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Event Recap: The State of the Nation - China - China's Digital Economy

09 November 2016

eCommerce in the China market is currently a hot topic and our partnership event at Ashurst with Asialink Business on 9 November provided important information to a filled room of attendees. Following an introduction by the Chair of AsiaLink, Mr Sidney Myer AM, the event focused on how China’s economy is being transformed into one driven by innovation, services and consumption and the concurrent economic opportunities for Australian businesses.

Speakers included Ms Liu Bing, Senior China Advisor at Austrade; Mr Danny Armstrong, General Manager, International Branches, Corporate and Institutional Banking at NAB; Mr Simon Woolmer, Government Relations Manager, Australia and New Zealand at Swisse; and Mr Johnny Wong, Director and Co-Founder of Think China. The event was moderated by Mr Nicholas Henderson, Director of China Practice at Asialink Business.

Bing opened by highlighting the differences between how eCommerce is conceptualised in China and in the West. She stated that whereas eCommerce is treated more like ‘dessert’ in western countries, in China, eCommerce is undoubtedly ‘the main meal’. Advances in technology, driven by significant levels of government support, have helped lift the prominence of eCommerce in China. Lower levels of regulation in the eCommerce space and the resulting in the rapid development of different platforms, personal computing, virtual currency and the sharing economy, have seen China evolve into a global, eCommerce leader.

Johnny then shifted the discussion to analyse how Australian businesses can foster greater demand amongst Chinese consumers. His practical insights provided a nuanced look at the nature of Chinese consumers and how to cater to them. He noted that currently there are 1 million Chinese-speaking people settled in Australia (this includes migrants and international students). On top of this, there are also approximately 1 million Chinese tourists in Australia, and 600 million online shoppers residing in China. It is therefore vital that businesses distinguish the ways in which they target these markets as the online environments are different here and overseas. Johnny stressed the importance of having sufficient promotional materials which are easily accessible in order to generate interest in a product.

Simon moved on to discuss Swisse’s rise to becoming the largest selling health brand on Alibaba. Simon noted that Swisse’s extensive research into the China market enabled them to formulate a marketing strategy tailored to the needs of Chinese consumers. This includes specific adherence to how images of products are displayed, fast delivery times and providing extensive, easy to access information about the products. These key aspects are targeted to build up the recognition and trust Chinese that consumers have already developed with Swisse’s products and brand name via daigous. The importance of forging a strong sense of trust between the product and Chinese consumers, particularly daigous, was underlined by Simon. Simon noted that although the prevalence of daigous selling Swisse products slightly diminished the control the company had in managing its introduction into China, daigous contribute positively as they act as unofficial advocates of the product. This establishes a great deal of trust and familiarity among Chinese consumers.

The presentations were followed by an engaging panel discussion which welcomed Mr Danny Armstrong who also closed the proceedings. Danny provided a great deal of on the ground information sourced from his time in China, and reiterated some of the most pertinent points of the other three speakers’ presentations. Notably, Australian retailers who display a UnionPay sticker on the front of their store have a 24 per cent higher of attracting a Chinese consumer.

We warmly thank our presenters for their insightful presentations and Mr Nicholas Henderson for moderating the event. We also thank Ashurst for generously hosting the event, as well as Asialink Business for their partnership.