China E-Commerce Guide – 5 Top Tips

China E-Commerce Guide – 5 Top Tips

26 May, 2016 - Uncategorised


China E-commerce sales accounted for 5% of all retail sales in China last year and is expected to triple to 15% over the next 10 years. Despite being the driving force for consumption growth in China, industry and brands are having a tough time getting it right. The last two months saw ASOS announce the pulling out of China at a further cost of £9m. Things weren’t that much better for Taobao and Tmall owner Alibaba, who is at the centre of a conflict-of-interest scandal that saw them kicked out of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC). And news has just broken today that they are now under investigation as part of a US Security and Customs probe looking into the Chinese company’s irregular accounting.

So what’s a consumer brand looking to enter the Chinese e-commerce landscape to do? Here are Wei’s Top 5 Tips to navigating the world of Chinese E-Commerce:

1. Pick the right technology – Whether going with a third party marketplace or a building your own e-commerce site from scratch. Make sure you pick the right content management system (CMS) and associated integration from day one. Often overlooked, many “industry leading” platforms don’t support Chinese content or are accessible in China. Open source platforms such as Magento or Shopify are your best options as they have larger active Chinese developer community building extensions and don’t cost a fortune. Either of them can having you up and running in China for less than £15,000.

2. Embrace Chinese UX – Accept the fact that from a European perspective you are not going to “like” or “get” the design or user experience of your Chinese e-commerce site whether third party or your own. Chinese user experience is completely different to that of Europeans for various cultural reasons. For example, typing Chinese more labour intensive than typing English. As a result, Chinese users use the mouse more than Europeans and design needs to reflect this – Just translating your English website isn’t going to cut it.

3. Not everything should be minimalistic – We all love minimalistic design, even the Chinese. However, one area that they don’t is copywriting. Translating short minimalistic English sentences into Chinese gets you even shorter minimalistic Chinese sentences (one English word takes up more space than one Chinese character). With over 70% of Chinese consumers reporting that they research a product online before purchasing it you really need to including a much content on product descriptions as possible. As a general rule remember that for every 3 lines of English text you have, that will translate to about 1 line of Chinese text.

4. Get past the fire wall – Even if your site isn’t controversial or blocked in China, it can (and will) occasionally run afoul of the “Great Firewall” especially if using google based systems. The only way around this is by hosting within China (and no Hong Kong doesn’t count). Not only does this prevent denial of access, but it speeds up access within China. Just remember to get an ICP license in order to host your site within China.

5. Integrate with Mobile – Mobile commerce featuring one-click payments and integration with Chinese mobile payment gateways like Alipay and WeChat payments will account for 75% of e-commerce growth over the next 10 years. This makes mobile the most important success factor to any e-commerce site. As a result, you need to think about mobile first above all else.


For more information on starting up China e-commerce solutions please contact Steven Bywater. E-mail: or give us a call on +44 (0)2036423899.