marketing power. The most useful are Baidu Zhidao (questions and answers service) and Baidu Baike (Wiki service), but there are tons of other services that might be helpful to increase brand awareness and for content creation.
As for the tracking, most people use Baidu Tongji and/or Google Analytics. Yes, you read it well; Google Analytics still works in China and it is the only Google service that still does. You will find many detractors, but for what we have seen there is no huge discrepancies between the data collected by both systems (usually not higher than 5%). And Google Analytics has more functionalities than Baidu Tongji.
It is also important to mention the typography. Chinese language is not easy to read due to the difficulty associated to its typography. With 40,000 characters, they are divided in strokes which amount can vary between 1 and 60. Therefore the font size should be at least 12px.
At 2 Open, we would be pleased to help you.Take the advantages the Chinese market offers.
With the cooperation of our Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Agency, China will be at your fingertips.
Do not hesitate to visit us We´d loved to hear from you!
This article has been edited by Paula Vicuña, from 2 Open.
7 Facts You Need to Know About The Chinese Online Market
1. The Chinese online ecosystem is shaped by the actions of the B.A.T.
The B.A.T. is a group consisting of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. They are the dominant players in the Chinese online ecosystem. The dynamics of their competition and cooperation defines the boundary and possibilities of digital marketing and ecommerce in China. Each member of the B.A.T. dominates important segments of the online ecosystem: Baidu dominates the search engine market; Tencent is strong in social media, and Alibaba fiercely rules ecommerce. The results of this competition can provide inconveniences for online marketers. Baidu, for instance, is reluctant to direct search traffic to Tmall stores and pages, where in some cases a company will need special permission from Baidu to promote Tmall stores using Baidu’s Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
2. Baidu’s dominance in the search market
Baidu’s dominance in the Chinese search market means that most search engine related marketing activities requires the cooperation of Baidu to work. Baidu’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is different from Google’s SEO. Baidu still requires Meta data for proper indexing and it prioritizes loading speed quite heavily. Setting up SEM accounts with Baidu can either be an easy task that lasts for several working days or an excruciatingly slow and cumbersome process, which might take months to complete. This depends on the involved company’s policy match with Baidu’s requirements. There is also a minimum investment requirement for setting up an account. These can range from as low as 6,000 RMB to as much as 500,000 RMB depending on the type of account that is being opened. One of the most important aspects of Baidu’s listing is the absence of brand protection. This means that brand keywords can be bought by any paying parties willing to buy them. This might lead to unfair price based competition between official suppliers and the unofficial ones, or even from someone that sells fake products through proper channels.
3. Wechat is not just a messaging app; it is a lifestyle app that defines online interaction in China
It is hard not to know about Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in 2016, yet many are not familiar with Wechat if they live outside of China. Many foreigners regard Wechat as a Chinese version of Whatsapp but it is far from just a messaging app. To be more precise, Wechat combines the function of many known social media sites and utility apps. Users can chat, post their photos, sell items, make online payments, book a ride, buy transportation tickets, invest their money, and more. In addition to being used as a private app, it’s becoming more and more popular in the work place, mainly used for communications. With so many diverse functions and over 600 million registered users, marketers naturally want to use Wechat as a channel to communicate to their target audience. Wechat offers the possibility of a one on one customer service; creating customized functions to improve the brand experience. However, with the Wechat craze comes the high costs of Wechat marketing. Posting merketing content on a big account with upwards of 100,000 followers can cost as much as 80,000 RMB.
4. The Chinese consumer has embraced ecommerce faster than most markets
The rise of ecommerce in China surprised many outside observers. Many consumers born in the 80’s and 90’s have fully embraced the concept of ecommerce as the main way to purchase items. Anything from daily necessities to premium products can be purchased. The Chinese consumer responds well to online promotions and acceptance of new brands, however, most of them are still price sensitive. Foreign brands selling in the Chinese market to the Chinese consumer are less likely to be successful offline due to the high cost of real estate. Platforms such as Tmall and Jing Dong and vertical e-store are the best way to sell to consumers in China. Ecommerce events such as 11.11 are already a cultural phenomenon in China where the total transactions can be above 11 billion USD in one day.
