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We all know that the alcohol industry is one of the most lucrative markets throughout the world. But, in some country it’s more lucrative than others. Chinese consumers are showing more and more interest in foreign products in the last few years. And imported spirits are definitely not an exception of this phenomenon. The Chinese have acquired a strong taste for imported spirits, particularly in the first rank cities which are modern and cosmopolitan such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. It is a growing market, with a burgeoning middle class of 300 million people, the potential for growth of international brands in China remains strong.
Imported spirits are both a gift and a wealth sign. It’s an opportunity for imported spirits brands. But breaking into the alcohol market is definitely not easy and there are many obstacles concerning the exporting/importing process. But it’s never impossible if you work with marketing agency like Gentlemen Marketing Agency who knows how to do.
First of all, to be sure of what we are talking about I will do a quick reminder of what spirits market include.
You have wine, beer and hard liquors.
To this day, grain-based alcohol, such as baijiu, are most commonly served during traditional occasions, such as holidays, weddings and formal events. Being the traditional drink of China, baijiu accounts for almost the entire spirits market. The other imported spirits are not part of the chinese culture. But the rise of China’s middle class and increasing incomes have allowed many consumers to afford foreign-made and foreign-branded alcoholic beverages.
Chinese consumers want to discover new taste and are increasingly willing to try new varieties of alcoholic beverages.
Wine is always one of the favorites imported alcohol but, in recent years, some other imported alcohol such as beer, cider and flavored alcoholic beverages also became popular in the Chinese alcoholic beverage sector. In terms of liquors, brandy, whiskey, and vodka have the highest sales volumes.
Wine is one of the most popular imported spirits, and also the first one to enter the chinese market.
Even if wine is not part of the Chinese culture, the wine market is very dynamic with an increase of over 25% of the consumption every year.
White wines and rosé are increasingly consumed, but consumption remains dominated by red wine.
The wine market in China starts to be a bit saturated because lots of imported wine brands saw the opportunity of this lucrative market. But don’t worry, it’s always possible for new brands to improve their sales in China.
China is the first beer producer and consumer in the world, with around 25% of the world production. The production is mainly for the local demand with some beers as Tsingtao, Snow or Harbin.
But, why do Chinese consumers prefer more and more imported beers?
Like for a lot of things in China, it’s definitely a status thing.This trend shift can be explained by the fact that when a person is able to buy a foreign beer, it shows that they have more wealth. They have a better life because they have enough money to buy an imported beer brand.
Chinese also have less trust in the quality of their domestic beer brands. It’s mainly due to their bad reputation. Some food and beverages brands have been accused for allegedly selling products that are harmful for the public health. Moreover fake alcohol is a real thing in China and chinese consumers preferred pay more for a quality beverage.
That’s why Chinese consumers prefer purchasing imported beer brands. They have in general a better reputation and Chinese consumers are convinced that the quality is better compared to the domestic beer brands.
Liquors are also really appreciated by chinese consumers. Liquors are usually drink of medicine reasons as a treatment, but also very popular in business (especially during business dinner as a negotiation medium).
Chinese consumers, usually drink Baijiu, but now, they are also expecting novelties. That’s why imported liquors are more and more popular. Cognac, Armagnac, Vodka and others have their place on the chinese market, consumers are waiting.
As said before, they are mostly looking for status. Imported spirits are more expensive than local spirits. If you are able to buy imported spirits, it shows to your peers that you have wealth. Money and social status are very important in China.
The second criteria is quality and safety. Imported spirits are reputed to be safer than the local alcohol, in a country crowded by fake alcohol.
55% of Chinese alcohol consumers have started to order liquor online and young consumers plan to buy more alcohol products via the Internet. The web provides a greater selection. You can buy imported spirits from all over the world on quality cross-border e-commerce website.
Selling alcohol online has seen great results, and attracts consumers. With over 700 million internet active users, e-commerce platforms are a great opportunity for imported spirits brands to sell their bottles. 413 million of chinese consumers have already bought at least one product online, indicating e-Commerce’s effectiveness in China.
If at the beginning chinese consumers only drank chinese and local alcohols, today, they want to discover new alcohols.
Due to the increase of the middle class, chinese consumers have more money and they want to buy new and better beverages. That’s why, foreign brands are more and more appreciated. Chinese consumers travel a lot and want to bring some specialities of the country they visited. But when the bottle is finished, how can you do? The e-commerce became the key for both parts : consumers and spirits brands.
Every year the number of Chinese consumers is growing. They also purchase more than they did ever before. The new richer generation spends a lot of money. They don’t mind spending their money on luxury products, traveling or a good glass of imported beer.
In big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, you have lots of shops where you can find imported spirits brands. The demand is growing that’s why this kind of shops are created.
Today, you can for sure find some Belgium of German beers in a small shop or in a supermarket in these big cities.
The market’s potential is huge. The demand is quickly growing and western spirits currently account for less than 2 per cent of a total Chinese beverage. The chinese market is currently dominated by baijui, or rice wine, which accounts for 34 bn USD.
Except for wine, not a lot of beer, cider or hard liquor brands have tried to enter the spirits market in Chine. The doors are open for all this western brand. Chinese consumers are waiting you. They have money and more and more an experienced taste for imported spirits.
