China’s import food industry is a lucrative and dynamic market. As the middle class rises, China’s demand for imported goods follows, with a surge in demand for non-local food such as cheese, olive oil, chocolate, etc. These imported products are often considered as safer than local ones due to concerns with ingredients as well as safety and sanitary issues. Imported food also responds to changing trends among the younger generation who prefer Western brands over domestic ones. Therefore, the Chinese market is extremely interesting for food brands & producers that want to expand their activities in the world’s most populous country. In this article, we will give you all the keys to export successfully your food in China, and take advantage of the platforms you have at your disposal.
- 1 China’s Imported Food: A Dynamic and Lucrative Industry
- 2 Chinese Consumers’ Purchasing Behaviors
- 3 Why do Chinese consumers “prefer” imported food products/brands?
- 4 Why is China a promising market for foreign food brands?
- 5 Steps to exporting your food products/ brand to China: How do I start exporting food to China?
- 6 How can F&B profesionnals increase their sales & profits in China?
- 7 What are the main channels of distribution for food products & brand in China?
- 7.1 Selling food products offline: The classic strategy
- 7.2 Selling food brand through your own website
- 7.3 Cross-Border E-Commerce platforms: The Best Way to Sell Imported Food products in China
- 7.4 Bet on Digital Platforms to Develop your E-Reputation in China
- 7.5 Social media are the best tools to increase your e-reputation
- 7.6 A Website in Mandarin & Adapted to Chinese norms
- 7.7 Improving your ranking on Baidu: China’s leading search engine
- 7.8 Gaining visibility thanks to influencers
- 8 Get in touch to export your food in China
- 9 How can GMA help you?
- 10 Our Case Studies
China’s Imported Food: A Dynamic and Lucrative Industry
China is the world’s second-largest economy and one of the fastest-growing markets for food brands. Its burgeoning demand for higher-quality, premium, well-known food brands was a result of urbanization and a rise in disposable income that was accompanied by China’s digitalization. Before entering the Chinese food market,you should try and get a better understanding of Chinese consumers’ habits as well as consumption trends.
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Overview of the Chinese Food Market
When we talk about imported products in China, keep in mind that China’s food supply has significant implications in terms of national food security, as well as economic trades. Following several natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and earthquakes affecting wheat and dairy productions, Chinese citizens, who consume over half their calories through grains, rely not only on domestic products but also on imports. In other words, China does not produce enough food to feed its population yet.
Imported food products’ sales in China have known a 15% growth rate per year while the world’s average is around 4%. Even though imported products are benefiting from their good reputation among Chinese consumers, this market is extremely competitive with fierce domestic and foreign players. Moreover, it is important to underline that imported products are submitted to higher taxes compared to domestic products.
What Drives the Imported Food Market in China?
The relative changes in food production and demand growth have affected China’s position in the global food trade as it has shifted from being a major world player exporting food products to now importing them instead.
The self-sufficiency of China’s agriculture has been declining due to the high demand for food as well as its large population. As of 2009, China was importing around 50% more than it was exporting (National Bureau of Statistics of China – NBSC). Among agricultural commodities, grains are recording the most rapid rise in imports of China. For example, while China was self-reliant on soybean and was even one of its main exporters, in 2020, its import reached 100.33 million tons. The Middle Kingdom is also seeing increased meat imports with a growth rate reaching 44% between 2011 and 2015 (NBSC).
There are three main reasons that explain the prosperity of the imported food market:
- Food Safety
After the overwhelming number of food scandals in China (more than 1,090 in the last three years according to Jing Daily), it is no surprise that safety is a top concern among customers. In fact, Chinese consumer’s number one concern is food safety, which topped other worries such as water quality or air quality.
China’s middle class has evolved rapidly, thanks to rising incomes. The standard of life has changed and eating habits too. They now want to make sure that their products are safe to eat. As a matter of fact, in recent years, there were many scandals about food products (especially maternal and baby products) which made people less confident about Chinese brands, but also foreign ones as well in some cases. Thus, it is an opportunity for foreign brands to prove that their products and ingredients are of better quality and following the safety norms.
As you can see from the above data, 94% of people are considering that there are many food scandals in China because of dishonest companies that are not punished. Thus, it is extremely important to respect safety standards to stand among your competitors and attract Chinese consumers. You will have to be as clear and transparent as possible to gain their trust.
