5 Things to Look for in a China Trade Partner

Rachel Olsen

July 26, 2022

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.

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MAP Pricing vs MSRP: What's the Difference? (blog header)
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MAP Pricing vs. MSRP: What's the Difference?

“MAP” and “MSRP” are two of hundreds of acronyms floating around in the world of ecommerce, and they’re two of the easiest to confuse and misunderstand. While MAP and MSRP do play similar roles, they also have key differences that can work in tandem to support and protect your brand on marketplaces.

So what are MAP and MSRP and why do they matter? Here’s what you should know: 

What is MAP?

MAP (or minimum advertised price) is the minimum amount that a manufacturer or wholesaler recommends resellers advertise their products for. MAP pricing policy is essentially a one-way boundary you set to protect your brand, protect the margins of your resellers, and maintain fair competition across all of your distribution channels.

When setting a MAP policy strategy, remember the important things you’ll want your MAP policy to do are:

  1. Protect the interests of your brick-and-mortar resellers, giving them the margins they need to display and carry your product as well as sell it.

  2. Stay small enough that it discourages resellers from heavily discounting your products and keeps competition fair.

  3. Accurately reflects on the brand image and value you want to reflect.

“Advertising” and “recommends” are the key terms here. MAP policies should only recommend the price that is advertised online or in-store for a product, not attempt to fix the actual selling price of the product—that’s illegal—or recommend the actual selling price. That’s MSRP’s job.

Benefits of MAP

MAP not only keeps competition fair, but allows you to control your brand identity and promote consumer trust of your product and brand. Here are some of the benefits of having MAP policies:

  • Better brand protection and control

  • Creates a level playing field for retailers

  • Reduces bad customer experiences

  • Provides an accurate performance analysis

How Can Brands Effectively Enforce MAP?

It’s critical that MAP policies are structured in such a way that a brand avoids violating anti-trust laws. One way brands can effectively enforce MAP is by simply monitoring online product prices across digital channels to identify fluctuations in the market. 

At Pattern, we help brands not only develop a MAP policy, but also enforce it. Enforcing MAP policies and gaining marketplace control includes finding unauthorized sellers, which Pattern’s data finds. Once Pattern finds the unauthorized sellers, Vorys eControls (Pattern’s legal partner) steps in and handles the takedowns of unauthorized sellers, continuous enforcement of brand management, and reseller policy enforcements.

What is MSRP?

MSRP (or manufacturer’s suggested retail price) is how manufacturers standardize pricing across their resale channel and determine what price is fair for their product. The key difference between MSRP and MAP is that MSRP is the actual price manufacturers set and recommend retailers charge for their goods while MAP is the advertised price. 

MSRP doesn’t necessarily have to be the final price of a product—it’s most often a starting price—but it is determined by taking into account all of the costs associated with the distribution and manufacturing process for a product and the margin amount resellers need in order to make a profit. MSRP also establishes value. For example, if a brand wants to build a premium brand, the MSRP can reflect the actual or perceived value of their product.

Benefits of MSRP

Setting up an MSRP for your product includes the following benefits:

  • Maintains brand equity

  • Establishes brand and product value

  • Standardizes costs across marketplaces

How Can Brands Effectively Enforce MSRP?

Like MAP pricing, MSRP has to be set up as a one-way policy and not an agreement between a manufacturer and a reseller to avoid landing a manufacturer on the wrong side of the law. It’s a recommendation, not a contractual bind. As mentioned for MAP policy, Pattern helps brands effectively enforce MSRP with our proprietary data and expertise to protect their brand. 

How Do MAP and MSRP Work Together?

MAP and MSRP have different applications that may prove useful in different scenarios. For example, MAP policies are typically more useful in marketplaces where competition is fierce and price erosion happens easily if sellers are left unchecked. Ideally, however, MAP and MSRP are a dynamic duo that work together to serve the interests of your brand, support your resale channels, and protect your resellers.

