The China Opportunity

Misha Pabari

June 15, 2021

Ecommerce has come a long way in China in a decade, and Chinese online shoppers should be considered among the most sophisticated in the world. In this blog we outline the opportunity for US brands who are looking to expand into China and grow their sales in one of the world’s largest international markets.

A snapshot of China’s growing economy

China’s growing economy provides a huge opportunity for brands looking to expand into new markets, and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, online sales of consumer goods rose by 14.8% in 2020 according to official figures, now making up about one-quarter of total retail sales. With a rising population who are accustomed to shopping online, even the Chinese government has put in place plans to target further GDP growth of more than 6% in 2021.

Chinese ecommerce is dominated by three big players Alibaba–which runs Tmall, Tmall Global, and Taobao–JD.com, and newer entrant Pinduoduo. In addition to this, smaller specialist marketplaces have sprung up to be expert in particular product categories, and larger brands tend to have a Chinese direct-to-consumer site as well.

China Statistics

Tmall’s worldwide reach

Boasting 779 million annual active consumers in China in 2020 alone, Tmall–owned by parent company Alibaba–has been able to retain the top position for share of Chinese ecommerce sales with its constant focus on innovation and improvement. With circa 60% market share in China, the marketplace acts as a first port of call when searching for products and product content.

The domestic and cross-border versions of Tmall are both available to Western brands. Those with a business entity in China can use the domestic version of the marketplace. Those without a local entity are encouraged to use Tmall Global and trade cross-border.

Tmall Statistics

Selling cross-border on Tmall Global

At the height of pandemic lockdowns across the globe last year, many brands rethought their ecommerce approach and turned to China, a resilient market post-coronavirus and a driver of global consumption. Tmall has worked hard to add brands and merchants to the cross-border platform as a pull for more users, and during 2020 the number of brands trading on the platform increased by 60%.

To support this growth, Alibaba has created several initiatives to help brands pick up the pace of digital transformation in the market. Alibaba has created warehousing in Western markets so brands trading cross-border can store their product at home–and Tmall exports the product to China when the order is placed. For new brands starting out, this can be cheaper than arranging warehousing for cross-border orders in Hong Kong, and will also likely mean orders are received more quickly than if the brand is shipping orders from its home market to Chinese consumers itself.

Learn more about how to successfully grow your business in the China market

China’s scale and willingness to embrace online shopping makes it an attractive market to expand to for USA and UK brands. While this is true, there can also be reasons why this market may be difficult to crack. Entering China requires significant investment in brand awareness and acquisition marketing, as well as a willingness to take a longer-term view on breaking even.

In our upcoming webinar, we’ll discuss key components to prepare for branching into the China market, launching onto Tmall, marketing techniques on both Tmall and other external drivers, trading and marketing KPIs, and finding the right trade partner.

Throughout the webinar there will be opportunities to ask any questions you have regarding growing your business in the China market, launching on Tmall, and other questions around going international.

To learn more, Register Now for our webinar: Accelerate Your International Presence–China, or request a demo and get started today.

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Slowing Inflation is Music to Consumers’ Ears
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Slowing Inflation is Music to Consumers’ Ears

**Instrument Pricing Changes Tune Amid Record Inflation** Compared to 2022, consumers should expect to pay more for musical instruments, but the rate of inflation shows signs of slowing. **The backstory:** America’s most popular musical instruments saw a notable price increase in 2022 compared to 2021, but the rate of inflation eased in Q4 ’22. **Why it matters:** Slowing inflation within this product category could indicate economic pressures like increased demand, rising labor costs, and supply chain disruptions are easing across the consumer landscape. **What we’re seeing:** The average cost of musical instruments increased 7.5% from 2021 – 2022; however, when analyzing individual increases year over year, some instruments saw price increases as high as 21%. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for Instruments — 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Bar Chart" id="datawrapper-chart-02Lwk" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/02Lwk/2/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="379" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * Trombones experienced a 21.73% increase compared to 2021 * Trumpets +20.08% * Flutes +18.6% * Recorders +16.13% * Saxophones +13.63% * Clarinets +10.55% * Drums +5.41% * Ukuleles +5.17% **However:** Inflation among these same instruments was significantly less in Q4 ’22 compared to Q4 ’21. In some cases, prices decreased from Q4 ’21 – Q4 ‘22: <iframe title="Price Change for Instruments — Q4 2022 vs. Q4 2021" aria-label="Bar Chart" id="datawrapper-chart-6X6GZ" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/6X6GZ/2/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="379" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * Trombones +11.23% * Flutes +10.41% * Saxophones +5.94% * Clarinets +5.59% * Trumpets +3.10% * Recorders +2.85% * Drums -2.59% * Ukuleles -8.46% **Moreover:** Certain instruments saw inflation reverse in 2022. On average, prices for melodicas, guitars, and violas saw their prices decrease by 4.41%, 3.19%, and 0.97%, respectively. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for Instruments — 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Bar Chart" id="datawrapper-chart-0Tefk" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/0Tefk/3/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="259" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> **Diving Deeper:** Inflation was more significant when comparing Q4 ’21 to Q4 ’20 than when comparing Q4 ’22 to Q4 ’21, indicating a slowing down of price increases for consumers. <iframe title="YOY Q4 Price Change for Instruments — 2020 – 2022" aria-label="Stacked Bars" id="datawrapper-chart-p6iqt" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/p6iqt/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="206" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * In Q4 ’21, average prices for all instruments were up 8.89% compared to Q4 ’20. * When comparing Q4 ’22 to Q4 ’21, the average price for all instruments only increased by 2.65%. **The takeaway:** While consumers should expect to pay higher prices for instruments this year, overall inflation impact within this product category appears to be slowing down. With National Ukulele Day coming up on February 2, now is a great time for ecommerce brands to take advantage of slowing economic worries and reach new consumers. * Want Pattern’s data science team to power your brand with consumer insights like these? Contact us to [request more information](https://pattern.com/contact-us/) today.

