The over-riding message delivered yesterday at a recent Auckland press conference organised by Ruoyuchen (RYC), a leading Guangzhou-based integrated e-commerce service provider, is that Chinese consumers are actively seeking to buy New Zealand goods. The opportunity for Kiwi exporters has never been stronger.
Imagine 300 million-plus middle-class Chinese consumers, all seeking premium quality products from around the world in order to live healthier lifestyles. That’s the real market opportunity right now in China, as Alibaba managing director ANZ Maggie Zhou (pictured below) highlighted yesterday at a recent Auckland press conference organised by Guangzhou-based integrated e-commerce service provider Ruoyuchen (RYC).
“Although China has encouraged exports for the past 30 years, now for the first time President Xi Jinping’s government is encouraging imports,” she says, “And to the tune of US$8 trillion over the next five years.
“Chinese consumers are seeking high-quality products, and the government is encouraging them. That’s the reality,” she says.
Zhou says the opportunity is there to be grabbed, and is especially relevant to New Zealand with its wealth of premium brands and “clean, green” image.
The seafood, vitamin supplements, healthcare, skincare, mother/baby, and petfood sectors will be some of the biggest beneficiaries to this opportunity – the latter, petfood, particularly popular right now, with a growing number of young Chinese looking to pamper their pets with premium nutritional products.
That said, there are also opportunities across the board for design-led companies too, if they go to market with the right brand message.
Supporting Kiwi brands is not just New Zealand’s excellent image but also the fundamental values of quality, safety and integrity, Zhou says, which resonate well with Chinese consumers.
Trusted Kiwi brands represented by RYC in the China market – such as Comvita, ecostore and Red Seal – made presentations at the conference and all reported tremendous success in what can be a challenging market.
Zhou informed NZBusiness that there are currently more than 700 New Zealand brands available through Tmall and Tmall Global – and while the China market can initially appear daunting and confusing, Alibaba has the ‘Big Data’ resources to fine-tune a target audience.
Omnichannel service providers like RYC are also experts at unravelling the complexities of such a diverse market. Conference attendees were given a comprehensive glimpse into the wide range of services the company provides.
Sustainability is another rising concern amongst China’s consumers, says Zhou. She pointed out the promotional ‘limited edition’ gift boxes launched the conference, featuring participating brands’ products and packaging made by Visy from recycled material – and how the words “limited edition” mean a lot to those millions of middle-class consumers across China.
In terms of meeting the needs of e-commerce consumers, before deciding on what to buy Zhou says consumers are now wanting more information about the products.
“Simple information gets ignored. They want to know the brand story and philosophy – ansd what’s so unique about the product.”
Live-streaming video and KOLs (key opinion leaders) are just two techniques for conveying information. Zhou says Alibaba’s retail platforms have more than 600 million active users – so even a trial campaign through a KOL can generate substantial business.
Participating in popular promotions to build brand awareness and find new customers is important too, she says, particularly the hugely successful annual 11.11 global shopping festival, which delivers a huge amount of exposure across the country.
Chinese consumers were born into a constantly evolving mobile technology landscape, Zhou explains. So they are always open to new technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR), which can be utilised for clever marketing engagement.
China’s consumer retail industry is currently experiencing radical disruption driven by digital technology, and e-commerce is being disrupted by what Alibaba’s Jack Ma refers to as ‘New Retail’ – the blurring of online and offline retail, and the shift to a core focus on service.
Alibaba is demonstrating this new concept through its Hema Fresh supermarkets – each designed to get products to consumers within 30 minutes (https://www.alizila.com/video/take-tour-hema-supermarket-experience-new-retail/).
Sixty percent of Hema shoppers buy online, with 40 percent choosing to shop in-store, using a mobile app to scan barcodes for information on each product. It represents another great opportunity for New Zealand’s exporters.
Zhou admits that the China e-commerce market is not easy to conquer, and there are no overnight successes. However, positive results generally come through hard work, patience, creativity, continually improving on the quality of products, and working with experienced partners – preferably those who have already worked with New Zealand brands, such as RYC.