What digital businesses entering China can learn from Jon Stewart

Is Jon Stewart’s recent online success in China a sign of new opportunities for non-Chinese brands? In China, the demand for global brands and content continues to grow - to the point that it has spread into new industries like comedy shows, where cultural cues are paramount to success. Jon Stewart is just one of many western icons with newfound success in China, all in part to the accessibility of new consumers through the internet.

Online businesses selling anything from humor, makeup, or shoes to baby formula can’t ignore these demands for their products in China: More and more consumers are exposed to global brands of all kinds through online offerings and travel. There are huge advantages to being one of the first brands to be noticed in the market, but just showing up isn’t enough. To be successful, learn from Jon Stewart and:

  • Localize your offering. Give your consumers things they can relate to and use. Jon Stewart did this by coming up with culturally relevant jokes about China’s culture. For retailers this could mean offering products that respond to needs specific to consumers in China, like Godiva’s Chinese New Year Chocolates.
  • Develop a fan base online. By giving your very social Chinese consumers a platform to talk about your brand, you can generate free marketing and new insights. Jon Stewart’s fans aggregate his videos in one place and work together to translate and upload subtitles on his video clips.
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The State Of Canadian Online Retail 2013

Last week Forrester published a report on the state of online retail in Canada. We surveyed 1,103 adult online shoppers in Canada to understand what challenges the Canadian public face when shopping online. We found that Canadian online shoppers have many complaints; among them high shipping costs and lackluster product assortments. Furthermore, Canadian online shoppers are acutely aware of the gap between the online experiences of domestic sites versus those in the US. Canadian sites are missing key online capabilities like free shipping, flexible pickup options, a stress-free return policy, and omnichannel payment options in addition to the obvious price discrepancies.

Some of the reports highlights include the following facts:

  • Shipping costs are too still too high. Despite the eventual arrival of Amazon Prime in Canada and the increasing commonality of free shipping thresholds, sixty-eight percent of Canadian online shoppers we surveyed cited that delivery costs are their primary concern when shopping online.
  • Product assortment online in Canada is lackluster. Thirty-seven percent of Canadian online shoppers say they can't find the products they are looking for online in Canada. Consequently, 32% of these frustrated shoppers ultimately end up buying instead from US or International sites and incurring the cost of shipping, custom duties and Canadian taxes.
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In China, mobile should be a key part of your eCommerce strategy

About two weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to Shanghai for Forrester’s first event in China, “Winning the Dynamic Digital Consumer in China”. (To read all about it check out Andrew Stockwell’s blog post here.) At the event I gave a quick presentation about the potential opportunity that retailers have to engage with mobile shoppers in metro China where nearly 100% of online adults have at least one mobile phone and more than four-fifths of those mobile phones are smartphones.

It is critical for eBusiness professionals to put mobile on the top of their to-do’s when creating their China strategy because of the huge opportunity to engage with consumers - and the fact that the market remains vastly underserved. After spending a week and a half in Shanghai and Beijing and visiting American and European retail establishments this proved to be the case - only a handful had any type of mobile offering.  A few things to think about when considering your mobile strategy in China:

  • There are 1 billion mobile phone users in China, but 3G has yet to hit 25% penetration.
  • Free Wi-Fi is available nearly everywhere – malls, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, train stations and even in some taxis.
  • Unlike their U.S. counterparts, it is very likely that the first connected device for consumers in China is a mobile phone and not a PC.
  • There are specific opportunities for successful mobile campaigns. 39% of Tmall and Taobao’s sales combined were made on mobile devices on Singles Day (China’s equivalent of Cyber Monday).
  • Android is the highest adopted operating system by far.
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Reflections on Forrester's Event - "Winning The Dynamic Digital Consumer In China"

I'm still riding a high from Forrester's first ever event in China two weeks ago on March 20th entitled "Winning The Dynamic Digital Consumer In China" (#ForrForum). Approximately 200 marketing, eCommerce, and strategy executives, along with a fantastic cadre of leading agencies and marketing technology vendors, participated in the event. Via myriad content, networking, and business development conversations, it's clear that both the challenges and opportunities to engage, market to, sell to, and serve the Chinese consumer are considerable.

I've spent the last few days reflecting on my key takeaways from the event, and wanted to summarize them for you below.

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