Parenting in China is a booming business – the rapid evolution of the modern, affluent Chinese parent and family unit has led to spicy mamas and wonder dads who see no reason why luxury shouldn’t extend to all of the family.
For any baby, child or family brand looking to conceive a China strategy and thrive here, competition is fierce. In last month’s CBME Shanghai alone, there were literally thousands of such brands all hopeful to eventually grow in China, but first simply access their target consumer and tell their own brand story.
One company which is able to take a lifestyle brand to the Chinese consumer in fully fledged distribution and brand management, via both online and offline platforms, is Keiki, founded by GM Samantha Shum.
We caught up with Sam after the CBME hubbub calmed down, to gather her insights on this exciting market.
In terms of mar-comms, how is the baby/parent category unique compared to other categories?
The baby/parent category is distinct in that it is scientific in its detail. For example, we need to talk in intricate details about the functionality and materials used to produce the products. It’s not enough to merely state that the material used is ‘glass’, we need to be equipped to explain whether its kitchen grade, medical grade, soda lime or borosilicate. Chinese parents are highly knowledgeable about the various differences in all products and they demand absolute clarity.
As we saw in CBME, there are so many newcomers and existing brands in this industry. How can any new brand entering China hope to stand out?
In this aspect our industry is no different to any other industry, in that the affluent Chinese consumer has near infinite choice. I believe that for any new brand, it needs to very clearly communicate its unique offering. That may sound obvious, but it means that being ‘new is not enough. The brand has to ensure that through everything communicated, it impresses upon the consumer its brand story, what is its vision, values and goals that have led to the functionality, design and detail. The brand identity needs to be obvious, so that it’s easily recognisable and relatable.
How early on in a brand’s China entrance/journey should they aim to work with parent KOLs?
In our industry, KOLs work very well. Parents want to hear from other parents, especially when it comes to child products. If brands are able to work early on with Parent KOLs, I believe that it provides a strong qualifier. It’s a fast and direct way to hear about another parent’s experience with the product, and a way to really tell the story about whether the product is well-designed, functional and safe. While the KOL marketing world may not suit all types, the best parent KOLs go into honest and genuine detail about the nature and performance of the product, which is trustworthy and engaging content for your target customers.
What do you advise entering brands in relation to their strategic timing – such as the order of steps they should take?
The China retail market is evolving so fast, especially with e-commerce platforms being so innovative in how they reach the customers and “talk” to the consumers. There’s no complete “order of steps” anymore. I strongly believe that for brands entering the China market, they first need to evaluate how strong their brand awareness is already, and come up with a strategy that fits that.
Alongside the power and reach of e-commerce in China, it’s important to note that having a strong offline presence gives a ‘brand experience’ that an e-commerce platform may not be able to mimic. Being on an e-commerce platform definitely has the potential for a much wider outreach, but that doesn’t come without the cost of significant marketing investment either. Both complement each other in crucial ways.
Cross-border sites are mainly for products that aren’t able to enter the market in a timely manner, such as food, skincare or certain types of toys, because of a longer certification process in order to enter the China market. So, if time-to-market is an issue, cross-border sites could be a great platform for those types of products. Additionally, if a brand has a wide selection of products and can offer different products on its cross-border and classic domestic channels, then this could be an option to reach a wider spectrum of potential customers as cross-border customers have an existing appreciation for international brands.
In one way, parents worldwide want the best for their kids, in terms of product quality, design and functionality. But how do Chinese parents differ in their selection methods?
In many ways, parents are similar in different regions as they all demand the ‘best’ in every aspect. The difference in China is the access to information in learning about the brands that they trust. International brands need to have presence and exposure on a wide variety of Chinese media platforms as that’s where their consumer is searching for information. This means that the information is not only via the sales platform of an e-commerce app or via retail but with a digital footprint across WeChat, Weibo, Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) so that there is a consistent presence of easy to find, helpful information.