To be effective in China, you don’t have a lot of options:
ADAPT YOUR APPROACH TO THE MARKET SPECIFICITIES AND BE DIGITAL
It’s the keys of success in China
With over than 900 million internet chinese users sell alcohol online is the key.
Foreign brands are already loved by consumers, it’s your competitive advantage. Use it!
If you want to start the e-commerce adventure in China, three smart solutions are available for you:
Tmall, Taobao and JD are the giants of the e-commerce. They are the bigger platforms and also the bests in terms of quality and safety. Two important points in China.
Because these e-commerce platforms are very popular in China, it’s not easy to sell on that platform. Most of them only accept brands who have already a significant presence and realized high sales in China. That’s why most of the spirits brands failed to sell on the giants’ platforms, Tmall, Taobao or JD.
If you are a luxury beer, liquor or wine brand or a premium beer,liquor or wine brand, you can try to sell on Tmall and JD because the 2 platforms want to keep a high ranking and only offer to their consumers famous brands and quality products. That’s why they are so selective.
If you are not very famous yet, Wechat store also provides good e-shops. It’s a bit more accessible for beginners of the spirits market.
The 3rd party e-commerce platforms are platforms as Weidian, Weixin Xiaodian (微信小店), Youzan 有赞 or Weimao (微猫).
These shops are really easy to open, to use and to manage. Perfect for beginners or small shops.
You can, of course, create your Own E-commerce Website. If you want to accept the challenge, some marketing agency can help you.
But you need to know that it’s not easy to create your own e-commerce website.
You will obviously need to develop a strong marketing and communication strategy to develop your e-reputation. Because chinese consumers preferred buy on e-commerce platforms because they know that they will not have any troubles. E-commerce platforms are strong competitors, be careful.
Chinese people are the most connected people all over the world. They spend an average of 3h to surf on their smartphones. To attract them you need to use digital solutions to gain in visibility and make relevant sales.
Spirits brands and retailers should increase their digital marketing in China, including placing online ads and engaging with consumers on social media, as 80% of Chinese consumers ages 20-39 go online every day.
To be visible by your target, you need to have a website in mandarin, hosted in China, for SEO reasons. Baidu, the leading search engine in China, will not rank websites hosted in other countries or websites in other languages than chinese.
In addition, your website must follow Chinese standards and Chinese trends. In most cases, with a homepage consisting of a lot of information, written in small characters. If western consumers preferred clean aesthetic, it’s not the standard of chinese consumers.
For e-commerce websites, Chinese consumers are used to having precise information, with price, product details, comments of buyers and anything to be aware of. Chinese customers hate wasting time looking for information, especially during the payment process.
75% of the research in China are on Baidu. You need to have a good ranking on Baidu to be visible.
To develop your visibility on Baidu, you can use different solutions:
Pay Per Click (PPC) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM): this solutions are very efficient but can be quite expensive on long-term.
SEO is better for long-term strategies, and extremely efficient but ask you more work. SEO is a long-term process, requiring to write articles and content using keywords, in order to increase presence on the web for search engines.
Baidu has its own websites and redirects 27% of its traffic to these sites: Baidu Zhidao (Q&A), Baidu Baike (Wikipedia), Baidu Tieba (Forum). This means that, in order to promote your website on the Chinese internet, you also have to be active on these affiliating websites of Baidu.
The most popular and used social networks in China are WeChat and Weibo.
WeChat, developed by Tencent has more than 700 million active users every day. The social media platform is more than only a social media app. Tencent developed a lot of other services to adapt their contents to users’ needs. It’s also very convenient for brands to communicate with their target.
The platform is known for its communication services in which users can send messages, share images and videos, voice call and video call other users on a closed network. Having an account on WeChat enables you to promote your brand via mobile or tablet.
Weibo is the second-most mass-used social networking site in China, with around 82% penetration rate across the country and more than 50 million active users per day in 2016. Weibo is very popular because it’s the first place where chinese users can express themselves “without” suffer of government’s censorship. For the first time, chinese people can speak about every subject and they love it.
The social microblogging network has also attracted more than 130,000 companies. It’s very important for spirits brands to create their own Weibo Official Account, and get their account verified. If your account is signed as verified, you will have more followers because it’s a legitimacy proof for chinese users who know that the Weibo process to have a verified account is complicated and long but ensure the legitimacy of a brand.
More than 56% of Weibo users follow at least one brand on Weibo. In addition, on Weibo, you don’t need to be connected first to follow a brand.
Branding in China is important. Chinese consumers buy the name of a brand. They want to buy premium, reputable brands.
You have two kinds of consumers:
You have to appreciate that branding is EVERYTHING in China. With the emphasis on international, spirits labels entering the market need to intelligently brand themselves. Chinese consumers trust label is successful and established in its own country.
BUT, as regardless of their status back home branding on the internet, when you start in China, you have to start over again due to the ‘great firewall’ which effectively cuts the Chinese web off from the wider online sphere to create a closed intranet. Most spirits brands need to begin from scratch with their branding on Chinese platforms that dominate the domestic market because chinese consumers can’t know that they are very famous outside of China mainland.
