July 27, 2020

Keys to Ecommerce Growth in China: Pattern Success Stories & Best Practices

By George Hatch / Tmall, Global Ecommerce

China. It’s the next frontier for many U.S. ecommerce brands. It’s also a giant question mark: How?

“If you talk to U.S. brands very long, you start realizing one of the more compelling pieces to them is, ‘How can I move my product internationally?’ and China always comes up,” said Pattern’s Co-Founder and CEO, David Wright.

There are many unknowns for brands newly considering China, such as shipping and marketing logistics and establishing brand recognition. The exciting thing is that brands willing to do the work are finding lots of success selling in China. Pattern brands that have moved their business into China have seen their sales double, and it’s not an unrealistic number.

So what is the secret? How are brands finding success and growth in China?

Here are a few Pattern brands that have found successful growth in the country and what they’ve done to get there.

China Case Study: Thorne building Tmall from the ground up

Thorne Research is a U.S. healthcare and supplements company that wanted to expand their reach into the China market. In September 2019, with Pattern’s help, Thorne successfully launched a Tmall Global flagship store (similar to Amazon, Tmall is a platform for Chinese and international businesses to sell brand name goods to consumers) and was able to establish brand recognition in the country.

Since its launch on Tmall, Thorne has achieved a month on month growth of over 100% each month. China is now its second largest market after the U.S., and in six months, Thorne’s store ranking jumped from Tier One to Tier Four, putting it in the top 15% of supplement stores on the Chinese market.

How did Thorne win big in China?

Two of the key elements of Thorne’s success were to have a local team on the ground establishing on and offline brand partnerships and to leverage multi-channel marketing to their advantage.

Launch event

Thorne was welcomed into China with a sponsored Launch Event featuring well-known Chinese athletes in partnership with the brand as well as social media influencers and media invited to cover the event. The Baidu search index (Baidu is China’s largest search engine) for Thorne recorded 27% YOY growth attributed to the launch event.

Chinese Influencer marketing success story | Pattern

Read more about Thorne’s success in China here.

Chinese social media marketing and ecommerce platforms

Just as U.S. brands do on U.S.-based social media platforms, Thorne created a presence on Chinese social media platforms like WeChat, Weibo, and RED to raise awareness through their official accounts. Thorne has continued to establish brand awareness on social media by engaging and partnering with key opinion leaders and consumers in a micro-influencer/ambassador type relationship.

China social media marketing for ecommerce | Pattern

Live-stream shopping

Thorne’s daily sales have increased by 27% due to regular, 3-hour long live casts on their Tmall store that are customized to each demographic of customer. Visitors can access the videos through four different channels: a live casting channel, the store homepage, Weitao (the built-in social media platform for Taobao and Tmall), and AI referral. They can also get exclusive vouchers through these channels.

Chinese livestreaming sales success story | Pattern

Partnerships

One thing that has worked really well for Thorne’s products is for the brand to partner with hospitals and clinics by creating OOH marketing, get their name dropped in healthcare seminars, and partner with offline and online doctors who can make recommendations and help increase brand recognition.

In addition to partnerships for marketing, Thorne collaborated with health management institutions with a large demand for food supplements. B2B2C sales now contribute to about 33% of Thorne’s total sales volume.

China Case Study: Jewelry brand expanding global footprint

This jewelry brand partner has a global footprint across 100 countries and €2.7 billion turnover. While they were well-represented in the Asia Pacific region with physical stores, they didn’t have an ecommerce presence in China.

Pattern developed a digital roadmap for the brand that included a two-pronged strategy for direct and marketplace sales in China, and they offered support during the brand’s site roll-outs in each market.

Following the launch of this brand’s Tmall site, their Chinese sales rose 120% year on year, and China now comprises 30% of the total Asia Pacifc sales for the brand. The brand has been so successful that they’re working with Pattern to establish a similar presence in the Europe and Middle East and North Africa regions.

China Case Study: Skechers building a D2C site

Skechers is a brand that already had an established presence in China and was experiencing much success across Asia, including on Tmall, when they were presented with the opportunity to grow their business further through a D2C digital channel. This channel would serve their customers better and engage them more.

Armed with Pattern analysts and ecommerce consultants that helped the brand access in-market technology and project management and advisory services, Skechers was able to select a system integrator for China, facilitate successful partnerships that helped their brand grow, and in 2018-2019, experience a YOY sales growth of 12% on their D2C site. Skechers currently has one of the biggest D2C sites in China.

Read more about Skechers’ success in China here.

What these brands have in common

Each of our brands that have found success in China have worked with Pattern’s local, on-the-ground team that knows both the country and the language well.

Local teams know exactly which multi-channel markets will lead to the greatest growth and success for your brand. They’re also able to establish partnerships with the right people and organizations to raise brand awareness.

According to Arthur Cheung, China General Manager for Pattern’s global digital consultancy arm, local teams diligently experiment with and test each ecosystem to see what strategies work best for which consumers. When it comes to social media, they help your brand cover the whole platform, partnering with 50-100 key opinion customers and content developers who can make sure that when customers look for your products, they find them.

With the help of local teams, Pattern brands across the board have experienced an average growth rate of 170%, Cheung said.

How Pattern is helping brands succeed in China

Through our local teams in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, Pattern provides brands with the resources they need to truly succeed in the Chinese market. This includes professional consultations, guidance through cultural, consumer, and trading nuances, and diversified partnerships that fit your brand.

Our team will analyze your overall ecommerce data, your competitors, and the opportunities available for your brand in the area. They’ll also give you the support you’ll need to have a successful launch.

To learn more about how Pattern can help your brand find success in China and Asia markets, reach out to our Pattern team below.

More Resources
Global Online Customer Report 2019