How to sell Sleep Aids products in China? Online first

“Zhang usually gets back from work around 10-11 pm. Exhausted from a long day at work, Zhang doesn’t really count hours as a performance matter. And it’s about the same for his colleagues. While coming back late he tries to keep some time for himself, to relax a bit. Taking a bath, playing video games, watching movies, and so on. Quickly it’s already early morning, 3 am, and time for bed. But like every day, Zhang won’t fall asleep until 1-2h later… perpetual distress, a lack of sleep in spite of the fact that he still has to wake up, take the subway, go to work, come back late.”

An unfortunate fate currently shared by close to 300 million Chinese netizens suffering from sleeping disorders, and among them over 38% of Chinese adults experienced frequent insomnia that is pushing the sales of sleep aids products in China. As China’s young citizens are suffering from poor quality of sleep china’s sleep-aid market is growing fast! Indeed, consumers are spending increasing amounts of money on products that can help them get a better night’s rest. If the most popular sleep products sold online are eye masks, earplugs, consumers from major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are more interested in new types of sleep aids, including melatonin, enzymes, sprays, and smart devices. In this post, we are looking at the opportunities the market represents, the options available to sell your goods in China as well as the best marketing strategies to promote them, and to finish we will have a look at some of the market’s most notable data.

As the process of China’s urbanization accelerates, high-quality sleep has become a must. The average sleep time in China is 6.92 hours, and the proportion of the post-90s with insomnia was 36.7% in 2019, so sleep products have broad market prospects.

Although the CSRS plebiscites an improvement of people’s daily routine through the implementation of regular exercise, outdoor activity, and avoiding screens at night for both mental and physical health, we can’t help but see a boom coming up among the “sleep economy”.

And when talking about Boom… 2021, the overall sleep economy has reached over 400 Billion RMB and is forecasted to reach 1 trillion RMB by 2030.

The Chinese sleep economy in 3 main segments

  • Hardware (bedding and machine)
  • Software (like APP)
  • Medicines (health supplements)
sleep aid products china
Means to overcome sleeping problems perceived as most effective in China as of June 2019

The average annual online sales revenue growth of sleep aids, such as bedding, sleep-monitoring devices, and supplements, has surpassed 10%, according to the latest report by Shanghai-based research firm CBNData.

China Sleeping Aid: The hardware segment

It basically corresponds to everything relating to bedding. Having the last technology, health checking devices, spine protection, anti-bacterial system, etc. Choosing a bed is not about simply lying done a mattress now, it’s getting much more complex. A competitive market where consumers really consider the best for their nights…

And more than a bed, this category also includes everything linked to eye masks, earplugs, steam eye masks, pillow foam memory, pillow warmer, etc. In short, every tool may improve your sleeping comfort and condition. 

Here is a couple of examples of leading domestic brands in the market:

  • Sleemon 喜临门
  • Healthcare (梦百合)
  • Suibao (穗宝)
  • Kuka Home (顾家)

Sleemon was the leading seller of sleep hardware during double 11 2020 and ranks #1 on the Tmall category.

As for international brands:

  • Muji
  • Ikea
  • Zara Home

Sleeping Aid Software segment:

Within the sleeping software segment, you may consider any APP supposed to solve your sleeping issues. You’ll find in this category meditation software, white noise APP, APP or tools sending specific noise or frequency. 

The main business model of those apps is either to make the customer pay for some specific sounds/program or to integrate a membership link to a hardware tool. 

Sleep Supplements segment: 

When thinking about sleeping aids, many customers consider pills as a start product: melatonin. Almost a common term among young generations. And if looking at the last Double 11 events, you’ll even see that in 2020, the number among the consumer group of both post-90 and post-00 were 4 times higher than the number of consumers in 2019 double 11… 

Of course, among other “supplements” consumers also consider aromatherapy, essential oils like lavender, herbal supplements such as Variant root, magnesium, glycine, etc. 

