The booming Chinese e-commerce market makes a compelling case for global brands to localise their platform and services. The stake of not adapting is rather high, not to say radically disqualifying. Here, we provide a handful of tips which are worth considering when localizing your e-commerce platform.
1) Online Chat Presence
“One of the most distinctive online habits among Chinese consumers is the tendency to prefer instant messaging (IM) over e-mail. For instance, 87 percent of Chinese digital consumers use the Internet for IM” - BCG report “China’s Digital Generations 2.0
When it comes to online shopping, most Chinese consumers don’t take it lightly. When encountering an inquiry which requires an answer, according to researches, most shoppers prefer talking directly to customer services over waiting for an email reply. As different as it might sound, potential customers will be more likely to be turned away if a live chat is not properly implemented on your e-commerce site, regardless of how established your brand is at a global scale. In fact, most e-commerce websites in China are equipped with at least 2 formats of live chat for shoppers to choose from, especially highlighted in the product detail page where users need the most support.
While localizing its content for the China market, the korean online shopping site, Stylenanda, implemented a live chat in a prominent place:
Booking.com puts its 24/7 hotline at the bottom of the page:
altima° helped one of its clients, Thomas Cook, bringing their service to China. Live chat is among one of the UX improvements which was later implemented on their new site.
2) Easy Single Sign In
The popularity of emails in China is not as high as in Western countries except for working purposes. Thus, for the local market, there are two common ways to login and register: through third party platforms or mobile numbers. Websites could be directly using the information retrieved from third party platforms by using third-party login, which helps save time for users to register. In addition to that, using mobile numbers to register is not only convenient for users to manage the account, but also good for the brand to ensure the authenticity of users information.
Users can login with their WeChat and/or Weibo account on Tripadvisor’s Chinese site.
Amazon.cn uses mobile numbers and WeChat accounts as the approach to register.
Local social media accounts and mobile numbers can also be used to log in on Sephora.cn.
3) Category/Navigation Bar
Major Chinese e-commerce websites use two kinds of navigation bars: the vertical mega menu on the left side, which helps refine the classification of products, and the horizontal navigation bar on top.
Case: My protein is an European leading sport nutrition brand. When localizing their online shopping website in China, they split their sport supplements and protein powders into different categories, while it was only one on the original site. Instead of putting sport supplements in the navigation bar, they create a “Foodie” area on their Chinese website, considering that Asians put great attention to food related things.
Skyscanner adds traveling inspirations and App downloading on their Chinese website.
PayPal translated their navigation to fit the Chinese context, and add the receive the payment of foreign trade part according to Chinese use cases.
Decathlon.cn changes their horizontal menu to the mega menu and highlights the sports filter.
4) The Uprising Social Media Tools in China
“ Social media is the key to success for e-commerce companies in China. ”
A brand that wants to attract as many Chinese customers as possible do not want to miss out Chinese social media tools, such as Wechat and Weibo. Weibo is known as the “Chinese Twitter”, and it has become one of the most influential Social Network Service (SNS) in China. The other one, Wechat, would be more like a mobile Facebook, adapted to the Chinese market.
As most of the transactions on Wechat happen between acquaintances, the conversion rate is subsequently higher on Wechat than on Weibo, given that sharings and recommendations coming from friends are more likely to striking than neutral postings.
There is another online social community that’s worth mentioning, which is Zhihu. Zhihu is a Chinese version of Quora which captures a considerable amount of frequent and loyal users. It is no wonder that it has become the rising star among PR specialists from different brands.
Overall, most companies use local social media platforms to promote and run campaigns. However, these could also be potentially leveraged to offer better customer services. Users could indeed follow social media accounts to ask questions and gain information on the products and services they are interested in. For example, some airline companies are starting to offer check-in services to users on their Wechat public account.
The most relevant function related to social media on cross-border e-commerce platforms is sharing. Share buttons are usually put under the product’s picture or under the product’s title. Sometimes, when there is too much information on the product’s page, websites put share buttons on the right floating bar. To share product pages via Wechat, users can scan the related QR code.
