E-commerce in China – a mission possible through localization

The e-commerce sector in the world, and particularly in Asia, is expanding at a rapid rate, raking in millions and billions in revenue. China is the world’s biggest e-commerce country with a very well-developed industry. With Amazon seeking stakes in some of China and south-east Asia’s e-commerce markets, as well as other western players seeking to gain a foothold in China and Asia as a whole, it’s critical to have a well-developed business strategy and one of these is relying on stable, reliable and quality localization services. E-commerce is about to develop even more when such a wide variety of businesses are going virtual. Chinese e-commerce, in particular, is home to some of the world’s largest e-commerce giants and it’s certainly an attractive market worth exploring. There are some things we can advise entrepreneurs to consider when making such a move.

1. Research and find your niche

The Chinese e-commerce market is not only limited to large cities like Beijing and Shanghai. It’s moving to rural areas as well with same-day or even next-day deliveries being possible. Moreover, there’s a strong demand for a wide range of consumer products, ranging from cosmetics, apparel, items for the home, appliances, electronics, and others. When entering the Chinese or south-east Asian markets, consider which niche you’re targeting. What products do you have to offer? Which market segment are you aiming to develop? Research into your niche will be a crucial starting point for developing your e-commerce business there.

2. Tackle legislation carefully

Legislation is something that no company can go around and circumvent. It is simply a given fact and knowing its requirements and stipulations is a critical starting point. In particular, with the rise in Chinese e-commerce giants, your business will need to take into account whether you need to bring your products to mainland China, whether there will be cross-border trade and the subsequent import legislation that this will entail, the method of delivery, website regulations, etc. For this, you will need a solid translation partner to help you meet these legislative requirements.

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3. Be ready to go mobile first

localization for e-commerceIn May 2015, Indian e-retailer, Myntra.com decided to opt for a mobile-only platform based on the fact that mobile drives around 70% of sales. This type of move can be smart, but it really depends on your market as you don’t want to lose out on even a small percentage of potential customers by not offering them a desktop experience. In China, for example, mobile is an increasingly dominant way of shopping and your business should be prepared to go mobile-first. As you consider developing your mobile app, you will need a localization partner who you can rely on to ensure that your marketing message is conveyed as effectively as possible. The same is true for any marketing campaigns you have, in-app descriptions, and importantly, reviews. Reviews are gold for your audience and correctly translated reviews could go a long way to offering you a higher potential for sales.

4. Consider rural areas and low internet penetration there

The rural market in China remains largely untapped. This is mainly owing to the low Internet penetration there. But just because the internet penetration is low does not mean that it is non-existent and that you shouldn’t be ready to cater to this type of clientele. What this will translate into is a readjusted service offering that might entail your business needing to be able to offer hand-on delivery as well as in-person payments or cash-on-delivery. This is especially the case if your business offers tangible and material products.

5. Localize, localize, localize

The last piece of advice we can offer when creating your business strategy for expansion into China and south-east Asia is to localize. You need to carefully analyze your target audience and make sure you speak its language. Japan’s Rakuten is one example of an Asian e-commerce giant which is trying to enter western markets by ensuring that all internal and external communication is done in English. However, such “Englishnization” might result in the wrong message being conveyed due to incorrect translations. The importance of translation and localization for e-commerce is crucial as it will enable you to not only speak your audience’s language but cater your message to speak to them, ultimately reaching more customers. In addition, you may make use of modern machine translation (MT) but do so with a touch of professional polishing through MTPE – Machine Translation Post-Editing.

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Shopee, Lazada, JD Worldwide, and TMall Global are just some of the e-commerce giants in China and south-east Asia which are taking the continent by storm. Research indicates that there is significant potential for e-commerce growth in south-east Asia as well as China and tailoring your message to the local market through effective localization will be a critical step. In this blog post, we outlined five different factors for you to consider when taking your business to China and Asia. A potentially very profitable venture, you need to ensure that your marketing message is as effective as possible. You will also need a translation partner to figure out the legal framework within which you’ll operate, and also adjust your product offering by going mobile in addition to offering your desktop clients a chance to shop from the comfort of their PCs. Lastly, catering to the Chinese rural population could be a significant untapped market that has enormous potential, and you may need to adjust your offering to suit cash-on-delivery needs due to financially underdeveloped or underserved potential clients.