As we move further into the digital age, with the rise of e-commerce and online marketing, there is a tendency for new entrants to China to believe that they can generate revenue and profits without leaving home. This has been magnified by the constraints of the recent covid lockdown period which has prevented overseas travel and kept everyone stuck in their home offices. Many blame Jack Ma for promoting Alibaba as the golden ticket to unlimited riches but even he is quoted as saying “I know nothing about technology, I know nothing about marketing, I know nothing about (the legal) stuff. I only know about people.”
A great example of an amazing success story, achieved over many years of cultivating long term relationships in China, is covered in this commentary from APAC News which tells the story of how the Australian wine industry prospered in China, and this was long before everyone moved online. It provides useful insights to all SME business owners who might otherwise be seduced into China’s alluring e-commerce world.
As mentioned by APAC News “the relationship Australian wine producers have with Chinese customers has been cultivated over many years. ‘Producers who are successful in China have been going there for fifteen and twenty years’ says Andreas Clark CEO of Wine Australia. ‘It’s been consistent hard work, multiple trips cultivating relationships and that’s been profoundly important.’ He adds personal connections and relationships between Australia and China, at multiple levels, cannot be understated”.
This is also my own experience. Success in China is, and probably always will be, dependent on building long term trusted relationships on the ground to support your local brand-building, educational and promotional activities. The magical online purchase comes at the end of this process, not at the beginning.