Amazon.cn puts local social media share icons under the product title.
The Chinese version of TripAdvisor does not only highlight sharing functions on the right hand side, but also promotes their WeChat account under the photo gallery.
While designing Bioderma’s Chinese website, we implemented share icons under the CTA, with a highlighted social media account link on the sticky bar, at the bottom.
5) Always Another Promotion Around the Corner!
To leverage the mainstream sub-culture, most e-commerce websites regularly provide special local promotions to attract users. In recent years, merchants would manufacture “festivals” such as “11.11”, “12.12”, and “5.20”, to use them as the stunts for sales and promotions. In general, the information of promotion is put forward on banners, on the first screen.
Here is how Sephora promotes their 11.11 sales information.
Estee Lauder highlights the 11.11 campaign on their Chinese website in order to attract their targeted customers.
Amazon.cn puts a slideshow in order to display their series of promotion event.
6) Trust is The Gold
It is easy for shoppers to be skeptical while shopping online, hence the need of reassuring your customers on the fact that you are a reliable seller. As a matter of fact, there is very often a message of trust on Chinese e-commerce websites. For example, customers of fashion e-commerce websites are looking for proof of products authenticity and returning policy conditions. Reassuring notices are usually put on the header or on the pre-footer of the website.
Clarins displays reassuring messages on the first screen of its Chinese website.
Lookfantastic shows trust notices again on the checkout.
Clinique’s Chinese website displays messages of trust on the product detail page.
7) Customer Info
Regarding customers information, there are a couple of differences as well. For instance, Chinese users are usually not asked to fill in the post code. Unlike other citizens, most Chinese people don't know their exact post code, which anyway does not have any impact on the shipping process. Another specific information is the Fapiao. Fapiao are official invoices, registered at the local tax bureau, which are used as a final proof-of-purchase of a good or service. When purchasing goods for business use, consumers ask for a Fapiao as a proof. Not being able to provide Fapiaos to Chinese customers would constitute a large disadvantage compared to the competition.
Estee Lauder has also changed the checkout form to ask for the user’s full name instead of his/her first and last names, in addition to adding a Fapiao field.
8) Tap, Scan and Pay
Research shows that more than half of Chinese online shoppers would like to pay through third-party online payment platforms. In China, this business is blooming thanks to Alipay, WeChat pay and UnionPay (Quick & Online). Owned by Alibaba Group, Alipay is by far the biggest third-party payment platform. Aside from facilitating online transactions, Alipay has been diversifying their services, which include Yu’ebao - an online investment fund, and Ant Financial - an online financial service provider. WeChat Pay, developed by the IM giant Tencent, gained its popularity by offering a wide range of public services through it. As for UnionPay, it is the only domestic bank card issuer. While more than 70% of Chinese customers are using Alipay and Wechat pay, UnionPay failed to accumulate a user base as well as killer use cases. Over the course of time, using Alipay or Wechat payment is considered by most consumers as more convenient than using traditional Union Pay channels. Users can directly scan sellers’ QR code which supports Wechat or Alipay to pay the orders. Compared to filling all the bankcard information, scan and pay has quickly became the trend.
E-commerce websites Revolve.com and lookfantastic.com added Alipay payment on their Chinese website.
Club Med’s Chinese website – designed and developed by altima°, offers Alipay and Union pay as the 2 main methods of payment.
9) Real Inputs from Your Users
Due to the lack of trust on product’s quality, more than 60% of Chinese customers tend to make payment decisions through product reviews.
On most of the Chinese e-commerce websites, users are allowed to post opinions with pictures, and, are able to ask questions to those who already bought the product. Product reviews do not only allow users to know more about the product, but also encourage them to proceed to the transaction.
Lancome’s and Bioderma’s Chinese site have added quite a lot of information on the product, compared to a short description on the original platforms.