OPENING YOUR MOBILE STORE IN CHINA—WHAT ARE THE BEST OPTIONS?
The success of the E-commerce industry in China is no secret. There are plenty of statistics proving the rapid and constant growth of this market, which is now worth several trillions of dollars and continues to have a bright future. However, what must be considered is how most of the transactions in this industry take place. All the statistics point to mobile stores as the key players in generating revenue.
Why Your E-store Needs to be Mobile for China?
Mobile usage in China is more widespread than in any other country. Smartphones are the preferred device to access the internet and manage daily duties. So much so that using apps like WeChat has become a way of life. For instance, paying bills, booking doctors’ appointments, buying movie tickets, ordering a taxi, and many other activities all take place on smartphones.
Currently, around 56% of online sales happen through a mobile device. However, during the past 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, also known as Single Day, this figure reached an incredible 90%!
One reason for these fantastic results is the well established mobile payment methods in China combined with the popular social media platforms such as WeChat.
With over 1 billion WeChat daily users and almost 800 million Alipay daily users, brands have to understands these two platforms and how to integrate the e/m-commerce ecosystem in China.
What are the Best Options for Building Your Mobile Store?
Before building your mobile store, it is crucial to understand each of the solutions available and the pros and cons of each. There are mainly three options to build a mobile store in China.
A. WeChat Integrated Solutions
Launched in 2011 as a messaging app, WeChat today counts on over 1.17 billion users that can no longer live without it. WeChat has become an integral part of the Chinese users’ life. Besides its messaging features, WeChat is currently what Chinese users use to transfer money, pay bills, buy tickets, order services, and, of course, shop online.
In recent years, WeChat Mini Program was released and favorably met by the public. It is a small application that functions within WeChat. Thanks to the many APIs for developers, WeChat Mini Program now looks very similar to native apps. A key factor contributing to this tool's success is that users can access it without downloading it to their devices. Since their inception, Mini Programs have been highly successful as marketing tools and in their ability to close sales directly from the WeChat Mini Program.
Opening a WeChat Store is another option. It is an E-commerce platform that exists within the WeChat ecosystem. They are basically mobile websites, often used to integrate existing traditional E-commerce, allowing users to shop directly from their mobile devices. Although the release of WeChat Mini Programs has affected the popularity of the WeChat Store, it is still useful to implement a mobile store because of its easy integration with mobile payments.
B. Mobile E-Commerce App
Another option to launch a mobile store is to develop your E-commerce app. This is a viable solution if you desire to have full control over your app. Not depending on any third party, you can design it exactly how you want and without having to adhere to any guidelines.
It allows you to achieve full integration with an existing E-commerce. You can make the design of your app entirely consistent with your existing E-commerce so that switching from one to the other will be a seamless experience for the user. You even have the freedom to display and feature the products exactly how you want. You can also customize your app, integrating as many features as you like. On the other hand, while developing your E-commerce app, you may have to deal with compatibility challenges with a different OS and other technical issues that may require a higher investment in terms of time and money.
C. Third-Party Platforms
A third option worth mentioning is joining an existing E-commerce platform. Several popular marketplaces like TMALL, Taobao, Pinduoduo, Xiaohongshu, Douyin, and Kuaishou rely on a vast user base. This may be a fast and profitable solution for many foreign companies wanting to enter a new market.
However, before committing yourself, there are some important downsides you must consider. One has to do with your brand recognition. When joining these platforms, you have no control whatsoever about design options as you must align with what the company has previously decided. Moreover, becoming a partner with one of these marketplaces requires an investment, usually one that is quite considerable on your part. Also, for each sale there are commissions to pay that will erode your margin even more.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that you lose control over your business. Since you have no say on fees and conditions applied, your mobile store's profitability depends on somebody else's decisions. In consideration of the above, we would suggest keeping this option as a very last resource.
Must Have Features for Your Mobile E-Commerce in China
Once you have finalized your decision to operate your mobile store in China, it is now time to think about some essential features.
1. Social E-commerce
Social E-commerce is a new trend that keeps on gaining traction in China. Social E-commerce allows users to buy products directly on the social media platform they are currently using. Additionally, users can easily share shopping links with their contacts on the same platform which comes with evident marketing benefits. The success of live events hosted on social media with the intent to promote products testifies to the power of social commerce.
Therefore, your mobile store needs to be smoothly integrated with social media to leverage this new trend. Considering that online retail transactions amounted to 14% in 2018 but are expected to reach 30% in 2020, an investment in this direction is well worth the effort.
2. Voice Assistant
Thanks to the spread of voice-controlled smart-home devices, many Chinese users are now turning to smart speakers when buying online. In time, more users will see touching a device to place an order as obsolete and unnecessary.
Integrating your mobile store with a voice assistant will allow your audience to shop at your store hassle-free. They just need to mention the product they want to purchase, and the voice assistant will recommend a list of available items. The consumers then need to use a voice command to confirm the purchase, shipping address, and payment method to close the order.
During the last 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, more than 1 million consumers used the Tmall Genie’s voice assistant to place and pay orders. As this process continues to gain traction, you must ensure that your mobile store meets this new demand.
3. Chinese Payment Gateways
How to collect money for your orders is a critical aspect of any E-commerce and your mobile store. Your goal is to provide a payment gateway that your customers are familiar with, makes them feel comfortable, is easy to use, and puts them in the right frame of mind to complete their order.
Unlike western markets, credit and debit cards are not very popular in China. People tend to be suspicious if these are the only available payment methods.
In China 7 Payments gateways are the most popular. Although it is not necessary to integrate all of them, you must come to understand which ones are most trusted by your specific audience and use these for your mobile store.
China is one of the markets that offer the best opportunity for online retail businesses. However, it is important to always be on top of your game in order to stay ahead of the competition. New trends, like mobile commerce must be integrated, and business models must adapt quickly.
Local knowledge is what gives you a definite advantage in this highly competitive market. We have over a decade of experience in developing web solutions specifically designed for the Chinese market. If you’d like us to help you build mobile commerce in China, contact us today.