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How to launch into the Chinese consumer market

Breaking into the Chinese consumer market has been one of the biggest and most exciting moments for Dr.PAWPAW. We are still very much in our infancy following our official launch with Tmall Global in March 2021, but the journey to get us to this point was not without its challenges. There are some major things to consider when looking to launch your brand in China. It’s not an easy or a quick process, so consider these before you decide if this territory is right for you – that said, the benefits once you’re there can be phenomenal.

Do you want to test on animals? 

First and foremost, you need to decide are you going to test on animals or not? As a brand Dr.PAWPAW has never tested on animals, and we weren’t going to start doing this just so we could break ground in China. For this reason we went down the cross-boarder selling route. This allowed us to sell and deliver into a pre-bonded warehouse that is located just outside of China and they ship directly from here to the Chinese consumer. Before you do anything you need to decide what direction you want to go with where animal testing is considered. Our strong ethics around animal testing means that we sell through Tmall Global which is host to many many brands that also share our beliefs agains animal testing. It’s important to consider that your journey may differ if you choose the alternative route. The rules on animal testing will be changing soon, however, imagine the rush of brands who will now approach this market.

Do you have selling power? 

It’s important in business to admit when you have the upper hand and when you don’t. Not everything is going to be a good fit and this can relate to specific retail outlets or in some cases specific territories. Ask yourself, are your products going to sell and sell well in China, before you consider starting your journey to launch. To get your answer you need to have a good understanding of the chinese consumer and ensure there is already an interest in your brand. Other key factors for us that gave us the confidence to pursue the new market was the Chinese consumers’ desire for branded products from the UK, their interest in British brands and their love for certain ingredients. Some of our products contain ingredients like mango and coconut, these are in demand in the Chinese market and being natural is something that is progressing and the Chinese consumer is becoming more and more conscious about. We ticked many boxes when looking at our selling power tactics for this new market so have been able to approach our launch with confidence. Something else to think about is launching a plastic item back into the Chinese market, often they already have similar items available and at a much cheaper price, it would be hard for you to compete and you should be thinking twice before selling back into this territory if your products are already being made there. The demand for products Made In China is wilting. 

What is your game plan?

You have the right products, you’ve decided on your animal testing stance, now what is your next move? We’d previously tried to launch with a distributor, but that didn’t work out for us, this time we wanted to try again and launch via Tmall Global. Owed by AliBaba, Tmall Global contributes to 61.5% of China’s eCommerce market and with over 500 million users the numbers really do speak for themselves, there is no better place to sell. 

To begin with we first attended the annual AliBaba conference, it was from this point when we were talking with the correct buyers, the right people that we first saw evidence that there was a huge interest in the brand. From then onwards we developed a good relationship with our Tmall beauty buyer who suggested the Tmall Global route, based on the above points, this was the best option for us. She guided us through the next stage in the planning which was to find and appoint a TP. 

How to launch into the Chinese consumer market
How to launch into the Chinese consumer market

How do you communicate with the Chinese Market? 

A TP is a person or agency that essentially sits between you and the Chinese consumer. Unless you or someone in your team are able to speak Cantonesse or Mandarin you really do need that partner to be able to communicate and communicate correctly on your behalf, we’ve learnt that it really isn’t as easy as using Google Translate to communicate with your different markets. Launching into the Chinese market was such a big dream for the business, we didn’t want to be lazy or rely on mediocre resources for this. 

We are fully supported by our TP who act on our behalf. They act as our customer service representatives and they also advise us on what products we should be selling as their understanding on the market is far better than our own. They manage our shopping pages, translations, all the heavy work to ensure our brand message is delivered the right way to the Chinese consumer. They also manage our Chinese social media channels, which of course differ hugely from what we have in the UK and most of the world. 

TP costs can be quite high, but the expertise is critical and in just a few short months the investment has already paid off for us, I don’t know what we would have done without them.

Do you have a marketing budget?

If the answer is no to this one then you may have to reconsider or revisit your launch into China further down the line. You need to be fully prepared to invest and you will be looking at a contribution of £20-£40K for marketing per month minimum. This investment is more than crucial to both support your launch and make your mark in China. The population is so vast, a few hundred pounds just isn’t going to make a dent in this market. So many people are buying, you just need to make sure with this marketing budget that the products they are buying are yours. The budget would go towards working with KOL’s ( in the UK more widely known as influencers) to really make an impact and drive sales for your brand. 

How to launch into the Chinese consumer market
How to launch into the Chinese consumer market

Are you ready to launch in China?

Once you have mastered all the above points you need to make sure before you launch that your brand is protected. To do this you need to make sure you have all the correct IP. You also need to be fully prepared to work fast, we have daily constant communication with our TP, they need decisions, and answers and they need them straight away. Our daily communication is complemented with weekly meetings which are crucial to monitor progress and activity, when you’re reaching that many people and investing that much money, things can happen fast and you’d be surprised at just how much can happen in one week. Be prepared to give the launch your all. 

How to launch into the Chinese consumer market
How to launch into the Chinese consumer market

About the Author

Johnny Paterson founder of Dr.PAWPAW
Johnny Paterson founder of Dr.PAWPAW

Johnny Paterson is a multi award-winning entrepreneur and marketing expert and currently holds the title of Great British Entrepreneur of the Year. He possesses over 25+ years experience in the beauty and hair industry and works closely with Gov+ as a UK London Export Champion providing advice for businesses looking to grow their export business around the world. Johnny is applied, hard working and proactive in all aspects of business.

In 2013 alongside his wife Pauline, Johnny launched his own brand. Dr.PAWPAW, a multi-purpose family product line is now globally regarded, multi award-winning and internationally available. Philanthropy, steered by Johnny’s personal approach and influence on the brand, sees Dr.PAWPAW embark on multiple charity partnerships year on year, a main pillar in the business and one Johnny is keen to expand on as the business grows. 

Johnny is hands on and oversees all sectors of the business from marketing, branding, social media, production and sales and manages a growing team of dedicated staff. 

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