5 things to know before coming to China

Are you looking to export to China? Piece of luck, its consumers love the French Touch! This market, which may seem difficult to access due to its geographical distance and cultural gap, represents real opportunities for French brands. You will surely need these five pieces of information before packing your bags to the biggest market in the world.

The French Touch is 5% of French wealth but also international influence issues, soft power and competitiveness. Several companies carry its banner beyond the borders and even as far as China. Fond of French brands, the country has already welcomed several names such as Diptyque, Zadig&Voltaire, or even ba&sh. With Matthieu Rochette Schneider, architect and CEO of centdegrés China and Southeast Asia, these brands share their experience and the keys to success in this area, which presents as many opportunities as challenges.

Being part of the French Touch, a strong argument on the Chinese market

China’s vision of France is a plus for French brands. Elegance is the key word when talking about La French Touch, or “fàshì” (法式). The image of the chic Parisienne remains very rooted: “Paris continues to make Chinese consumers dream, who see our brands arrive with their know-how, their quality, their heritage. These values ​​are very well perceived there,” explains Fabienne Mauny, executive director of Diptyque. A vision that can prove to be a pressure since it requires living up to the French Touch and the imagination that surrounds it.

If France is already well represented by the major fashion and luxury brands, the smallest companies should not be intimidated. “Only China has a market of this size on Earth. I find that the size of the company is not the problem. There are very small SMEs whose passion, history and embodiment of their brand allow them to develop in China“, illustrates Matthieu Rochette Schneider, whose centdegrés China and Southeast Asia company supports companies in this country.

Localize your product and brand to meet China’s expectations

Being part of The French Touch is good. Being so while meeting local codes is even better! This is one of the main challenges faced by French brands targeting the Chinese market. “We must be attentive to the colors that are in fashion, which are not necessarily the same as in France. In ready-to-wear and shoes, the morphology of Asians is also different from Europeans,” explains Astrid Dang, Senior Project Manager Greater China at Zadig&Voltaire. On her side, ba&sh, which has been established in China for 5 years and distributed in 40 direct sales outlets, offers products designed specifically for the Chinese market. “These products represent a large part of our sales in the area,” says Zephyr Liu, CEO Asia of the company. From the outset, the brand surrounded itself with local partners who helped it better understand the habits of Chinese consumers. For its Asia director, this is one of the key points of success in this country: “We then built our team locally to have real market expertise, and we communicate regularly with the head office in France“. This is the strategy adopted by Diptyque, whose local team enables the company to better understand the area, adapt to it and succeed there.

Matthieu Rochette Schneider also encourages companies to devote time to discovering Chinese culture. “To avoid pitfalls, you have to build up an appetite for China. For example, you can keep a 3h slot per week to read on China, trends, what is happening there… Uncertainty becomes less uncertain, it promotes a healthier curiosity and it avoids fantasizing about any new information“. From design to distribution, we must think about keeping our French Touch banner while thinking Chinese.

Social media to “touch Chinese people’ hearts”

Difficult to approach China without going through its social media. In this country where Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not accessible, we will rather talk about WeChat, Douyin (the Chinese version of Tik Tok) or Little Red Book. They are essential to reach consumers. “Brand awareness is something very important to win the hearts of Chinese people. Communication is not to be neglected and must be very localized”, explains Astrid Dang of Zadig&Voltaire. Like many others, the brand has teamed up with local celebrities like singer Wang Feifei to generate interest.

Influencers have a great power of persuasion, especially during “live-shopping” sessions, a video format broadcast live via platforms such as Taobao Live, launched by the giant Alibaba. They try the products, present them to the public who, once seduced, can buy them directly without leaving their viewing. This form of sale has become a key to e-commerce in China, which even the big luxury brands have taken over.

China, a country where the virtual attracts

Live-shopping bears witness to this: the Chinese are fans of online and virtual shopping. Digitization is therefore very important for a company that would like to develop in the market. “In China, almost the entire population owns a smartphone. We do not open the computer to make purchases,”explains Astrid Dang. “The digital ecosystem is totally different, you have to learn everything and it’s important to do it with teams on site, with whom you have to dialogue daily to understand the issues and the customers in order to talk to them in the most appropriate way. possible”, adds Fabienne Mauny of Diptyque.

In China too, the metaverse and NFTs are making headlines. Dior, for example, created a virtual avatar of its Chinese muse, actress Jing Tian. Other brands organize NFT lotteries that are particularly popular with Generation Z and Millennials, representing the majority of consumers and which are closely followed by companies for their purchasing power.

Covid brings new trends

As in many other countries, lockdowns have brought with them new habits, first and foremost a return to oneself and concern for well-being. Fabienne Mauny and her Diptyque perfumes illustrate this perfectly. “Some were telling us that it was too early, perfume did not inspire Chinese consumers at that time, the overall perfume market was very small in the total beauty market, and I’m not even talking about perfumes niche.“. And for good reason: the Chinese still wear very little perfume when the company arrives on site in 2014. The market, then considered microscopic, nevertheless experienced real growth with the arrival of the Covid, with a new interest of the inhabitants for the scent. A bet, originally risky, has thus turned into a real opportunity. “The Chinese move fast and learn quickly, this interest in perfume which was not at all obvious 10 years ago is there today. We are increasingly seduced by perfumes for ourselves and those for the home.“.

In summary, entrepreneurs who have experienced China insist: it is necessary to have a clear vision of its long-term objectives and to be able to prioritize topics and strategies. “China is a sprint and a marathon at the same time,” concludes Matthieu Rochette Schneider.

To go further, you can replay the “Osez la Chine” webinar !

Published in collaboration with The French Touch