If you run a profitable business and you’re looking to expand, how about going global? Have you considered it?
While several businesses might be in that stage where they’re ready to go international, the thought might be daunting. How do you start and what if things don’t go according to plan? These are common concerns, however, it might be easier to delve into it than you think.
We talked to Tony Shan, the head of Alibaba’s cross-border B2C platforms in North America. He shed some light on how to get into global trade. Tony oversees a group of experts and development professionals for Tmall Global. Tmall Global is part of the Alibaba group and is also the largest consumer cross-border e-commerce platform today.
So how can business owners go beyond the US markets?
They can use Tmall.
According to Tony, “Tmall Global is the premier destination for Chinese consumers to buy imported goods and also for global brands to reach over 800 million of these consumers within the Alibaba ecosystem.”
Tmall works with global brands that are looking to tap into the Chinese market in particular. Once these brands launch on the Tmall platform, Chinese consumers can proceed to buying their products easily online.
What’s the benefit of launching on the platform?
Tony says China has evolved from a manufacturing economy to a consumption one. Several Chinese people have also had the opportunity to travel abroad. As such they’ve been exposed to a variety of foreign high-quality brands and products. They would, therefore, love to access these brands even when they are home in China.
This is referred to as a consumption upgrade. It’s where they notably have more disposable income that they can use to buy these products. Cross-border is a great way for businesses to reach these people and sell their goods. There’s already a demand for the products anyway and this presents an opportunity for growth and expansion.
According to Dynamic Language, going global means you diversify your company’s markets. Through it, you improve your reputation and earn even more revenue.
How can you get listed on Tmall?
Up until this point, you’re probably already interested in what this Tmall platform can offer you as a business. The question is how do you get on it? How does it work for your specific business?
One business may not be the same as the next. This is why Tmall offers a variety of business solutions for different types of international brands. It just depends on the brand’s overall strategy.
The experts at Tmall can help develop a great entry and marketing strategies that will work. There exist different models that can be used. It’s these different models that help smaller brands grow rapidly.
Tmall’s goal is to broaden small businesses’ customer base and also bring high-quality American products into China. That’s why two years ago, they developed a model called the Tmall Global Overseas Fulfillment. Recently they have been placing even more emphasis on it.
“It’s a lower cost, lower risk way for brands to taste the waters and an additional channel to sell their products. It’s an opportunity to fine-tune their golden marketing strategy before making potentially a full-fledged entry into a new market, China specifically. “says Tony.
The target market, aside from consisting of the growing middle-class, is also mostly made of millennial consumers. This group is more willing to try out different brands that speak to their personalities and lifestyles. Tmall, therefore, enables them to access a wider selection of products.
As a brand, you can make use of this Overseas Fulfillment Program to gather data. This is in case you’re interested but not ready or willing to launch immediately. For this specific program, Tony says Tmall uses warehouses in both New York and Los Angeles. The platform uses these to fulfill orders to the end, Chinese consumers.
Using warehouses in these two cities offers flexibility for these smaller brands and medium-sized companies. The companies can benefit from the lower operational and logistical costs. This is because Tmall’s operations team will handle the sale of these products in China. They do the sales through self-operated storefronts.
Should the products be rebranded or reprinted?
No, no need! With cross-border, you sell your products as they are in their original packaging. There’s a difference between cross-border and general trade which is the traditional style of selling.
Traditionally, you would have had to relabel, test, or do a restoration of the products to suit the Chinese market. However, Tmall works with several no-cruelty brands that do not support testing on animals. This simply means general trade would be quite the restriction for such brands, but not crossborder. The Tmall and Alibaba team in the US will coordinate the process, ensuring you use only the best strategy.
The category experts, after listening to your business strategy, will come up with the best way forward.
- They’ll develop an initial assortment of products for sale
- After this, they’ll arrange for shipment to either Los Angeles or New York
- They’ll collect product images and descriptions and any other useful information. These will be used to build brand awareness in China and to sell the products.
Any misconceptions about crossborder?
Tony says one of the misconceptions is that you can use the same strategies you use in the US in China too.
“Understanding the Chinese market is very important. It is quite different compared to how it is in the US. How consumers shop is different. Marketing and promotions are unique as well. If a brand is looking to replicate the US strategy directly to China, it won’t work. So it’s important to tailor a business plan specifically for China,” says Tony.
Tony advises that brands remain actively involved in the entire process. That is, in creating brand awareness in China and in selling the products. After all, it is a partnership with Alibaba.
These brands should also be open to trying out different tools and marketing strategies. These could work for their benefit and result in growth and long-term success. For example:
- Live streams. These are highly popular in China. They could make use of these to reach a wider audience
- Content marketing
- They could fund big promotional activities
- They could also invest in campaigns to drive brand awareness
Keep in mind that since the consumers behave differently some items are bound to sell better and faster than others. They might not all perform in the exact same way you expect them to.
In conclusion, Tony says you have a lot to gain when you go international by listing on a platform like Tmall. This is because several people will not be able to travel as much as they did before. There exist a lot of travel restrictions, which is why people will be looking for high-quality products online.
Tmall global will, therefore, continue to make available high-quality products to the Chinese people from authentic US brands.
Going digital when it comes to selling is important for your longevity as a business as it enables you to go into global selling confidently.
For more information about going global, contact Ramon.
About Tony Shan
Tony Shan has been working with the Alibaba Group since 2017. He heads America’s region for the Alibaba Group’s cross-border B2C platforms. Before this he was the marketing and merchandising lead at an Amazon subsidiary. He’s currently based in New York at Alibaba’s Manhattan office.
Sophie Atieno has been working in marketing and communications for four years. She has experience working in the advertising and health industries mostly performing digital marketing roles for the organizations she has worked for. She is also a freelance copy and content writer and has been blogging for over four years. In her free time, she enjoys filming and video editing. Her most recent position was as the digital manager at a social and digital marketing agency in Nairobi, Kenya.
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