Setting an MSRP establishes value for your product and lets your resellers know you’re serious about controlling channel conflict, maintaining pricing equity, and protecting their margins so they’re more confident setting pricing at the MSRP level.

MAP is the second half of setting a pricing policy. Setting a MAP price for your product, in addition to an MSRP, further standardizes pricing across your resale channel and gives legitimate resellers a fair environment to compete in while setting boundaries against unauthorized sellers harming your brand.

MAP combined with MSRP creates a stronger level of brand protection, giving your brand more sustainable, profitable growth.

Maintain Brand Control With Pattern

MAP policies can be tricky to draft, because there are so many legal lines to tiptoe around and so much nuance that goes into pricing. They can also be tricky to enforce without the right tools. At Pattern, partnered with Vorys, we have the tools and resources to help you maintain brand control on all marketplaces. 

As an ecommerce accelerator, Pattern can help you identify MAP violators and regain control of your brand online so that your image and your resellers are protected. To learn more, contact us today.

Athlon Optics Walmart.com Launch Has Record Setting Sales within 3 Days
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Athlon Optics Walmart.com Launch Has Record Setting Sales within 3 Days

Athlon Optics sells scopes and other optical accessories like binoculars for anyone who may be hunting, shooting recreationally, or competing.  After achieving significant success on Amazon, the brand wanted to launch on Walmart. As a growing marketplace with huge growth forecasts, Athlon saw their competitors already staking claim on walmart.com and saw opportunities for increasing their sales.

As a prestigious brand in its category, with loyal consumers, Athlon does so much with very few resources. With less than twenty employees in the entire company, managing everything from customer service to product development, their ecommerce team needed support to scale to a new marketplace.  And, they needed a partner who had a relationship with and deep understanding of walmart.com to accelerate their growth. Pattern is a one-stop shop for Athlon, providing the resources and expertise, so Athlon could also save budget and stop outsourcing so many different aspects of their marketplace business.

Athlon Optics Prepares for a Seamless Launch

Sometimes brands who transition from 1P to 3P with Pattern have no proprietary sales, marketplace data or content such as product images, video, or optimized copy. These circumstances create a more hands on transition for Pattern and may interfere with launch expectations. 

But Athlon was the consummate partner and overly prepared to transition to 3P– buttoned up, organized, and ready to take on walmart.com’s list of launch needs. Athlon provided all the required assets on time and was very organized.  The images were shot, formatted, and categorized as A+ content that Pattern ported over.  This process dramatically reduced wait times and lag times within the platform.  Plus, since the content was optimized for marketplaces, all images, copy, and listing information uploaded in the first pass. 

Pattern’s Walmart Expertise Leads to Success

But the content worked because of Pattern’s resources and marketplace expertise.  Pattern provided Athlon with a very clear outline of needs and expectations for seamless launch and this process has become a playbook for other brands on walmart.com.  The team’s mutual partnership and Pattern’s diligent follow up with and detailed attention to Walmart processes and logistics prevented Athlon from getting lost in the weeds. 

Three Days is All it Takes

The successful, thorough, and quick transition to 3P with Pattern secured Athlon most likely the fastest ramp-up periods for any brand on Walmart.com.  

Together we achieved success such as:

  • 'Best in class' turnaround–98% faster onboarding than average brand on Walmart.

  • First sale within the first week of landing at Walmart. 

    • Unprecedented turnaround considering the ramp up usually needed to gain momentum and traction with reviews on Walmart. 

  • Exceeded initial first month growth projection by 34%.

Athlon was so impressed by the ease and simplicity of its launch and execution on Walmart that the brand wants to grow our 3P relationship with other marketplaces such as Amazon Canada and Target+.

And, in the meantime, look out for Athlon Optics in Walmart Deal Days in 2022.  A huge win for any brand tied to organic advertising and new traffic opportunities across all media.

Pattern Helps Brands Expand Marketplaces 

Pattern has the 3P partner experience and deep expertise on Walmart and other global marketplaces to help a brand expand their footprint to maintain sales momentum and a competitive edge. Pattern, an ecommerce accelerator, takes on the responsibility of your stock and provides the expert resources needed to successfully launch and continue to grow your revenue on global marketplaces. 