Around 86% of Chinese consumers pay attention to food security when buying their products. Another interesting point for foreign food brands: most Chinese consumers are against food additives.
88% of Chinese consumers in 1st and 2nd tier cities are against it, and 25% of them prefer to pay more if it does not contain any additive.
- Healthy Food
Chinese consumers show greater interest in healthy food. It is true that today, consumers are paying more attention to their health and appearance. They are extremely attentive to their body weight, which is according to them synonym of good health.
There is a huge untapped potential in several segments of foreign healthy food products:
As stated above, consumers are now more looking for healthy food without additives, but also organic products, low in calories and those that have a slimming effect. These four categories have high potential in China is that’s why foreign brands should take advantage of these.
Chinese consumers are embracing this new organic trend, they want to eat healthier products. Over 30% of consumers in the 1st and 2nd-tier cities regularly buy organic food. Consumers seek foods with fewer pesticides as well as fresh products.
Having a child will also influence Chinese parents who will be more cautious about food. At the time, families with high incomes were willing to pay more for organic food, but now everyone is ready to pay more for higher-quality and healthy products, as they want to give the best to their offspring.
On another hand, parents in China are starting to take note of the ingredients and nutritional information of the food products they buy for their children in order to decrease the risk of obesity (which was quite common a few years ago among young children).
- Food Globalization
Food is not all about health and safety issues, it is also due to globalization. We can say that there is a globalization of food that has changed Chinese consumers’ habits. Chinese consumers were able to travel more than before, tasting and buying products that were not common in the Chinese culture, and then share their experiences with their friends during vlogs or posting pictures on social media.
In China, over 90% of consumers have already purchase foreign food products (that are mainly everyday life products). Moreover, buying foreign food products in China is also conveying a certain image of wealth as foreign products are more expensive than domestic ones. It is linked to the concept of the face: the more you will have foreign products, the better your image will be (even though some domestic companies are gaining popularity in China).
Foreign restaurants are also quite popular in China, conveying for some a certain prestige, with high-quality products that are different from Chinese consumers’ traditional dishes.
Chinese Consumers’ Purchasing Behaviors
As habits are diverging from one country to another, Chinese consumers will be more inclined to buy certain products, while foreign products that are too ‘special’ will not please the majority of them.
How are Chinese consumers searching for food products?
With China’s recent digitalization over the years, the internet is the main source of information for Chinese consumers looking for food brands. Nearly 2/3 of them will check Baidu (China’s Google) for information on food brands before purchasing a product. Family, friends, and KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) represent the second most popular source of information.
Youthful impulse and inclination to seek out new tastes are driving the trend of China’s imported food consumption. Surveys among young Chinese aged 25-34 show that they are more than twice as likely as older generations to be strongly influenced by social media when deciding what foods, like foreign imports, should be bought in grocery stores or restaurants. But regardless of generation, Chinese consumers will surely choose a foreign brand that is already established and popular in China, over an unknown brand that is not even appearing on Baidu’s results.
If you want to advertise your food brand/products in China, you have to know that social media and mobile apps are more powerful than print media advertising in newspapers or magazines. Print media advertising is not a lucrative marketing avenue (anymore) for imported food in China as it is costly and difficult to measure. On the other hand, social media and mobile apps are effective as you’ll be able to interact with your consumers and make creative advertising.
Having a Chinese name is crucial for your food brand
If you want to be easily found on Baidu, you should have a Chinese name. In fact, having a proper Chinese name for your brand allows you to show that you care about the Chinese market and that you are motivated and ready to adapt your brand specifically to Chinese consumers. In fact, it should be the first step of your localized branding strategy in China as consumers will directly have a certain impression of your brand according to your Chinese name.
Your Chinese name will stand as an embodiment of your brand’s value, story, and personality. Chinese customers are always looking for something new and innovative — so make sure that you find a way to capture their attention and be visible online. Most of the time, they will do research online with your Chinese name instead of your original brand name.
Registering your trademark in China is also a prerequisite if you want to be able to sell your products in China. As China is a ‘first-to-file country’, you should register your trademark before someone else does. You can contact us for more information about it.
Why do Chinese consumers “prefer” imported food products/brands?
As mentioned earlier, Chinese consumers are extremely cautious when it comes to food, following the numerous sanitary scandals in the past few years. Many people believe that foreign products are more reliable compared to domestic ones.