What are consumers looking at before purchasing sleep aid? 

  • Function:

What’s the product for? And this message is shared through your product information that people will be able to find in both your online store product display and packaging.  Important to consider putting this information forward and emphasizing it. 

  • Product Quality

Many foreign companies still think that selling in China is easy because they’re foreigners and do enjoy a given strong reputation. But if it may have been true decades ago, the trend is actually getting reversed… The last D11 showed us that more and more consumers go in favor of domestic brands now. 

Chinese companies implementing stricter quality control now focus on the mission of providing quality products to their target audience rather than focusing on simple, cheap, and easy sales. But don’t get it wrong, if local products are seeing an increase in their brand reputation, you still won’t be able to beat Chinese companies on their pricing.

As a strategic development and to keep in touch with the market, you’ll rather have to focus on your targeted consumer group and push forward on the product quality, service personalization, and any other innovation that may serve your audience. 

  • Brand reputation 

Being the most digitized market in the world with close to 1 billion people connected, the digital space has been a source of opportunities for those in China. Consumers now have all the required resources while using both search engines and social media to check about their favorite brands, but also to check on new “unknown” brands. A process now being an entire part of their purchasing decision. 

This leads us to the following: businesses have total control over their creativity and brand awareness development to perform online and get over their market competition. 

But as in the yin/yang, any positive part is a negative one. 

Consumers do have the power to leave reviews and comment on your brand on public platforms, which of course will be accessible to new potential customers. In the same way, people will definitely check about you before passing an order, just to make sure nobody got harmed from your products before… And if they can’t find any information on your brand, it will just mean that you’re not serious and probably not worth buying. In the end, how can you put your health in the hands of a company you never heard about?

How to sell sleeping aid supplements, hardware and software in China? 

  • Online Marketplace: Online retail is growing consistently in China and offers more options to foreign seller than going through a third party seller will ever do. Check out our China eCommerce Guide to learn more on the topic and see what platform would be the right fit for your brand!
    • Tmall
    • JD
    • Taobao
    • Douyin
  • Distributors: Working with distributors can remove a lot of weight form produceurs so as long as they can find a reliable partner. Reat out this piece to understand the best practices on collaborating with a chinese disutributor. You can also consult our Disitribution services for China here.
  • Daigou: it is not impossible to sell through Daigou but finding the right one to work with can be a challenge. Furthermore, the health crises induced by covid 19 as well as striker regulations from the chinese governement has made it much harder for Daigou to work as freely as they used to. If you want to go with Daigou route, we suggest that you work with an agency that has a network of daigou and is capable of running backgroun check on Daigou.

How do you market sleeping aids product in China?

Are you a foreign sleep aids company that wants to enter the Chinese market?

Build your e-reputation and then Focus on the online, here are some of the strategies we will dive into in this part:

How to Gain visibility: 

  • Baidu: website optimized for China
  • SEO: organic results 
  • PPC: for distributors and traffic redirection to online stores

Build trust: eReputation with Undercover marketing 

  • PR
  • Forums Marketing & Zhihu

Social Media: 

  • Weibo
  • Wechat
  • RED
  • Douyin

KOL marketing:

  • Different types (KOC, influencers, KOL, Stars, Super stars)
  • Careful: don’t bet all your eggs on KOL. They don’t do the job for you 
  • Credibility matters to get the good KOL (cooperation development, commissions negotiation, etc)

Gain Visibility: Chinese consumers will Baidu “Sleeping Aids Brand/Products”

And if they can’t find you there… you better forget the idea of making any sales in China.

Your first step will be to create a Chinese website so that Chinese consumers can find your company and can read about your brand story and can see your products. You want your Website Optimized for Baidu and for Chinese netizens.

The best tips for your chinese website are the following:

  • The content must be translated into Chinese so that Chinese consumers can understand it;
  • It must be hosted in China, to avoid slow loading of the pages;
  • Content must be localized and adapted to Chinese tastes;
  • You must have an ICP license

Since Baidu is really different from Google, we can help you to create your own website.

