Read on to learn about the highlights of the week:
Chinese Consumers in the Spotlight
UK-China Consumer Week placed China’s consumers in the spotlight. Often misunderstood by international brands, Chinese consumers are highly sophisticated shoppers, and often think deeply about the brands they purchase and how these will reflect their identity and style. Unsurprisingly, due to China’s vast size, differing levels of development, and diversity there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to selling to China.
Attendees got to know China’s so called ‘consumer tribes’ - such as the ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Too Cool’ clans. They also benefited from the sharing of case studies of international brands in the Chinese market, including British Airways and Innocent Drinks’ campaigns targeted at China’s Sea Turtles: i.e. Chinese students returning from study abroad who want to express their international experiences in their consumption choices.
Issues close to the hearts of many Chinese consumers, amongst them social and environmental responsibility and sustainability were also presented to attendees.
Finally, China’s recent ‘Guochao’ rise of home-grown brands and consumer nationalism was touched upon, and attendees were advised on how to avoid cultural faux pas and misunderstandings. UK brands in attendance learned that staying curious and taking the time to research, connect with and get to know your consumers in China is of critical importance to achieving success and longevity for your brand in-market.
“New to market brands should focus on niche markets, be very targeted with their consumer groups and spend their China budget wisely. Make sure you are aware of the costs involved – China is a very big market but also an expensive one.” - Elan Shou, Ruder Finn China
“Success in China hinges on continued curiosity; the speed of change and fluidity of consumer identities mean that we should all be constantly questioning our understanding and approach to the market.” – TONG Co-Founder, Adam Knight
China’s Retail Landscape
Also top of the agenda for the week was exploring China’s highly dynamic and incredibly innovative Retail ecosystem. The impact of the global pandemic on China was examined, and speakers explored how the pandemic has catalysed accelerated experimentation and innovation in China's Retail landscape.
Under China’s ‘New Normal’ and the ‘stay-at-home-economy’, attendees learned how the behaviours and expectations of shoppers are constantly evolving and how retailers are keeping pace with this, for example via engaging with those confined to their homes via livestreaming, or lightening the mood with gamification and virtual avatars.
UK-China Consumer Week’s programme took a deep-dive into the intersection of physical and digital (‘Phygital’) retail in China and attendees learned that despite rapid online innovation, bricks and mortar still places an important role in retail in China. The example of HEMA – a fresh produce superstore which seamlessly blends physical and digital retail via its powerful omnichannel strategy – was presented to the audience. The importance of engaging with Chinese consumers via multiple touchpoints was also stressed (A recent study found that on average Chinese shoppers need 15 touch points in formulating a retail decision compared to 7 for Western consumers).
Localisation was the one word which kept resurfacing throughout the week. Attendees were encouraged to think carefully about how their brand and products can best fit into the Chinese market – and indeed whether they will fit at all - from the packaging and name, to contents and ingredients used, to the Tier of city in which products are released: the importance of understanding China’s cultural characteristics was integral to the week’s programme.
“Brand collateral should be short, powerful, easy to remember and easy to share”. - Zhang Chenyun, Penguin Guide
“The China market is an amplifier. If you have a successful brand story in the UK, you can work towards amplifying that in the Chinese market.” - Syek-Yi Chan, Charlotte Tilbury
Social Media & Social Commerce
China’s unique and ever-changing social media channels and how these can be applied to selling products and building brand awareness was also a key talking point in the week. In particular, China’s leading social media platform, with 400 million daily active users, WeChat was examined, via the case study of leading Chinese make-up brand, Perfect Diary’s social commerce strategy and phenomenal resulting success via WeChat groups was placed in the spotlight.
The power of social commerce to foster a sense of community, exclusivity and belonging amongst Chinese consumers often searching for their ‘tribe’, can pose great potential for UK brands looking to build their reputation and presence in-market.
Guests also enjoyed hands-on Digital Tools Interactive Sessions whereby expert speakers demonstrated WeChat, Taobao, TMall and Little Red Book, and how these can be used by UK brands.
“Content is king in China. Understand the power of your brand story in China and use it. Be culturally sensitive and localise at the right time.” - Johannes Neubacher, WWD China
The Power of Partnership
Navigating the journey into the Chinese market is often easier when working in collaboration with a partner. UK-China Consumer Week shared practical insights into how to establish, maintain and execute a successful partnership – whether this be with a distributor, Cross-border E-commerce platform, or celebrity endorsements. Again, strong communication and cultural understanding, underpinned by legal advice and IP protection are key to protecting your brand and your company partnerships in the China market.
British companies operating in the Retail, Food and Drink and Consumer sectors also had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with leading E-commerce and trade platforms as well as buyers, distributors and department stores in one-to-one business matchmaking sessions throughout the week.
“Don’t underestimate the costs of market entry for China. Big market does not mean everyone can make money. Review your market position before creating an entry strategy.” - Mike Hofmann, Melchers China
China’s KOL Economy & the Rise of Livestreaming
The finale of UK-China Consumer Week 2021 focused on what many consider to be one of the most exciting and fast developing areas of China’s consumer landscape: that is the rise of China’s Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and the emergence of Livestreaming as a popular means to buy and sell products – with an estimated 265 million consumers shopping via livestreaming as of March 2020.
Three leading Chinese KOLs – Dabo, K, and Tan Liren - joined for a highly informative session whereupon they shared with the audience their first-hand experience and insights on how to best work with China’s KOLs to turbo-boost brand sales. The KOLs advised British brands on the best times of year to launch marketing campaigns in China, recommending the Chinese New Year and Golden Week holidays, and explored potential new formats and emerging trends in KOL marketing.
The week’s programme culminated in the UK Super Brand Day event, a highly unusual opportunity for UK brands to showcase their products via livestream on Taobao Live with KOL, Wen Yi who has 6.1 million followers on Weibo.
The lively event attracted 470,000 online views and was the perfect way to conclude what has been an exciting and dynamic week, full of learning and a sense of community and shared goals.
CBBC would like to express our thanks to all attendees, speakers, supporting organisations and our sponsors - TONG, Elanders Group, Samarkand Global, Ruder Finn, and ADN Import Foods - who made the week possible.
To watch the recordings of the UK-China Consumer Week’s sessions, please click:
UK-China Consumer Week 2021 Webinar Recordings