According to the DDMA Secondary Research, 69% (all social classes included) strongly agree that foreign food is better while 60% prefer restaurants that serve foreign food. This shows that foreign food is still perceived differently and that they stand among local products. However, as shown in the following graphic, it is clear that high-income families are taking this more into consideration than low-income families.
How Do Chinese Consumers Purchase Imported Food?
It is estimated that 65% of Chinese consumers who buy imported food buy online because of the wide variety of products and because it is more convenient. In addition, you can also find better prices through online platforms than in traditional stores.
Moreover, Chinese consumers are accustomed to purchasing online, using popular platforms like Tmall, Taobao, JD.com, Pinduoduo, etc.
What are the most puchased imported products in China?
China imports a wide range of food products including dairy, meat, jam, chocolate, and confectionery. Dairy products and snacks are the most commonly purchased products when it comes to foreign brands, which is quite surprising as these products were not part of their habits a decade ago.
When looking at the most purchased imported products in China as of 2017, these products are clearly standing out (according to their number of transactions) :
- Meat: 295,000
- Edible oil: 33,000
- Dairy products: 77,000
- Sea products: 111,000
- Grain products: 100,000
- Alcoholic beverage: 272,000
- Candy: 102,000
- Non-alcoholic beverage: 132,000
- Dried nuts: 117,000
- Pastry and cookies: 83,000
Source: General Administration of Customs, P.R. China
Some examples of products that are growing in popularity in China
- Chocolate: An exquisite product
For example, one lucrative industry for foreign brands in the Chocolate market. People may not know this, but the resurgence of chocolate in China is a relatively new trend. While Switzerland and America are at the top of the list in terms of consumption with about 12 kg per capita annually, only 6-8kgs worth is consumed by Chinese citizens each year on average. The good news though? That number has more than doubled over just these past few years to as much as 16-20 kilograms yearly. And it doesn’t seem like things will be slowing down anytime soon either – there’s been such an increased demand that many companies took this opportunity to expand their activities.
To have more information on how to export chocolate in China, you can read our full article here.
- Grains at the core of Chinese people’s meals
As you might have probably heard, the U.S is the world’s main producer of corn, and Brazil the biggest in terms of soybean production, driven by China’s huge appetite. In fact, China is the world’s largest corn and soybean importer, accounting for about half of total global imports. The rise in prices has put a strain on China’s finances and triggered food shortages across Asia but also re-energized America’s agricultural sector.
China Skyrocketing demand for Corn
The price of corn has hit an all-time high this year – $7 per bushel – due to skyrocketing demand from China, and this phenomenon is not ready to stop as its demand for feed grains has been increasing rapidly as its hog production is rebounding after outbreaks of the African swine fever.
In 2020, 3.29 billion U.S. dollars of corn was imported by Japan, followed by Mexico and China, which accounted for 2.49 billion U.S dollars. In the previous year, the United States exported about 13 billion U.S. dollars worth of corn worldwide, accounting for more than a third of total corn exports worldwide.
According to USDA data, corn imports into China were up by almost 250% in 2020/21, meanwhile, those of wheat nearly doubled compared to a few years ago, as Chinese consumers are fond of chickens (the success of fried chicken, KFC, etc.) that contain breadcrumbs or coatings made with flour.
Soybeans market in China
China’s soybean imports reached an annual record in 2020, growing 13% from the previous year as prices and demand for pork increased.
The General Administration of Customs reported that 100.33 million tons were purchased this past year – up significantly from 88.51 million a few years ago- to meet demands by food processors and pig farmers alike who are willing to pay more but wait longer times if necessary since domestic production is down dramatically due to floodings that killed off much of their crops before they could be harvested.
In 2020, the total import value of soybeans in China amounted to approximately 39.5 billion U.S dollars – that’s up from around 35.3 billion US dollars last year.
China’s ever-growing population combined with improving living standards means that more people can afford to eat meat, thus increasing the demand for grains to feed animals.
What are Chinese consumers expectations when looking for imported products?
As said before, they are mostly looking for safe and healthy products. Foreign food products are reputed to be safer than local products. Quality is ranking second, seen as an important buying trigger for 66% of Chinese consumers. Most of the consumers who buy imported food will be influenced by the brand’s reputation. That’s why increasing your brand awareness is key if you want to export your food products in China.