Learn more about Pattern’s expertise and partnership on Walmart.  Contact us today.

Amazon A+ Content
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Amazon A+ and Premium A+ Content: Pros and Cons Brands Need to Know

Long gone are the days when Amazon listings were limited to a simple product description, five bullet points, and eight pictures. As the platform, and number of sellers, has grown, sellers have had to be more and more strategic and eye-catching to increase traffic and conversions on their listings.

Brands on Amazon have plenty of attractive options available to design their Amazon storefront, which reside in two of Amazon’s content tools: A+ Content and Premium A+ Content (or  A++ Content).

Here’s the pros and cons of brands using A+ Content vs. Premium A+ Content:

What is Amazon A+ Content?

Amazon A+ Content is a standard feature available to all Amazon Sellers and free as one of the many benefits of Amazon Brand Registry. 

With A+ Content, a product listing can have more than a plain text description and standard photo reel–it can include high quality multimedia photos and videos alongside eye-catching information to share the product story, and not just the product appearance.

Some noteworthy features that Amazon A+ offers are:

  • Multiple, varied images of a product

  • Strategically concise introduction

  • Video

  • Bullet points

  • 360° product views

  • Matrix comparison charts

  • “What’s in the box” section

What is Amazon Premium A+ Content?

Amazon Premium A+ Content, or Amazon A++ Content, is a tool that goes a level beyond basic A+ Content, giving brands the ability to showcase their product’s most important features and benefits with a modern, visually appealing structure. 

In August 2022, Amazon announced Premium A+ would be available on Seller Central for free usage during a promotional period. Previously, Premium A+ content was available only by invite for brands using Vendor Central and could cost anywhere from $250K and $500K per product. 

With Premium A+ content, a brand visually communicates using imagery and video, and relies much less on text due to strict character limits for product descriptions. According to Amazon, implementing Premium A+ content can increase your sales by 20%.

For the first time ever, Premium A+ expands the usable real estate of the page, using the entire width of the screen for a sophisticated and modern feel.

Some noteworthy features that Premium A+ offers are:

  • Video

  • Full-width imagery

  • More space

  • Clickable Q&A

  • Interactive comparison charts

  • Carousel modules

  • Mobile-friendly and voice-friendly product pages

  • Testimonials

Pros and Cons of Amazon A+ vs. Premium A+ Content

Although their purposes are similar, there are some key differences between A+ Content and Premium A+ Content. Here are the pros and cons for each tool:

Basic Amazon A+ Content

Pros:

  • Free and unlimited use for all Vendors.

  • An effective tool to enhance customer experience and product listings.

Cons:

  • Less features than Premium A+.

  • It's not as visually appealing as Premium A+.

Premium A+ Content

Pros:

  • There are 16 extra modules to choose from that are media-rich and make an impact.

  • You have two more available module slots than Basic Amazon A+.

  • Overall, there are more possibilities for hyper-engaging content.

  • You can expect a sales rate increase of up to 20% with Premium A+, according to Amazon.

Cons:

  • Amazon has positioned Premium A+ content as more of an exclusive tool, requiring eligibility based on past content to qualify for Premium A+ content. 

  • Character limit restrictions are more strict than Basic Amazon A+.

Elevate Your Amazon Content with Pattern

Ultimately, both of these tools exist to help you and your brand provide customers the best online shopping experience possible. Although Premium A+ offers plenty of exciting new options for enhancing customers’ buying experience, it may not be for everyone. Optimizing your Amazon listing with A+ or Premium A+ Content can provide the best opportunity to build a strong reputation for better brand-recognition and customer affinity. 

Our creative and digital marketing experts at Pattern can help brands use A+ Content and Premium A+ Content to increase conversions and give buyers an amazing experience.

Learn how Pattern can help you increase conversions on Amazon. Contact us