Fjorda – Success in the Chinese ecommerce

Category: Brands
Fjorda's Journey to Success in the Chinese market

Amid a boom in health awareness, China’s rising middle class is investing more into products and services that promote healthy living, including supplements. Fjorda, a Norwegian supplements brand, has leveraged China’s dynamic e-commerce platforms to become a prominent player in the fast-growing Omega-3 category. The journey has been a mix of challenges and triumphs, driven by strategic decisions, local partnerships, and an unwavering commitment to quality.

In this article, Maren Steinnes, Co-founder and CEO of Fjorda, shares the brand’s journey entering China—highlighting key milestones, challenges faced, and the lessons learned along the way.

The Genesis of Fjorda

Fjorda was born out of a rich Norwegian tradition of utilizing the ocean’s resources. “Norway has a long history with the ocean. We’ve been using and making fish oil in Norway for over a thousand years, going back to the Vikings. This historical backdrop, combined with modern technology, lies at the core of Fjorda’s high-quality range of Omega-3 supplement products.

The inspiration for Fjorda came from a desire to create a high-quality consumer product that could compete on a global scale. Steinnes and her co-founder, Beate Opstad Thy, who had over 12 years of experience in the Omega-3 industry, were committed to leveraging their expertise to develop a product that could cater to international markets.

We knew from the start that we wanted to go global. China, with its large and information-savvy consumer base, was a compelling choice for our first major market.

Entering the Chinese Market with Data

Entering the Chinese market was not a spontaneous decision but a well-planned strategy that took almost a year of preparation. Fjorda spent considerable time gaining market insights, finding the right partners, and creating a robust launch strategy. This preparation was crucial given the complexity and competitiveness of the Chinese e-commerce landscape.

One of the significant early decisions was to tailor the product based on local consumer preferences. “We initially wanted to make a pure DHA fatty acid product for cognitive health, but we learned that Chinese consumers prefer a more balanced EPA to DHA ratio,” says Steinnes. This insight led to a change in their product formulation to meet local demands better.

In nearly every sector, the fast-maturing Chinese market contains strong local brands, who are adept at incorporating consumption data into the production cycle. For international brands to stay competitive, they need to analyze local consumer preferences in product formulation, SKU selection for the market, and marketing strategy (for example, which product to designate as the hero product). Fjorda’s careful consideration of local consumer preferences positioned the brand for a successful market entry.

Challenges Fjorda faced

The journey was not without its challenges. Regulatory compliance for health supplements is stringent in China, and Fjorda had to navigate these regulations meticulously. China has robust digital and physical infrastructure to facilitate cross border e-commerce, which allows supplements brands to sell directly to Chinese consumers without undergoing lengthy product registration procedures. Additionally, the competitive landscape was intense, with numerous well-established domestic and international brands already having a significant foothold.

Price sensitivity is another challenge. The Chinese market is highly campaign-driven, with frequent shopping festivals and discounts. Fjorda had to develop a pricing strategy that could compete effectively during these peak sales periods without compromising on the brand’s premium positioning.

Marketing was another crucial area where Fjorda had to adapt quickly. You can have the perfect product with excellent quality, but if you cannot present it to your key audience, you won’t make it. Fjorda adopted a dual marketing approach, focusing on both long-term brand building and immediate sales promotions through influencer marketing and live commerce.

Moreover, brands entering China are faced with an array of local e-commerce channels with different advantages and user demographics. Fjorda opted to launch on Alibaba’s cross-border e-commerce marketplace Tmall Global. Tmall Global is a more traditional search-based marketplace and the largest marketplace based on sales and users.

Fjorda also launched on Douyin, ByteDance’s TikTok equivalent for the China market, which has a robust ecommerce functionality. Douyin has become a fast-growing sales channel for brands across sectors due to the strength of its content recommendation algorithm, with video and livestream content driving spontaneous purchases within the app.

Fjorda’s decision to launch via cross-border e-commerce on Tmall Global and Douyin has provided a foundation for success in the market.

The Role of Local Partnerships

A key element of Fjorda’s strategy was partnering with WPIC Marketing + Technologies, a local e-commerce enabler with over 19 years of experience in the Chinese market. This partnership provided Fjorda with the necessary local presence and expertise to navigate the complexities of the market effectively—including regulatory requirements, pricing strategy, channel selection, and more.

Finding the right partner with local know-how was key. WPIC helped Fjorda with market insights, regulatory compliance, and selecting the right sales platforms. This local expertise was crucial in ensuring a smooth market entry and ongoing success.

Fjorda’s success in China has been a point of pride for WPIC. The Western playbook doesn’t fit neatly in China, and Fjorda’s willingness to embrace unique tools like livestreaming and invest in social commerce channels like Douyin has been key to the brand’s enormous success.

– Joseph Cooke, President, WPIC

Success Stories and Milestones

A recent Fjorda victory was a highly impactful influencer livestream event. The event featured Norway’s largest foreign influencer in China, who showcased Fjorda’s products from their place of origin in Norway. This event generated approximately one-third of Fjorda’s total revenue for the year. The live stream highlighted the authenticity and quality of Fjorda’s products, resonating strongly with Chinese consumers.

Fjorda’s packaging, featuring Norwegian mountains and fjords, also played a role in its success. Initially, this design was not the internal favorite, but it was chosen based on feedback from Chinese test panels. This market-specific adaptation further solidified the brand’s appeal in China.

Looking Beyond China

With a strong foothold in China, Fjorda is now eyeing expansion into other APAC markets, including South Korea and Japan. They are starting the pre-work with regulatory compliance and consumer behavior analysis. The experience gained from entering China will guide Fjorda in these new markets, ensuring a well-prepared and adaptable approach.

Key Lessons and Advice for Other Brands

You can’t emphasise the importance of thorough market research and local partnerships for brands looking to enter China. Find a trusted partner with local experience and know-how. Understanding and adapting to local consumer preferences, maintaining regulatory compliance, and having a robust and flexible marketing strategy are crucial.

Fjorda’s journey in the Chinese market is a testament to the importance of preparation, adaptation, and local partnerships in achieving success. Despite the challenges, the brand’s commitment to quality and its strategic approach have enabled it to become a leading player in the Omega-3 supplements market in China. For other brands looking to enter this dynamic market, Fjorda’s experience offers valuable insights and lessons. As Fjorda continues to expand its presence in APAC, it remains dedicated to its mission of delivering high-quality supplements that resonate with consumers worldwide.

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