What are the most popular countries for imported products?
While the United States and France were the most popular countries in terms of imported brands and products in China, New Zealand is now paving the way thanks to its strict safety regulations, followed by Australia, Germany, the USA, and Japan.
Why is China a promising market for foreign food brands?
Taxes are decreasing
China has been suffering from unstable inflation rates since 2008, and to relieve the pressure on its citizens’ wallets, the government began decreasing tariffs on imported food. Since then, China Customs has gradually decreased prices for frozen pork products by 50%, pistachios imports with a tariff cut of at least 57% in 2009 alone; as well as cod cans which saw an increase of 53%. The gradual decrease means that even some baby milk brands have become cheaper than local brands.
Chinese consumers are looking for new culinary tastes
Chinese are curious and willing to try new culinary experiences. With 53% of Chinese consumers that enjoy trying new food, foreign brands have lots of opportunities to promote and attract consumers. While traditional Chinese food is still predominant in China, many people, especially the younger generation, do like eating imported products as well as going to the restaurant to discover new culinary tastes.
In China, Imported Food Products can serve as Gifts
In China, imported food products are extremely popular to the point of being used as a gift. For example, “Mianzi” is an idiom that means dignity or prestige, has strong roots in the Chinese culture, and deeply influences many people’s daily life. This term can be traced back to ancient times when it was used by officials as a type of currency between them – you either had more “face”, or were able to give others face – depending on what kind of position they held.
Nowadays, it is well seen to offer some expensive or rare foreign products and beverages to friends and families, or for special occasions as well. One of the best examples is during parties when people are coming with well-known and expensive foreign alcoholic beverages such as liquor, wine, beer, etc.
Another reason for this success is that imported food products in China are better packed. They’re hand-picked and carefully packaged by Western brands, who know that packaging is an important purchasing consideration for Chinese consumers. It’s also one of the reasons why these items make such thoughtful gifts. On special occasions like weddings or business meetings where people want to show their appreciation with a gift, imported foods will always be welcomed and appreciated.
You can see that there is a place in the market for imported food products and that consumers are ready to seize the opportunity of trying new culinary tastes and products.
What are the challenges when exporting food in China?
With increased awareness and tastes, Chinese consumers are taking more interest in foreign food products. To be effective with the marketing strategy, you will need, as a foreigner, to show transparency with the quality and safety of your product.
You will not only have to stand amongst your competitor in terms of product quality but also in terms of packaging, marketing, advertising, localizing your brand and adapting your brand to Chinese consumers’ tastes, etc. Don’t forget that you will have to rebuild from the start your brand awareness as Chinese citizens are using their own social media like WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, etc. as well as their own e-commerce platforms.
Steps to exporting your food products/ brand to China: How do I start exporting food to China?
Chinese Government Guidelines & regulations for food
Over the years, China has implemented strict import regulations for various reasons: the increased number of imported goods, sanitary scandals, and is thus increasingly adopting Western standards. Before you start exporting to China, it’s important that you have knowledge about these regulations as well as the AQSIQ who make sure all products meet the quality standards before entering the Chinese market.
- Registering your company with the AQSIQ
First of all, AQSIQ is an abbreviation for The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine that grants approval for imports in a wide range of products, including food. Moreover, it controls inspections quality and has great power in decision making. As an exporter, you should be aware of its rules and regulations in terms of quality standards and certifications, before exporting your goods to China.
Your company is responsible for registering with the AQSIQ if your product falls under their “List of Food Imports Subject to Enterprise Registration.” You should also register any shipments you have, which can be done online. This will help track the shipment and make it easier for both importers and you.
- AQSIQ’s certificate
China’s AQSIQ certificate is an important document that can help you avoid trouble and expensive situations with Chinese customs. For example, if a product needs to have this certification but doesn’t, it may be seized by or demolished due to its potential health risks, which is extremely important for food exporters. You will need to contact the AQSIQ in order to obtain this certificate.
To receive your AQSIQ certificate, you need to fill out 17 pages of paperwork (all in Mandarin Chinese) and submit it for examination. If you have not met all requirements needed after this process has been completed. Then an acceptance notice will be issued within 30 days. Otherwise, you will receive a non-acceptance notice.
