Guest Blog by Michael Elias, Founder at ManRags/MS SOus
See Michael speak about MANRAGS and the how he uses technology to grow his business at the Law Squared Flagship event, Thursday October 25, United Co Coworking space. Click here to book now!
One of our key strategic deliverables is to grow in new markets through new channels and continue to learn and understand about opportunity beyond our knowledge bank. One market we have been keen to explore is China. Why? Simple, there’s over 2 billion feet there!!
We recently teamed up with HeyStore, an integrated WeChat sales store. What’s WeChat? China’s equivalent of Facebook, Instagram, PayPal, Whatsapp plus many others all rolled in to one. As part of our launch we had the opportunity to exhibit at the Australia China Trade Expo (we’ve never exhibited our products at any expo as our digital focussed model has never required us to….. except China is different)!
Over the course of 3 days we spoke to numerous retailers, wholesalers, brands who had made their stamp in China, Brands like ours trying to enter the market, Daigous, KOLs and I chose to spend a lot of time talking to the wine distributors who were offering taste testing (I made one wine for socks trade).
My 5 key learnings :
The retailing landscape in China is wild.
There are so many layers of retailing with direct brand retailing to be treated as a future option after brands have built credibility in the market. To explain this in the most simplified context, retailing your own brand direct to consumers without having built brand presence, consumer confidence, product endorsement is a bloody expensive exercise that would have a 99% chance of failure.
The magic of Daigous.
A Daigou is an individual who buys your product for resale in the Chinese market. The Australian public can best identify Daigous as “baby formula sellers” although they are much much more and many of the successful brands that have launched in to China would not be where they are today if it weren’t for them. A Daigou can sell a product through numerous channels including online stores, wholesale/retail to China based companies, through WeChat and many other platforms.
Daigous v KOLs.
Daigous are not Influencers. Whilst they may have followings of millions they are a product seller and not an influencer. KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) are more aligned to the Western World’s “Influencer”. There are millions of KOLs and they have millions of followers and they can cost millions of dollars.
Using the phrase “enter the chinese market” is idiotic on my behalf.
You don’t just enter the Chinese market and understanding that the Chinese market is segmented is absolutely crucial to ensure we take the right approach in launching to where our best opportunity lies. For example, we need to consider which segment is most likely to buy our product, purchase it at prices that make it commercially beneficial and why that customer would purchase our product to begin with so that we can position ourselves accordingly ie. For comfort, for styling or statement or for our Egyptian cotton or because they want to join the MANRAGS community for inclusiveness.
FOF. Fear of Fake.
Within the first hour of exhibiting we thought we would be in real trouble, communication barrier was evident. Being the agile startup we are and having to always make decisions on the go the 3 of us got on our phones and started looking for Mandarin and Cantonese speaking “helpers” on Gumtree, Airtasker and uni sites. One of the exhibitors across from us came across to ask what we were doing and as we told them we were looking for a translator to join our stand they brought to our attention “Fear of Fake”. We were warned that introducing a translator could be perceived as unauthentic by prospective wholesalers, Daigous and Retailers and could confuse our authenticity as an Australian brand . So for the last 2 days we have been draining our batteries with an app called “Speak and Translate”, a conversation that would normally take 2 minutes has sometimes taken 10 minutes but hey its been fun!
The opportunity is massive. “Million” in China is small whether it be dollars or people. A lot of regrouping and research is still needed and there will be a lot of test and learn along the way but we’ll continue on this journey and it’s going to be bloody exciting!
Picture: @fashionadmin via Instagram.
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