China Export Forum 2015 - Key Takeaways

DT ACBC China Export Forum edited.jpg

On 15 July 2015, I was MC for the China Export Forum, hosted by the Australia China Business Council and Export Council of Australia. The Forum was designed to explore the opportunities and challenges of exporting to China from the perspective of leading Australian and global exporters. Through case studies and interactive panel sessions, the audience had the opportunity to not only learn from success stories, but also the unique challenges when exporting to China. The Forum’s first two sessions explored how successful companies entered into the China market utilising traditional export channels and e-commerce platforms. The last session explored some of the challenges exporters typically face and some strategies to overcome them.

Here are some of my key takeaways from the day:

Session I: Traditional Distribution Channels

  1. Exporting to China takes longer than you think and also costs more – you will need to “double your budget, and halve your expectations”.
  2. The “Three Cups of Tea” of relationship building: from stranger to friend to family. In all business dealings, build the trust and relationship first. If dealings start to go wrong, go back to the first step to relationship and trust building.
  3. All the stars are aligned for Australian exporters in China:
  • We now have ChAFTA
  • There is an increasing demand for our products due to China’s changing diet and tastes, the growth of the middle class consumer and more consumers coming from 2nd, 3rd and 4th tier cities
  • Food safety is a major issue and concern in China
  • Australian products are highly regarded as clean, green and safe

Session II: E-commerce for Australian exporters

  1. E-commerce is a whole new language and alphabet soup for us of names, brands, online and offline stores, search engines and social media.
  2. With 640 million internet users and 332 million online consumers, e-commerce is a fast growing opportunity and everyone has to be involved.
  3. E-commerce is complex. Building your brand in the China market is not straightforward so leverage Alibaba and Auspost who are already promoting Australia in China.
  4. 2nd, 3rd and 4th tier Chinese cities do not have the same opportunities and access to products that 1st tier cities do. They are therefore hungrier for imported products and rely on e-commerce to get their hands on these products.

Session III: Challenges for exporters

  1. China is not one market, it is many. Exporters not only need knowledge about China, but specific knowledge about its regions, cities and provinces.
  2. Small and nimble service providers can fulfil a niche market in China.
  3. Being “flexible, flat, fast and fun” are key success factors to doing business in China.
  4. Don’t cut corners – get your brand and trademark registered and protected early, organise and translate contracts and do your due diligence.
  5. The Chinese are not that much different to us – we laugh at the same things, value our families and friends and don’t take ourselves too seriously.