Dawn Pottier spent nine years growing her baby brand, Lulujo, from a single ring-sling carrier made in her native New Brunswick Canada, into one of the country’s most successful small businesses. So successful, in fact, Lulujo was invited to join the Canadian business delegation with Prime Minister Trudeau to China that September, the start of her journey selling to China with a Tmall Partner.
Selling in China is very different to Western countries and Dawn immediately discovered that local assistance is vital, product tastes are different and marketing is a totally different ball game.
Find a local Chinese Tmall Partner
The first thing that Dawn did was to find a Tmall Partner, a third-party company that helps overseas businesses onboard to Alibaba’s ecommerce platforms. Dawn met Sunny Sun of Uni Best who agreed to help launch her baby products into China.
“I liked the swaddling blanket a lot because I’m a mom. But in China, few people know this category. So, I thought it was a new opportunity.”
– Sunny Sun, president, Uni Best
Sunny chose Tmall Global, Alibaba’s dedicated cross-border ecommerce marketplace, as the best way into China for Lulujo. The site allows overseas brands to sell to Chinese consumers without setting up a brick-and-mortar store in the country. Tmall Global is also seen as a good way companies unknown in China to build brand awareness in their newest market.
Marketing to a Chinese audience
The Tmall Global store went live just a few months later in December 2017. Sunny supplemented the launch with an extensive marketing campaign, including videos and livestreaming to introduce the Lulujo brand to likely buyers in China.
Dawn says that Sunny and Uni Best did all the work for them and this is why a partner is so key. Videos and livestreaming are massive in China and having a partner that knows the territory and can do the work for you is essential to getting seen.
Thanks to the marketing push, Pottier’s swaddling blanket was the first item to sell. Her line of “baby’s first year” products followed soon after. Dawn wanted to take things further, having done so well on TMall Global she looked for other ways to grow in China.
That led her to another Trading Partner, Web Presence in China, which helped onboard her to Tmall Classic. The original Tmall site is a much bigger market than its cross-border peer, but it requires more from a seller if they want to join the platform. For example, Web Presence in China had to help Lulujo obtain licenses to do business in China and trademarks for its products. But in return a brand gets access to new channels and new sources of revenue.
The Tmall store had its one-year anniversary in April, with Lulujo’s products for Tmall Classic customers shipping from Web Presence in China’s logistics facility in the central city of Nanjing.
Tailoring products for local Chinese tastes
Dawn has learned a lot about the China market, for instance floral prints may be huge in North America right now, but Tmall shoppers think they’re ugly.
Another example is packaging. If something is going to be given as a gift, as baby products often are, then the wrapping is as important as the product itself. In the West, a ribbon is good enough but that’s not going to attract a Chinese audience who want a full blown gift unboxing experience.
China is a very different territory to sell in,compared to the UK, Canada, the US or other Western countries. Tailoring products wouldn’t be possible without the local expertise to guide you and having a partner to handle the social, video and livestreaming side of the business will short cut your route to success.