If you’re looking to export your food products from China, the cost of your first application can vary anywhere between USD 0 and 3800. The total price depends on the type of products you want to export as well as depending if you are a member of AQSIQ or ISO 9001.
In order to prevent failure in inspections after they’ve been completed, it’s important that all requirements are met ahead of time so that no extra work needs to be done afterward. You can contact us and we will take care of everything.
- The need to have a pre-import license
If you want to export your dairy and meat products, then it’s essential that you get an AIL (Automatic Import License). Additional requirements might also apply for pre-import licensing to these specific goods. That being said, I recommend consulting with a professional who can help prepare all the necessary documents in advance so nothing catches you off guard when importing from abroad. You can contact us for more information and our experts will explain the procedure to you.
- Labelling your products
The General Rules of Pre-packaged Food Labelling is a document that prescribes the mandatory elements within food labels. It defines what must be included in any pre-packed agricultural product imported into China, which includes: company name (both English and Chinese), address, operational license number as well as production date labeling on each package.
In order to comply with these regulations, it has become necessary for companies wishing to import their products in China to provide specific labeling information on all packaging materials before they are shipped. You will also need to provide the following information:
- The name of the product: every word, image, brand, or description that is characteristic of the product
- Ingredients: every substance and additive used in preparation for the final product
- A detailed list is provided precisely to avoid any health hazards when consuming the product
- Manufacturing date
- Expiration Date
Do I need an export license to sell food in China?
An export license is necessary for a foreign trade company (FTC) to sell goods to China. In fact, it is a document that gathers information about who, what, and where you are exporting goods from. China uses this to control the legality of imported products on its soil.
Moreover, all importers and exporters of foreign foods, drinks, cosmetics must register with the “Registration Systems for Imported Food and Cosmetic Importers/Exporters.”
In order to register your goods in China for exportation, you will have to prepare the following documents:
- An inspection certificate issued by AQSIQ
- Commercial invoice
- A bill of lading
- A detailed packaging list of your food product
- A certificate for export from your home country
- Certificate of free sale
- A hygiene certificate
- Certificate of bottling date (for beverages)
- Sample of original label
- Sample of Chinese label
How can F&B profesionnals increase their sales & profits in China?
The key to quickly develop your brand in China is to understand that you will need to adapt your strategy to Chinese consumers and habits. Don’t forget that because of the Great Firewall, social media like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. are unavailable in China. Thus, you will have to create official account on Chinese social media. This part is important as you will be able to promote directly your products as well as engage with your audience.
We have whitness countless food trading companies trying to develop their sales in China using the same marketing strategy as they do back home and most of them did not achieve the goals they had in mind until they started to localize. And let me tell you, localizing is necessary whether you are looking at direct selling or distribution.
When selling your food goods whether in stores or on e-commerce platforms, be as clear and transparent as possible. You have to convince within a few seconds consumers that your products are worth it. If by chance they have already heard of your brand online, they will most likely want to try your products.
What are the main channels of distribution for food products & brand in China?
Selling food products offline: The classic strategy
If you want to sell products using the classical way, you will probably want to engage an agent or sell them directly in supermarkets. You will have to convince them of the quality of your products and show that it will be profitable enough. You can also open your own store, but it is extremely expensive, and in general, only well-established brands decides to do so. You can contact us for more information.
Selling food brand through your own website
When it comes to selling products directly on its own website, it is more complicated as you will have to take care of everything (including the logistic). Buying directly from the brand’s website ranked further down in the fifth position according to Chinese consumers. With the convenience and safety of e-commerce platforms as brands that are on e-commerce platforms are submitted to strict rules when it comes to quality and safety issues. Thus, Chinese consumers will be more reluctant to buy products on your website rather than on well-established platforms.
However, well-known brands are still able to attract customers to their website thanks to their reputation.
Cross-Border E-Commerce platforms: The Best Way to Sell Imported Food products in China
E-Commerce platforms are very convenient for foreign companies. You can sell straight away without a physical presence in China, as long as you obtain approval from the relevant cross-border platforms.
With China’s huge online population of over 900 million netizens and 250 million e-shoppers, an online sales infrastructure is everything when entering the market. It’s an advantage for brands to conquer the Chinese market without having to pay heavy charges or taxes.
