How to Sell in China

Image: Anna Shvets via Pexels

Despite many obstacles to overcome selling in China, such as culture, traditions, and language barriers, it has become the most-targeted market for foreign brands due to its vast potential growth in online retail market. Although nothing can stop you from entering this huge market driven by your excitement and determination, it’s wise to plan thoroughly through in-depth research, as it will be a costly lesson to learn from your failure.

If you don’t want to get lost in this newly diversified market, there are a few tips all foreign brands should know.

A market that will continue to grow

Thanks to its increasing middle class and rapidly growing consumer power, the revenue in the B2C e-commerce is projected to hit US$1,635,804 million by 2025, and user penetration is expected to reach 83.5% by 2025, making China the largest online retail market worldwide.


It’s the fact that the main Chinese consumer force is mainly “the post ’80s generation” and “the post ’90s generation”.

Nevertheless, a rising power, Gen-Z (born in 1995-2000), has fully caught the marketers’ attention, resulting in a new marketing strategy should be adjusted immediately to adapt to the fast-changing Chinese e-consumers.

They were mostly born in a middle-class family, very active on social media and communities, and prefer to buy online as that’s where they can communicate with their influencers or other users for opinions and experience exchange.


What’s so special of Gen Z? Here are some keywords you shouldn’t miss:

  • Well educated.
  • Good living conditions.
  • “Digital Native”.
  • High humanistic quality.
  • Creative, indoorsy, Buddha-like.
  • Eager to express on social communities.
  • Willing to pay for intellectual property.

They are a group of young people who know who they are, care about what they wear, have an attitude towards a topic, an item, a product, or a brand. By 2025, they are about to be 25-30 years old, which means they will have a much stronger buying power than the current main consumer force. What’s more, China is experiencing a path to sustainability.

By 2025, another new generation is gradually joining the force. In that case, China is a market that will continue to grow bigger and bigger, along with economic growth and 5G deployment.

The rules to sell in China

Marketing research and analysis

Without in-depth marketing research and analysis, it’s risky to invest and enter this everyday-changing market, with a few different generations of consumers. Even though the deep understanding of the age, education, culture, and traditions’ difference, the buying habits, needs, and income levels usually play a decisive role.

Here are a few elements you should consider when you are defining a marketing strategy in China, which contains 7 different geographic regions that shall be analyzed from various angles (Geographic locations, Humanities, Economy and politics, Income levels, and City tiers).

With a clear report of market research and analysis, you should be able to decide on who to target, the prices your target audiences would pay, where your target audiences are, and most importantly, how your products or services would stand out of the crowd.

Know the online sales channels

One of the typical features in the Chinese market is that there are many options for you to sell through multiple e-commerce and social platforms.

While brands have more chances to showcase their products and brands on various platforms, since they have very different features and users, it actually creates some barriers for brands to target the right audiences and increase conversion rate with the lowest cost.

Here’s a list of recommended e-commerce platforms for you to choose from:

  • Taobao: Alibaba owned. One of the most popular and largest B2C e-commerce platforms in China, where sellers focus on selling comparatively cheaper items.
  • Tmall: Both Taobao and Tmall require sellers to have a local entity to open a store with a relatively high deposit (min. 50,000 RMB) and service charge (min 30,000 RMB per year). However, Tmall is more about mid-range to premium products.
  • Tmall Global: It’s a cross-border e-commerce platform owned by Alibaba, too, allowing sellers with entities outside China to sell through to Chinese consumers.
  • com: Like Taobao and Tmall, it’s also one of the largest direct retail e-commerce platforms in China, while JD is more likely to open to well-established reliable brands and merchants with entities in China.
  • JD Worldwide: One of the major competitors to Tmall Global, JD worldwide has become one of the leading cross-border e-commerce platforms in China, , franchisees, retailers, and traders without entities in China.
  • WeChat Store: WeChat is not only a messaging App, but also an integrated platform where you can communicate with friends, shop through built-in stores (Mini-Programs), book tickets, order food delivery, and much more. Actually, WeChat has become one of the mature ecosystems in China, with over 1.2 billion MAU.
  • Weibo: Similar to WeChat, Weibo is where you can socialize and shop through its Weibo store (Weibo Xiandian).
  • Xiaohongshu: It’s a booming integrated cross-border e-commerce platform and social community targeting young Chinese generations passionate about fashion and beauty.
  • Your own website: You will have more control over your store on design and traffic. However, one of the barriers for any brands to sell to China is that Chinese consumers don’t seem to buy through the individual website, as they expect quick-responding customer services, fast delivery, return options, as well as ratings.

Understand the main social networks

While the Chinese market proposes various integrated channels (social, communities, and e-commerce), through WeChat and Weibo, many other niche networks are used by brands to sell. Indeed, to sell in the largest country in the world, social media marketing in China is crucial and many networks are available to help your brands reaching more customers:

  • Douyin: The Chinese version of TikTok (with much more features) is one of the mainstream short video and live-streaming platforms, with over 0.6 billion daily active users, allowing brands to drive traffic and sales to Taobao and Tmall store.
  • Kuaishou: Its daily active users have reached 170 million, making it one of the promising marketing channels. Differing from Douyin, most users are from lower-tier cities and more likely to go for cheaper goods.
  • Xiaohongshu (Red): It reached more than 300 million registered users until July 2019, and 70% of them are Gen Z. It’s highly recommended for fashion and beauty brands who target “niche” audiences.
  • Bilibili: Registered users reached over 0.1 billion until 2019, and 81.7% of them are the post-’90s and Gen Z, especially ACGN (Animation, Comic, Game, Novel) audiences.

In a vast market with various and ever-changing users, the first thing you should know is its consumer behaviors, especially income levels mostly affecting the e-commerce spending directly. Knowing how to promote your products in China is also one of the keys, as Chinese users browse and use networks in a different way.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on email