5. China has one of the most highly regulated online environments in the world
China is one of the fastest growing online markets yet it is one of the most regulated ones. Traffic data going in and out of the country is heavily censored and is significantly slower than domestic traffic. This means that local hosting might be necessary for optimum speed. To publish a website, a company is required to obtain the Internet Content Provider (ICP) license to publish any content online. China has a very strict advertising law. Multinationals are regularly hit with fines for violating the law and some fines can go up to 100 million RMB. It is critical to study the proper regulations and laws before entering the Chinese market to prevent future risks and losses.
6. Mobile is not the future; it’s already the dominant traffic in China
In recent years, PC traffic has been decreasing 15% every year, whereas mobile traffic has been increasing as much as 20% in the same time frame. Many online retailers are reporting that most buyers are using their mobile phones to buy items online. Conversion for mobile traffic is also higher than PC traffic in many cases. This is due to the high penetration rate of smartphones as well as user reliance on mobile devices for online payments. It is easier for users to pay online with mobile phones than it is with their PC. Traditionally, consumers would use their PC to do extensive research before buying online. However, with improved mobile connectivity and mobile optimized websites, many consumers are abandoning PC and in some cases only uses PC for work related activities. The pay-per-click for mobile traffic can create as much as 300% higher than PC traffic in some industries, mainly due to limited advertising space and high demand.
7. Local content through local perspective
The Chinese market is still flooded with marketing contents that are just a direct translation from their original language. Some branding videos of multinational companies do not have Chinese voice-overs, only Chinese subtitles. While these contents do not necessarily fail to communicate their intended message, most have drastically reduced their effectiveness and recall rate due to being less relevant. In order to communicate effectively, companies need to dig deep to find relevant messages and hire local content producers as a bridge to effectively communicate to their Chinese consumers. This is especially relevant when publishing materials online, where the Chinese consumer expects instant gratification, not a bad translation.
This article was edited by Andres Arroyo Olson from 2Open.
2Open at Territorio Creativo: China Business Overview
On Friday the 5th of February Luis Salvador Galán, the CEO of 2Open, went to give a speech to the well-known Spanish marketing consulting agency called “Territorio Creativo” (https://www.territoriocreativo.es/en/). Territorio Creativo was founded back in 1997 and it has had a huge development ever since. In 2005 its blog (TCBlog) was brought to life which later became to be one of the most influential blogs in the field, this helped and boosted the company to the highest relevant positions in the area. As for 2009, the company decided to focus more on Social Media Marketing and nowadays they operate in many different locations around the globe and have more than 100 employees.
Every Friday they organize a meeting during a breakfast session in which an expert shares experiences, expertise and knowledge with all the company’s members, this is usually held in the Madrid and Barcelona offices. They call it TcDesayunos. Luis S. Galán decided to share his Chinese experiences in the Digital Field and commentated on his personal vision about China’s landscape. Although he could have spoken about the development and best practices of 2Open, he opted for another approach and instead took the opportunity to share business experiences and receive brilliant ideas and comments from the audience.
The talk focused mainly on creativity, differences in politics, and the development of China in certain digital areas. The relation and contrast between creativity and freedom were discussed as well as advantages and disadvantages between the Spanish political system and the Chinese one. The huge development of mobile use and e-commerce in China was also a topic of discussion, since it has had a considerable growth in the past few years. The aim of this talk was mainly to give the Spanish audience a grasp of what the Chinese business environment looks like and where it is heading so they could get an idea of the so called “Chinese dream”.
If you wish to have a look at the article of Territorio Creativo about the session, and if you speak Spanish, here is the link to it: https://www.territoriocreativo.es/etc/2016/02/china-emperadora-del-ecommerce.html
This article was edited by Andres Arroyo Olson from 2Open.