Everything is convenient for both parties:
- Consumers have access to a wide variety of foreign products, without the fear of the language barrier because the websites are optimized in Mandarin. Moreover, the delivery is as fast as for local products because of the organization of e-commerce platforms is the same for both domestic and foreign companies. For example, JD.com takes care of the logistic, delivering customers just whithin a few hours.
- For sellers, it allows you to sell your products in China safely and easily. By using popular platform, you will be able to target a large audience, as well as develop your activity online, by linking your e-commerce shop to your social media accounts for example.
The Chinese market has many opportunities since it attracts a wide range of consumers. Foreign companies have the opportunity to target the right niche markets to market their products. Online food sales continue to grow in popularity as consumers seek convenience and choice. It is estimated that 94 % of Chinese consumers have already purchased food online. Tmall is the preferred platform, but JD and Yihaodian are also very popular among Chinese consumers.
Tmall: The Leading E-Commerce Platform in China
Tmall Global is the international version of China’s leading online marketplace, Tmall. Known as the most famous and largest cross-border B2C platform, it offers both wholesale (B2B) and retail (B2C) models for international merchants. It has evolved to be a trusted platform to purchase imported products that come from over 50 countries around the world like Japan, Korea, the USA, or France.
Tmall Global’s popularity is not surprising considering that the platform has more than 29,000 international brands and a large variety of products. It also operates in 87 countries with its app being the 6th most used online store in China and 78% of customers using both Tmall Global as well as Tmall.com. For example, 80% of brands have used Tmall Global to enter the Chinese market, with more than 5,800 product categories.
Having a Tmall storefront is the most effective way to penetrate the Chinese market and export your food products in China. However, the problem is that Tmall only accepts brands that already have a significant presence and have high sales in China. That’s why a lot of companies are rejected by the platform because of its high standards.
There are two ways to join Tmall’s platform:
- If you are a company with China in-country business operations, you can apply to Tmall.com.
- If you are a company with overseas licenses, you are eligible to Tmall Global.
JD.com and JD Worldwide: One of the most popular e-commerce platforms in China
One of the two massive B2C online retailers in China, JD.com has been expanding recently and currently is partly owned by Tencent (20%). The company was founded in 1998 to sell magneto-optical products only but soon switched over to selling electronics, computers, mobile phones, etc.
As of 2021 they have 470 million active customers worldwide and continue growing at a rapid pace with strong customer satisfaction ratings, which makes them an attractive option for any consumer looking for competitive pricing or easy and fast shipping options.
JD.com has two platforms that enable international brands to sell their products directly in China: JD Worldwide and JD.com, its domestic platform for already established sellers. The difference is that, while most of the third-party sellers on JD are already well known within mainland China, only those with physical stores outside of Mainland China can use JD worldwide to reach Chinese consumers without any local presence.
If you want more information on JD Worldwide or JD.com, you can read our full article here
Taobao: The easiest way to sell food products online
Launched in 2003 by the Chinese giant Alibaba, Taobao (淘宝网) is one of China’s most popular online shopping platforms. As of 2019, it has 300 million daily active users and 668 million mobile monthly active users; its popularity among Chinese consumers makes for a great marketplace to buy fresh products as well as other imported food products.
The success of Taobao is attributed to its simple and easy-to-use platform, which enables both consumers to purchase products cheaper than anywhere else, and merchants to sell their goods at a lower cost. This strategy has been the core of Jack Ma’s philosophy from day one.
Pinduoduo: A promising app for food brands
Founded in 2015, Pinduoduo quickly became the fastest-growing tech company in the world. If you want to export your fresh products into China, we recommend that you choose Pinduoduo: it’s currently the largest agriculture-focused e-commerce platform and also a social commerce site as well as C2M – connecting farmers with distributors while directly dealing with consumers on one hand.
Pinduoduo has revolutionized e-commerce by becoming not only an online marketplace but also enabling transactions between producers and buyers through its unique “Pinduhou” feature which allows users to post photos of their goods for sale without having to pay upfront fees as other similar sites require.
Pinduoduo is different from other online shopping sites in that it has a social aspect, which allows users to easily share what they have browsed or purchased with their networks. Users can also set up teams within 24 hours of signing up for the site and then enjoy lower prices on products when buying together as part of a team. The ability to buy an item individually rather than as part of a group makes Pinduoduo unique among most Chinese e-commerce platforms where shoppers tend to prefer discounts over individual purchases because groups are more often able to provide better bargains.
