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5 Things to Look for in a China Trade Partner

If you’re succeeding on domestic ecommerce marketplaces, you’re likely looking for a new opportunity to help expand your brand's reach and stay competitive long-term. Entering China is a smart move if you’re a Western brand because you will have some advantages—Chinese consumers show special interest in high-quality foreign products and their brands often find it easier to build trust as a foreign seller.

It’s an exciting prospect to consider, but taking your products to China is no small feat. Many brands mistake the move as akin to entering a new domestic market or a new Amazon region. In truth, the experience is very different—there’s so much to learn before you start, like the nuances between different marketplaces, cultural practices you’ll need to adhere to, rules and regulations to follow…the list goes on.

For this reason, all brands expanding to China on any marketplace need to have a trade partner (or TP) to guide them through the process. But, it’s hard to find a TP you fully trust and will drive the best results for your brand. Partnering with an ecommerce accelerator like Pattern is an effective way to make sure you have what you need to be profitable on global marketplaces. We help brands gain all the global resources, marketplace logistics and administrative information, and cultural knowledge necessary to get your brand and products into China marketplaces the right way.

5 Essentials for a China Trade Partner

1. Experience

Any brand looking to enter China needs specialized knowledge and expertise to do it well. China is a much bigger market than what brands are used to—owning 50% of the world’s transactions. There are also many more competitors and unique obstacles to overcome. If you’re not prepared, things like the need for a physical presence in China, a strategy for in-person product interactions, getting the right resources for customer support and human touch points in the buyer’s journey, and determining the right distribution model can overwhelm your strategy.

For these reasons, you need to have experts on your side with the right mindset. Any TP you choose should understand the difficulties associated with launching in China and the fact that a long-term mindset is the only way you’ll succeed. To find a TP with the right experience, they should satisfactorily answer questions like:

  • Have you sold in my product’s category before?
  • Do you have the right background to know how my products will fit their target marketplaces before we launch?

Pattern helps a wide range of brands enter China markets. We know what it takes to succeed, and we have all of the knowledge and expertise you’ll need to make educated decisions about when and how to expand your brand to China marketplaces.

2. Transparency

Especially for brands that are unfamiliar with the nuances of China marketplaces, it’s imperative to understand how and where your products are being sold. A lack of transparency is the most common complaint we hear from brands entering the China ecommerce landscape.

In many cases, brands will pay their trade partner and then, without receiving any concrete information or documentation, assume their brand and products are well-represented. It’s fairly rare to see a TP that will provide access to warehouses, clear and accurate reports, and other hard evidence of your products’ performance.

We encourage you to find a trade partner who stands out from the crowd—someone who is willing to be transparent in all aspects of their partnership with you. A great first step is watching for what they’re willing to disclose while you’re considering your partnership. Such as:

  • Have they been successful with other brands?
  • Who else are they working with?
  • Do they sell products that could compete with yours on the same marketplaces?

Trade partners have a reputation for shielding their brands from information and details, but that doesn’t have to be a reality in your relationship. As you move forward in your decision making, transparency and accountability should be a large factor in choosing the right trade partner.

3. Data-Driven Mindset

A lack of data is another common issue with trade partners that goes hand-in-hand with transparency. Brands are typically unsure of the true performance of their products on Chinese marketplaces because their trade partners don’t provide them with specific data about their products’ performance and sales.

You can imagine the difficulties this creates—a TP may have many things to say anecdotally about your sales, but brands are shielded from the true numbers or an ability to access reporting. It’s harder for brands to be involved in their ecommerce strategy, make decisions, forecast, and grow their presence in China without clearly, concretely understanding what’s really going on.

Data powers everything we do at Pattern. As a certified TP, we share insights and brand performance with our partners and provide brands with access to proprietary dashboards to review their data to stay in the know about what’s going on with their products.

4. Brand Obsessed

To get the best results from your China presence, it’s best to make sure your trade partner truly has your brand’s best interests at heart. But unfortunately for many brands, trade partners’ profits can take precedence over their brands’ success. Brand obsession can be tricky to discern, though, especially when you’re limited in getting to know your trade partner by distance and conflicting time zones.

One way you can gauge your trade partner’s true loyalty to your brand is by paying close attention to how they’re paid. Product sales commissions are typically part of trade partners’ revenue model, but if they only represent a small portion of your partners’ earnings, you may want to think about looking at other options. You’ll know that your potential TP, if they’re transparent and data-driven, really wants you to succeed if they’ll put their earnings on the line to prioritize your profitability.

At Pattern, your success is our success. We structure our revenue model to be margin-based, which means, we aren’t paid until you are. We truly want the best for our brands and are fully committed to building healthy, long-term growth for your products throughout global marketplaces.

5. All-in-One Solution

Lastly, your trade partner should be well-equipped to serve you in whatever your brand needs to succeed. This means they should have all of the necessary functions to execute a holistic ecommerce strategy. If you need to hire a TP for your social media strategy, another to handle distribution, and another to manage your listings, you’re likely not getting the right value for your partnership.

Instead, you should find a solution that has the complete set of resources to do it all. When you find a true China ecommerce expert, they’ll have both the resources and know-how to execute the right overall strategy for your brand. They should be able to help you with the research and planning phases of your China launch as well as recommend and implement the best ways to help you grow in the right marketplaces for you.

Grow on Global Marketplaces with Pattern

As the world’s foremost ecommerce accelerator, Pattern can handle your end-to-end strategy to grow your brand both domestically and internationally. Pattern is an option to be your brand's trading partner since we know local languages, customs, and cultural nuances to clearly communicate your brand as we plan, strategize, and execute your products’ success in China. We make your success our business, dedicating expert teams, years of experience, and proprietary technology to find the best ways to take your products to consumers throughout the world. Discover how Pattern can be your trading partner. Schedule a call with us here.