Now that your website is live, start working on Baidu SEO and ranking on your chosen keyword. It will help you reduce your acquisition cost and improve your relevancy ( Red more on Baidu SEO Best practices). SEO is a great option as the results usually last in time and are cheaper than PPC, however it takes time and consistency to get results.

Baidu also offers Paid advertising. those paid ads are great to promote a campaign, to target a new audience, or simply to make sure that you are in front of everyone else on your chosen keyword and more notably you on Branded Keyword. The drawback of PPC is that it’s expensive and will only last as long as you put monetary resources.

We would suggest you combine the two for maximum results and efficiency.

Undercover marketing is key for your sleep Aid Brand eRepuation in China

With undercover marketing, you promote your sleeping aid brand as a third-party specialist or peer consumer. Undercover marketing is one of the most efficient ways to gain the trust of wary consumers especially when it comes to a market so linked to health. There are several ways you can engineer undercover marketing in China, the end goal is that after a while, reviews and recommendations will be organic and that you’ll just have to manage them. But people won’t just start talking about your brands like that, you’ll have to put the effort in through:

Press releases:

Trusted third parties media coming from different backgrounds. You’ll have the medical reviews, the sleep specialists, the more general media, and so on. The more numerous and varied the sources are the better. Press releases will help with your brand’s credibility and visibility.

We can help you get in touch with Chinese media, check out our PR solutions for more info.

Forums marketing & Zhihu

Just like PR, uses forums to have third parties talking about your brand and products. The main difference is that forums users won’t be media but real consumers. As mentioned above, at the beginning you’ll have to create and encourage this discussion. As your brand awareness grows, users will start creating content more organically.

Forums are great in the sense that they are consulted by consumers for advice on their purchases but also because forums results often rank high on Baidu’s SERP thus increasing your visibility.

The reason we mentioned Zhihu over other Chinese forums, is the credibility of the platform and of its users which is critical in your industry. Not only that but Zhihu is an advanced app offering great tools to not only single users but also companies.

We invite you to read our Zhihu Guide to learn more about its users, tools, and marketing strategy.

Build an engaged community on Chinese Social Media

Become viral on Weibo

With more than 400millions monthly active users, Weibo is without a doubt one of China’s most influential social media. It is a place for debate (à la Twitter), viral content, commercial content, and quick entertainment.

For brands, sleeping aid brands included, Weibo is key when doing business in China. It is one of the most complete Chinese social media for marketers; indeed its open nature allows for both quick community building and viral posts through hashtags.

Weibo #睡觉# – sleep hashtag which has hundreds of thousands of view and discussion

The app also offers business account tools such as affordable paid advertising, contest tools to create engagement, Kols marketing, live streaming, and so on.

To learn more about Weibo marketing, click here

Create your WeChat official account & nurture your target audiance

  • 1,26 billion active users every month (2021),
  • More than 1,5 million active brands,
  • More than 17 million official accounts,
  • Used for 86% by people 18-40 years old (2020).

The app enables companies to create an “official account” to promote their company. Having a service account allows your brand to send 4 push notifications every month to your consumers – see it as an alternative to your newsletter. Push notification means that people who follow your account will receive the messages as if they were sent by a friend.

Although WeChat is not the best app to build a huge following, it is one of the best Chinese social media to actively engage with your customers and build loyalty. As you can also sell your products on WeChat, it is very convenient for the user to directly purchase something on your WeChat account.

WeChat has so many functions like WeChat CRM that can be used as a replacement for a newsletter or WeChat H5 brochure that is great for product listing and company introduction. It is easy to share, it can be a substitution of our Pdf, which in China doesn’t work. It is cost-efficient and easy to share.