It has revolutionized the marketing and selling of goods with a low-cost system that is easy and fast. You can advertise and promote your products through the app. For example, use live-streaming to explain how great your products are, but you should also hire KOLs in order to attract a wider audience.
Forums are powerful marketing tools in China
You have to know that forums are also extremely popular in China as Chinese consumers mostly rely on word-of-mouth. They will be most likely to follow their peers’ advice than your promotional ad. Platforms such as Zhihu and Douban are considered reliable by Chinese netizens, with qualitative and clear answers to the web most search questions.
QR code to drive traffic online
Having your own Tmall, JD, or Yihaodian store is fine but you also need to drive traffic to your online store. One of the most effective ways is to set up QR codes to drive traffic to your several platforms. A QR Code is a powerful method to increase traffic, and it is commonly used by Chinese citizens.
Recently, the famous video platform Bilibili even programmed a QR code in the sky above Shanghai, by using hundred of drones.
QR codes allow you to redirect buyers to:
- An app
- WeChat Official Account
- Shopping cart page via mobile
- E-commerce platforms
Bet on Digital Platforms to Develop your E-Reputation in China
The impact that social networks have on individuals is important in China. Social media are an integral part of the daily life of more than 900 million Internet users. The digital sphere in China has taken a completely different turn from the one we know in the West due in particular to the censorship of the Chinese government when it comes to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google. The Chinese government has created its own social media sphere in parallel with apps like WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, etc.
Internet users have the opportunity through these applications to be part of different communities, groups, follow the news, and be able to follow brands, purchase online, and share content. WeChat and Weibo are the two most popular social media platforms. You need to have an Official Account for your food brand on these two platforms.
Social media are the best tools to increase your e-reputation
Chinese consumers are often the most loyal to brands that they follow on social media, following them for years and communicating with their representatives. It is important to make your presence known in China by connecting with Chinese people at a personal level using social media channels like WeChat, Weibo or Tencent QQ.
Wechat: China’s most popular app
Created by the Chinese company Tencent and released in 2011, WeChat was at the beginning only a mobile messaging app. And even though new features were introduced, this functionality remains the core of the app. Marketed as Weixin (微信) in China, it was then rebranded as Wechat for international markets just a year later-in 2012. In 2018 alone 1 billion users signed up to use what is now known all over the Asia Pacific; that’s more than 4 times its popularity from 6 years ago. In 2021 we are expecting an increase again with 8% growth expected within our next 5 years.
On WeChat, you can also open a store called “mini-store” and sell your products. It’s very convenient for the little brands which have not yet a well-established reputation in China. This is extremely useful as Tmall or JD will not accept small brands.
You can read our full article on WeChat here
Launched in 2009 by the Chinese technology company Sina Corporation, Weibo is one of the biggest social media platforms in China. It was originally a micro-blogging service but has grown to include many other types of features like Instagram or Pinterest over time.
Weibo, the largest Chinese-language mobile portal with over 511 monthly active users and millions of posts per day, allows you to upload videos, audio files, music clips from your library or via YouTube links. Uploaded photos can include captions in English as well for an international audience. Weibo is not only a place where people share content but also browse others’ works through following other accounts such as celebrities and influencers; send messages back & forth privately either one on one or by posting them publicly; search keywords related to their favorite topic, look for food products they want to try, etc.
Weibo, as probably the best social media platform for imported food brands to communicate with their followers and potential consumers. It’s also a good platform to send information, discounts, announce products launch, asks for users’ feedbacks, and for advertising. In addition, you don’t need to be connected to the brand to see their posts. You can reach more people than on WeChat.
A Website in Mandarin & Adapted to Chinese norms
It’s no secret that aesthetic norms in China are different from ours. Clean designs with limited information and pictures may be preferred by American or European audiences, but Chinese consumers like to see animated pages filled with text and images — you need to adapt your content for them.
It must also be written entirely in Mandarin because you want to be understood by all potential visitors. A mandarin website will give you an edge on SEO as well: when doing research before purchasing online, Chinese netizens will be more likely to use Chinese keywords than English keywords, which will impact your rank on Baidu, China’s leading search engine.
Improving your ranking on Baidu: China’s leading search engine
Your success in China is limited if you go unnoticed. You might be wondering how to increase your visibility? Well, the answer lies with Baidu – it’s more popular than any other search engine, with more than 75% of the research in China that are conducted through Baidu.
