When will Chinese companies become major players in the world market? Though the Middle Kingdom has the world’s second largest economy and is home to many large companies, there hasn’t yet been a Chinese brand that has been able to garner overwhelming success with their brand overseas. The very incentive to step into foreign markets may also be stunted by the growth of a huge new Chinese consumer class that has created ample opportunity for growth without even having to consider going global. This may account for the small number of Chinese brands that do attempt to build an identity overseas, but those that do take the plunge face unique obstacles that come with being a Chinese brand going global.
The Brand to Watch
Alibaba has been said to be the Chinese brand to watch, especially after CEO Jack Ma’s successful high-profile visit to the U.S. last year. Though currently westerners view the company as a booming investment opportunity, time will tell if western consumers will soon become enticed by its shopping prowess. Alibaba is presenting some key learning opportunities for other Chinese companies seeking to go global through several important steps they have taken to enter the international market.
Set Yourself Apart
The unfortunate story of Chinese Olympic gymnast Li-Ning’s sportswear brand, is a typical tale of a Chinese brand trying to look a little too similar to a very revered and established brand—Nike—and failing to differentiate themselves simply by having a “me too” mentality. The brand also failed to catch on in the U.S. after rushing too quickly into the market instead of first creating a retail network and e-commerce presence. In contrast, by diving into and developing the relatively new idea of cross border e-commerce, and showing overseas merchants how they can also use it, Alibaba has brought something new to the table that will in turn set themselves apart.
However, it’s not just cross-border e-commerce that is helping Alibaba to excel. The brand has received a high score from Brand Z in the categories of “meaningful” and “different” due to its unique and user-friendly interface for both sellers and consumers. The interface has been hailed as one that meets both functional and emotional needs, making headway in the development of online shopping.
Face Issues Head On
Alibaba is also differentiating themselves from the “made in China” stereotypes by facing issues like fake goods and quality control head on. With the recent explosions in Tianjin, and the reputation of Chinese companies promoting the sale of counterfeit items, Chinese brands have suffered the scrutiny of the world. During his visit to the U.S., Jack Ma was able to explain in fluent English, the concerns that he has about the sale of fake goods via Alibaba and the methods used to eradicate this problem. Through transparency and openness, he was able to build trust in his brand among western consumers.
Take Time to Market Yourself
Chinese brands can also learn from the marketing effort that Alibaba has made in the west. Simply by producing quality online content like videos and articles, traveling the world to meet governments and trade associations, and accepting interviews, Alibaba is working to build a solid brand image overseas.
Chinese brands looking to expand globally can learn from Alibaba’s efforts to differentiate themselves, innovate, face issues, and be visible. Time will show how the brand will fare globally, but for now it would appear that the future is bright.