Read our Wechat Marketing Guide for more info

Promote & Sell your Sleeping aids products on WeChat mini-program

WeChat mini-program was 1st introduced in 2017 and has since grown in popularity. They are part of Chinese netizen’s daily life. From shopping to mini-game, to mini-software, booking apps, and so on. A mini-program could be a simple as a sleep tracker that allows you to determine if whether or not your sleep has improved since taking supplements. It could also offer better sleep recommendations and so on.

In China, one of the most growing trends is that of social commerce. It consists of integrating social platforms with e-commerce platforms. This concept, especially appreciated by younger consumers, arises from the need to find alternative ways to classic e-commerce. Since Mini-program can be stored it provides brands with the possibility to enter the social commerce game.

WeChat mini-program, therefore, presents itself as an alternative channel to e-commerce platforms or marketplaces (especially since Wechat removed the invisible barrier that was making it so hard to link outside of the app)

Within them, users can enjoy an optimized shopping experience. In fact, they also offer a whole series of additional features to classic e-commerce. Among them, we find, for example, the personalization of products. Then there are also the offer of gift cards and discount codes and the possibility of making group purchases.

Consider Xiaohongshu for your sleeping aids products

Xiaohongshu is social commerce app that mainly targets female users from wealthy Chinese cities. The app has over 300 million users.

Xiaohongshu is also known as the Little Red Book or RED is a mix of Instagram, Pinterest, and Amazon. It is based on a “content-driven” model, which gives great importance to content. It was born as a shopping guide. It mainly attracts consumers who reward quality and authenticity. While in the traditional e-commerce platforms the user enters when he is interested in a product, with social commerce it’s the contrary. Users are exposed to products through divertissement and become interested in them. 

Just like its counterpart, Xiaohongshu offers special tools for brands that wish to promote themselves there and build a community of engaged followers. But the main strength of Xiaohongshu is the UGC and therefore its active users and Kols network.

Users and Kols can create 5 five types of posts:

  • tutorials (how to use a product),
  • comparison (differences between a product and another),
  • before/after (pictures of before and after and explanation on how to obtain the result),
  • story (the Kol tells a personal story that can educate the user),
  • guide (a wish list of the products the Kol wants to buy).
Why is Xiaohonghsu UGC this useful for your brand?

The most important criteria for customers buying a product in China is word of mouth, even ahead of price. With the age of the internet and influencers, word of mouth has also extended its reach and consumers are receptive to peer reviews.

On top of that, Kol shopping not (reviews) tends to rank on Baidu. If these shopping notes are positive they reassure potential customers in two ways:

  • Others have bought youryour products
  • Your products is safe to buy

The more reviews the more reassured consumers are resulting in more sales.

Douyin: don’t neglect live-streaming

Douyin is the Chinese version of TikTok, and it’s an application to create and share short videos (about 15 seconds) with music in the background.

  • More than 500 million monthly active users as of 2021;
  • 85% of users were born in the 1990s
  • 70% of users live in tier 1 and tier 2 Chinese cities.

Brands invest in partnerships with renowned KOLs(Key Opinion Leaders)similar to our influencers to increase visibility and develop brand loyalty. Chinese users find catchy short videos from KOL on Douyin. Douyin in China, compared to Tik Tok elsewhere, is an effective marketing means to reach users-consumers.

Users are encouraged to immediately buy what they see sponsored by KOLs and are directed to purchase in-App. Usually, the decision to finalize the purchase is taken in a few seconds, so this sales method works best with products with a medium-low price. In fact, they do not require long evaluations by the consumer.

Live streaming can be a great ally to sales. In fact, through live streaming, the KOLs carry out important content marketing and lead generation activities. This activity is aimed at the products of the brands present on Chinese e-commerce.

Why should sleep aid brand be on Douyin?

Your main target audience is hooked to Douyin and the app algorithm is extremely precise meaning that your content will be seen by the people interested in what you sell.

Douyin business account also has native ads options as well as more visibility and can post longer videos.