To start your journey of increasing visibility and e-reputation on this platform, all you need to do is create an appealing Chinese website for your company. Once done, focus on promoting it using online advertising campaigns on social media, as well as other online platforms. This will not only help increase visibility but also provide an excellent opportunity for brand awareness too.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategic way to rank your business’ website using natural search results. If you’re ranking on Baidu, Chinese consumers will trust your products and be able to find them easily overtime on the internet.
Gaining visibility thanks to influencers
In China, Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) are very powerful and influential. They’re simply users who became famous by generating a lot of traffic on their accounts. KOLs often have more influence than celebrities in China because consumers tend to be impressionable and highly value the status that comes with it. Finding an effective KOL might not seem easy but if you work with professionals then this can actually save time for you. If you want to find KOLs, you can contact us directly.
Get in touch to export your food in China
How can GMA help you?
The Chinese food market is a lucrative opportunity for marketers, but it’s also full of traps that can be hard to avoid. For food brands looking to enter the China market, our agency has invented techniques and strategies that will help you navigate this complicated landscape with ease. We have helped over 800 food brands in their endeavors overseas since 2012. You can send us a message to receive our Case Studies.
Experts in SEO on Baidu
We’re more than just an online marketing company. We’ll promote your business with a target in mind and help you create the best possible digital image for it, including Baidu SEO and SEM, E-PR, Media Buying (DSP) & Community Management to assure that we know what’s going on at all times while managing successful campaigns.
Lead generation at the core of our strategy
We are professionals in lead generation. To be effective in your lead generation, you need first to develop a good e-reputation. Invest in online advertising and create quality content will help you develop your e-reputation. Finally, measure results to improve your performance. We are lead generation experienced and we apply it to our agency. We get an average of 350 leads per month (March 2018) by applying the method we offer to companies that use our services.
Understanding Chinese consumers
Since 2012, we are dedicated to the improvement of many imported food companies in China. We understand the expectations of Chinese consumers and we know their habits and expectations when they are looking to buy imported food.
A ROI-focused agency
We are an ROI-focused agency. The solution is to attract and also re-target the most qualified traffic in order to increase conversion rates. We use advanced marketing strategies to export Food Brands in China, and target Distributors.
Our Case Studies
Glendee is a snack brand from Thailand. They produce potato chips, coconut chips, and other variations of chips made from different fruits and vegetables. Their products are healthier and more natural.
They had two goals :
- Attract Chinese tourists visiting Thailand
- Sell their products in Mainland China
A CHALLENGE FOR GMA’s TEAM
- New Brand for Chinese Customers
- Not a high brand-awareness
- No presence in China
- No community in China
- Fierce Competitive Environment
THE SOLUTIONS WE FOUND
- Weibo KOL (Key Opinion Leader) campaigns
- WeChat account set up & shop & content management
- E-commerce Sales on Little Red Book
- Average 2 million views per post on KOL videos
- 11,031 followers
- Daily Posts
- Video posts and sharing
- More than 40 PR releases
- Ranked at the top on Baidu Search
Little Red Book:
- 12 Influencers promoting on e-commerce platform
- Little Red Book can work on Crossborder (Help to Export Food Brands to China)
Twist and Drink
Twist & Drink is a child-friendly drink brand from Austria launched in 1973. The juices are all made with natural mountain spring water. There is a range of different fruit flavors highlighted by the bold colors and unique designs of their bottles. They are a family-owned company that now produces over 50 million bottles of the popular kids’ drink each year. They were selling their products in over 20 countries and wanted to start their journey in the world’s most populous country.
The issue was Twist & Drink were simply not known in China. Despite increasing international trading and influence, the marketplace was still relatively nonexistant.
They had no reputation and little visibility on Chinese online platforms. Many parents in China are cautious and research extensively online before purchasing. They buy brands for their children and if the brand is not established they will not buy it, regardless of the quality.
Weibo: the creation of an Official Account, new content posts were launched 5 days a week at peak times to increase views and interaction.
WeChat: created a game based around the different characters where users would compete to collect the most points in the ‘twist & drink arena’.
- Weibo : +5000 followers on their Weibo account
- Wechat: Over 10 000 players joined the game per day which was linked directly to their official account. 3000 followers for their WeChat account
- After the campaign, the brand found a reliable local distributor