Slowing Inflation? What Musical Instrument Pricing Tells Us
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Slowing Inflation? What Musical Instrument Pricing Tells Us

It’s safe to say consumers and brands alike are eager for a change to the pattern of rising inflation, steadily increasing in many ecommerce categories . Pattern’s internal team’s data scientists analysis of instrument pricing shows a glimmer of hope that inflation may be slowing, which would be great news for brands selling online.

At Pattern, we’re interested in and monitoring trends and news related to pricing since price is a key factor in a brand’s profitability (as explained in the Ecommerce Equation). When brands are able to optimize their price, conversions, and traffic, they can optimize their profitability. And profitability leads to better allocation of resources, better brand control, and gives leaders the ability to expand their presence to new markets worldwide.

YoY Instrument Pricing Increased at a Slower Pace

When analyzing the pricing changes of instruments from 2021 to 2022, our teams found that prices increased, but at a slower rate than from 2020 to 2021.

As shown below, the year over year Q4 changes show quite a lower rate of increase.

Inflation Improvements Raise Profitability

Because inflation impacts online shopping behaviors, lower inflation can lead to better overall profitability for brands. This idea, of course, is nuanced, but Pattern’s Ecommerce Equation can help illustrate the general principle.

When inflation rises, consumers change their spending habits. Shoppers spend more time researching products, forego premium, higher-priced brands, and buy more in bulk. Brands tend to see a loss of loyalty as they’re forced to raise prices.

Price is a key variable in the Ecommerce Equation: price x conversion x traffic = profitability. As inflation lowers, brands can expect better performance in all of these areas—more traffic as spending habits return to normal, higher conversion from returning customers, and price that better fits consumer demand. As inflation lowers and these variables stabilize, brands will see profitability increase.

Raise Your Profitability with Pattern

As an ecommerce accelerator, Pattern is obsessed with gathering data that helps our brand partners succeed. We’ve created best-in-class technology, models, and analytics to understand changes on the horizon and inform our decisions. With an incredible team of data obsessed Pattern employees, we see what makes the difference in truly great ecommerce performance and apply those learnings for brand partners. 

Ready to improve your profitability? Contact us here.

Inflation hits LEGO, but lighter than you’d suspect
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Inflation hits LEGO, but lighter than you’d suspect

**Some sets get more expensive, while others become cheaper** In June 2022, LEGO announced it would be increasing the prices of their sets. Ever since, consumers anticipated their favorite plastic construction toy prices to increase [by as much as 25%](https://9to5toys.com/2022/06/02/lego-officially-confirms-price-increases-coming-to-most-sets-later-this-fall/). **Why it matters:** Consumers are feeling the sting of inflation in all areas of their lives, from groceries and gas to entertainment. With LEGO Day right around the corner (January 28th), fans may wonder whether it’s a good time to purchase a set. **What we’re seeing:** While inflation continues to ravage the economy, consumers are seeing a small reprieve when it comes to the pricing of LEGO sets. Despite the anticipated 25% price increase, average prices among the top LEGO sets only increased by 4.7% year over year when comparing Q4 2022 to Q4 2021. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for All LEGO Sets – 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Interactive line chart" id="datawrapper-chart-3gn9L" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/3gn9L/3/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="393" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * During this same period, annual prices for some of the most popular LEGO sets were up as much as 23%. <iframe title="U.S. Price Change for LEGO Sets – Q4 22 vs. Q4 21" aria-label="Split Bars" id="datawrapper-chart-vh7B2" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/vh7B2/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="708" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> **Yes, but:** Prices of other popular sets were down by as much as -12% during this same period. Depending on the kit, consumers might actually find some popular LEGO sets have gotten less expensive since 2021: * LEGO Star Wars Imperial Probe Droid was down -6% in Q4 2022 vs. Q4 2021 * LEGO Creator Tuk Tuk was down -7% * LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Millennium Falcon was down -10% * LEGO Ideas Tree House Business Kit was down -12% **However:** Even for the sets that experienced a price decrease, the decrease was less significant in Q4 2022 as set prices increased across the board following the June 2022 announcement. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for Individual LEGO Sets – 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Interactive line chart" id="datawrapper-chart-KjSXz" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/KjSXz/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="400" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> **The takeaway:** While prices didn’t increase as much as consumers anticipated, inflation still had an effect on the cost of LEGO sets. As ecommerce brands prepare for increased demand ahead of LEGO Day, they could increase customer interest in all sets by promoting the sets that have seen a price decrease. * Pattern’s data science team analyzes consumer demand on Amazon to understand how economic forces impact pricing and shopping behavior. If you’re interested in using insights like these to propel your ecommerce strategy forward, [contact our team today. ](https://pattern.com/contact-us/)