Read our Douyin Marketing Guide for more info on this channel

Promote your Sleep Aid Goods through Kols Marketing

Kols or key opinion leaders are trusted and influential individuals that promote products they like on social media. Because peoples relate to KOLS and see them as peers and trust them, it is definitely interesting for you to work with them. especially since you are in a category that touches such a large & young public in China.

There are many types of Kols and it will be your job to determine which one to go for. Depending on your budget and goals, you would not necessarily pick the same as the competitor.

Although KOLs marketing is such a great way to get instant visibility, we would not suggest you focus all your resources on KOL. For instance, You working with KOL but having no presence on the Chinese internet would not bear any significant fruits.

Lastly, if you wanna be able to choose who you collaborate with, credibility matters. You won’t have the same option if your brand has bad reviews on the internet or if there is a huge hype going on. Your brand awareness will vastly impact cooperation development, commissions negotiation, etc

Read our Kol Marketing Guide and Find out more about our solutions

Why is the Chinese sleep aids market becoming so prevalent?

According to a recent survey published by the Chinese sleep research Society, both health and well-being are two important indicators of national and personal prosperity. Therefore, trying to raise awareness toward healthy sleep was part of the individual mission to a “Healthy China” proposed by the 19th Congress.

This survey also showed that currently:

  • 24.6% of Chinese people suffer from sleep disorders
  • the sleep quality of 94.1% of the public does not meet the healthy standard.

A fun fact considering the survey pointed out that the people making more money are usually the ones sleeping less.

  • People with an average income of 3,000 RMB sleep below 8,19h a day
  • while people with an income around 25,000 to 30,000 RMB sleep around 7,7h.

It seems that most of the middle-class groups suffer from “unhealthy sleep” and 56% of internet users have sleep problems. Results are even more concerning when looking at the younger generation (who enjoy a lot of any kind of electronic device at night…). Indeed, 91% of them admit feeling tired/sleepy or let’s say lacking sleep when they wake up.

See any correlation here? And if you check Ali Health’s report, 60% of users searching about “insomnia” are actually post the 90s…

Learn more about china’s sleeping issues here and here

The Chinese sleep aids market is driven by the younger generations

Those born after 1990 are getting worse sleep than the older generation

Purchase behavior differs according to age. The report found that people aged over 40 are more likely to use treatment-based remedies such as natural foods and supplements, while those born in the 1980s want to improve their sleeping environment, spending a lot of money on high-end mattresses, bedding, and pillows.

In addition, those born in the 1990s tend to buy products such as eye masks and sprays. As noted in the CBN Data report, people are buying sleep aids because they are becoming increasingly aware of their sleep problems.

Online sales of sleep aids products are growing strongly

The ongoing urbanization combined with exhausting working hours led to a huge request for sleep aids. The online consumption of sleep products has grown by more than 10% compared with the same periods in former years.

That’s why the foreign brands of sleep aids must know the Chinese e-commerce platforms and launch their products on them.

Covid-19 impact on health products in China

It’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s daily life. Spending more time at home, fewer activities to be done, less exhaustion, and a regular sleep delayed from 3 to 4 hours sometimes. But even out of quarantine and back to our daily life, the overall modern environment full of stress and screens has established its print on our sleeping habits. 

During COVID-19, consultation orders for insomnia and sleep improvement experts increased over 10 times y-o-y on JD Health’s online medical consultation platform.

Since the pandemic started, Chinese consumers are more attentive to their health and recognize the importance of eating and sleeping well.

Contact Gma if you want to sell your sleep aids products in China

gma agency

Gentlemen Marketing Agency is a digital marketing agency that is an expert in helping foreign companies to establish or strengthen their position in China. We can help your brand increase sales and awareness in China, thanks to our services like:

  • Advertising
  • Baidu SEO&SEM
  • Social Media
  • PR
  • KOL & Influencers
  • E-commerce and cross-border e-commerce
  • Distribution

Contact us to discuss it further!

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