Best Practices from China’s mCommerce Market for the Holiday Shopping Season

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By Markus Malti, Managing Director of WeQ

With Christmas coming up and the holiday season in full swing, mCommerce provides huge opportunities for brands to drive new and existing customers back into the funnel. According to Criteo, December 23rd (closely followed by Christmas Eve and Christmas) was the biggest day in the history of mCommerce in the North America, with 48% of all purchases being made on smartphones. Specifically, shopping apps tend to generate higher conversion rates than mobile web - up to 3 to 5 times higher in some countries.

When it comes to mCommerce, China is the biggest market with the biggest spenders, cashing in $25.4 billion sales during Singles Day (11/11) in 2017. Sales exceeded those of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined (CNBC), rendering it the world’s biggest online shopping event. However, Christmas Day sales in China are not as popular as Singles’ Day or New Year sales, so it appears that brands are also looking to the West for maximization opportunities. In fact, Chinese and APAC retail apps are rapidly soaring through the ranks of the Canadian app stores at this time of year. As such, we look to Chinese mCommerce apps to examine what lies behind their success as they penetrate the Canadian market. We also look at the best practices that Western mobile advertisers can learn and apply during the holiday season - and beyond.

Get the Basics Right

Product, prices and customer service are deal-breakers. Successful Chinese mCommerce apps, such as the market-leading Alibaba (China’s eCommerce behemoth that took in more than $1 trillion sales in 2017), are well-stocked with products at competitive prices and regularly offer exclusive deals such as “buy 1, get 1 half price.” So, during the Christmas time, try offering something for free, for example: a gift card or voucher, or free credits, to stand out from the competition. Customer service is crucially important, too. A company offering good customer service will earn the customers’ trust resulting in positive reviews and ideally, repeat purchases. Once the basics are in place, make sure that your eCommerce website is optimized for mobile.

Make Mobile Payments Quick and Painless

China is leading the mobile payment revolution, with most customers adopting cashless and eCommerce payment methods, and the ability to make payments with smartphones pretty much everywhere. Back in 2016, China’s mobile payments were already 50 times the size of America’s $112 billion market (iResearch) and valued at $5.5 trillion. In 2017, mobile payments in China amounted for 74% of all online payments (WalktheChat). It is easy to understand why mCommerce in China is such a huge success: customers value convenience. Being able to safely and easily pay via mobile devices (in China largely via Alipay and WeChat), Chinese consumers can make quick and spontaneous purchases. While it may take a while for Western mobile infrastructures to develop at the same pace, mCommerce players in North America and EU should adopt a mobile-first approach and offer a trusted digital payment infrastructure.

Encourage Positive Reviews with Effective ASO

What do APAC’s market-leading retail apps like SHEIN, Lazada, Zalora and Zaful have in common? Strong App Store Optimization (ASO). One thing setting Chinese retail apps apart is their key focus on improving app store rankings and providing real-time keyword ranking systems. You can also use ASO to ensure that users find your app and to encourage positive reviews from users, leading to installs. Some tips: use an app name that stands out; use relevant keywords; ensuring that description and notes are frequently updated; and use screenshots and videos that are visually consistent with the app, helping users get an idea of the look-and-feel. For extra help, there are several ASO tools on the market that can help to improve your ranking and visibility.

Get Social

WeChat is a must-have social network for brands, and consumers are likely to access the websites directly via “WeChat Stores” than actual mobile sites. Weibo is another major social platform. Retail apps such as Pinduoduo (new market leader) have tapped into social by combining low prices with group discounts, which users can unlock by rounding up their friends on social media (for Westerners, it functions similarly to Groupon in its heyday). Social mCommerce is still a new concept to the North American and European markets, but with 1.5 billion users on Facebook Messenger and 1.3 billion on WhatsApp globally, this will eventually change. Meanwhile, Follow China’s lead and incentivize customers to market your app on social media channels by offering them and the friends they attract with promotional codes. This season more than ever, invest strongly in social campaigns depending on where your target audience is (SHEIN has a huge presence on Instagram) to target and retarget consumers.

Chinese retail apps like SHEIN run consistent and original ad campaigns in different formats

Chinese retail apps like SHEIN run consistent and original ad campaigns in different formats

Branding-First

Another characteristic of the eCommerce market in China is its strict monitoring of web and mobile content. Chinese retail apps place huge importance on branding and reputation by steering clear of content that is political, sexual and offensive in nature and avoiding their mobile ads appearing on illegal sites. Instead, they run social influencer and branding campaigns, giving their brands a more authentic appeal. Make sure your mCommerce app is also brand-safe for the Christmas season and beyond. Speaking of content, it is definitely king in China, where consumers are interested in content that’s entertaining and fun - so create tailor-made content that sets your app apart and emphasizes a brand story, leveraging that to keep users engaged.

Take Advantage of the Supply Chain

Ecommerce platforms in China are strongly integrated with brick-and-mortar stores. With Online to Offline (O2O), consumers can “click and collect” by ordering products from a store’s website and collecting them at a local branch - avoiding delivery fees and crowded retail spaces. Earlier this month, China’s biggest offline retail group Hema Food Market was invested in by Alibaba, allowing consumers to order produce online and have it delivered from their nearest store. QR scans are also very popular in China, drawing customers from offline to mobile. While Canada still has a while to catch up on this trend, ensure that any online to offline transaction is smooth and efficient by training staff properly or use instant messaging to seal the deal online.

Markus Malti is a Managing Director at WeQ as well as its co-founder. WeQ are experts in mobile ad tech, driving user acquisition and engagement at a global scale. The team of over 100 professionals, covering over 30 nationalities, is led by industry veterans from the mobile advertising space and combines a client-centric approach with purpose-built, state-of- the-art technology. Connect with Markus on LinkedIn.

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