In China, brand reputation is an important criteria. You have to do everything to always have a good image alongside chinese customers. If you lose your reputation, you will lose everything.
You need to make sure that you get good comments for your spirit brand on forums, social media and other websites. Chinese consumers only trust brands that have good comments and recommendations from friends or family and on media platforms. Don’t hesitate to engage a digital marketing agency that can help you to keep a good image and avoid all bad comments about your brand.
In China, as in other countries all over the world, consumers don’t read newspapers anymore. They mostly prefer news online in the form of scoops. But press is always powerful. Chinese people trust the news they read. If they read a digital press article about your spirit brand, they will be more interested about you.
You can sign a contract with online newspaper and a journalist will write on an article about your brand. Also, you can invite journalists at events around your goods in order to promote your brand.
To gain in visibility and e-reputation, it is crucial to encourage a positive word-of-mouth. KOL can help you.
The Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) are social media users who succeeded to make a lot of traffic on their accounts and became famous. Chinese consumers idolize KOLs, trust them more than brands. Some KOLs have some millions of fans. They are really good to influence mass population.
You can influence spirits lovers using KOLs as intermediaries. Through them you are able to reach your target group. In other words, intermediaries can be a great asset in selling your imported spirits to Chinese consumers.
However, KOLs are not an easy tool to control, it’s definitely one of the most useful ones out there but they are humans with their own thinking power. They can improve the reputation of a brand but also destroy it.
Chinese consumers are influenced when their idol recommends or favors your spirits brand. By doing this your target audience will convince very fast and will eventually buy your products.
By engaging with KOL, your website and your brand will become more appealing through the buzz effect from their followers. The aim is to create a positive influence about the brand.
Spirits market is a lucrative market full of opportunities for foreign brands.If you understand how the chinese market works, you will quickly improve your sales.
Devising the right digital marketing strategy for this market is the key. Working with a local agency as Gentlemen Marketing Agency can help you to avoid the traps of the Chinese market which are numerous. Our agency work with western spirits brands since 2012. We have a lot of imported spirits brand projects and our experts are here to help you developing your business in China.
Our focus is to promote your business with your target closely in mind. After all my explanations, you understand that the key to sell online is to have a good image and to be reputable. We’ll use digital tools including: Baidu SEO and SEM, E-PR, Media Buying (DSP) & Community Management. Then, we’ll manage the campaign and assure its optimization & success.
We are experienced on Baidu
We are professionals of the lead generation. To be effective in your lead generation, you need first to develop a good e-reputation. Invest in online advertising and create quality content will help you developing your e-reputation. Finally, measure results to improve your performances.
We are lead generation experienced and we apply it to our agency. We get an average of 350 leads per month (March 2018) by applying the method we offer to companies that use our services.
Since 2012, we work with foreign companies which want to develop their sales in China. We understand the expectations of Chinese and we know their habits and expectations when they want to buy imported spirits. Understanding this specific consumer is the key of success.
We are a ROI-focused agency. The solution is to attract and also re-target the most qualified traffic in order to increase conversion rates.
We are French and Chinese team, here to help you developing your business in China.
We understand the Chinese consumers: their needs and habits
We also understand the foreign brands’ difficulties when they tried to enter the Chinese market.
Each member of the team is specialized in a field. They have experience and they are effective.
We are a friendly team, we offer the coffee if you book a meeting with our consultants to discuss about your project in China.
And trust me… our coffee is really good
In China, reputation one of the most important things. It’s really complicated to manage your e-reputation in China, because with social media so widespread, everyone can have a public opinion on everything. Making sure customers are talking about your brand through these channels in a positive manner will build your brand profile and should result in greater sales.
Working with experienced marketing agencies such as Gentlemen Marketing Agency can make the process easy, designing strategies effective for the Chinese consumer.
MyRedCastle is a French start-up wine producer and customization brand. They provide a special service: customization of wine from French AOC chateau.
After understanding that the demand is growing for wine in China, they decided to enter in the Chinese market through online approach. So our agency made a careful proposal based on the overview and analysis of the market for them and conducted their marketing in China.
The Brasserie brewery begun life in 1905 in Monaco. It was later destroyed in 1970 and then rebuilt on ‘Hercule’s Harbor’ in 1998. The brewery produces an artisan, non-filtrated beer, destined for the region’s luxurious hotels and restaurants. It is presented in a premium bottle and reflects Monaco’s luxurious and decadent spirit.
Obtain a better e-reputation to facilitate their distribution in China.
· 3000 new followers on Weibo.
· 1000 new followers on WeChat.
· Ranking in top 2 pages on Baidu search results.
· Connections with over 50 Chinese KOL’s.
If you take everything in consideration, the spirits market in China could be the opportunity of a lifetime for your imported brand. Maybe tomorrow you could have many fans and buyers in China and be a real threat to the other competitors.
In this adventure, you will have to make difficult decisions, that could have a significant impact on the long-term. Therefore, it’s needed that you take the right ones. Work with specialist of the marketing in China can help you to avoid traps. Only then your imported spirits brand will be successful.