RIP Michael Norris – our beloved colleague

It is with profound shock and great sorrow that we have to announce the death of our respected colleague Michael Norris, a very important member of Agency China, who passed away unexpectedly on May 26, 2022 after a sudden physical illness that failed to be rescued in Shanghai Sixth People’s Hospital.

With the loss of Mr. Norris, we have lost such a talented colleague and a trusted friend, and we extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Michael’s family for the lose of their beloved one.

It’s hard to put into words in this moment of great pain.

Mr Michael Norris, may your soul rest in peace.

2022 China E-commerce Calendar

China is the world’s largest e-commerce market. From the overall penetration rate of e-commerce, there is still a broad space for improvement, and potential categories determine the future growth space of the industry. In terms of the overall category, the penetration rate of e-commerce is about 25% at present. But the penetration rate of categories is different, especially for fresh food and beverage that the penetration rate of e-commerce is below 10%. These are large categories with trillions of dollars, so there is still a lot of space for ecommerce development.

From the perspective of consumer transaction scenes, the world has entered the era of video and live streaming. The most direct impact on e-commerce is the improvement of conversion rate. Live streaming room with more intuitive commodity display, anchor stimulating words, can greatly improve the conversion rate. According to research data from iResearch, the conversion rate of livestreaming e-commerce has increased from 0.5% to 4.3%.

Agency China has put together your 2022 China E-commerce Calendar to help you identify critical e-commerce shopping festivals to focus on, and to prompt deeper thinking about content and sales rhythms.

(Download your 2022 China E-commerce Calendar at the bottom of the article!)

January: New Year’s Day

A new marketing journey will start from the New Year’s Day. “Welcome the Chinese Year of Tiger” serves as a starting point to discuss on social media, such as New Year wishes, New Year’s image, etc. Brands also need to prepare “New Year shopping streets” and Spring Festival music for consumers in advance to create a hot atmosphere, so as to promote your marketing needs.

(Image Resource: Gucci)

February: Spring Festival & Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day in 2022 just happens to be during the Chinese Spring Festival. As a traditional Chinese festival focusing on “Reunion” and a Western festival focusing on “Love”, combination of the keywords of these two festivals and carrying out the brand marketing campaigns around the related topics will help a brand be more easily accepted by Chinese consumers.

March: Women’s Day

In China, Women’s Day is better known as the Queen’s Day, which describes women in the new era around independence, self-confidence and individuality. Women’s Day is the start of a year of competition between e-commerce platforms. In addition to various promotional activities on ecommerce platform, brands will also launch off-platform campaign to boost brand influence. Taking advantage of the hot event during the Spring Festival when the Chinese women’s football team won the gold medal at the Asian Championship, Nike launched a hashtag: Follow Your Way and released a commercial on Women’s Day, telling a story of Pubuzhma, a female football player who led the men’s team. In addition, Nike invited four representative women who dared to challenge the rules to share their opinions in a talk show, which generated a lot of discussion on social media.

(Image Resource: Nike)

April: April Fool’s Day
April Fool’s Day is a good time for creative marketing. In recent years, in the major e-commerce platforms, it is not difficult to find that there are always some brands to bring consumers some unexpected products at this time.

March: 520

May 20th or 520 is known as the modern-day Valentine’s Day in China because “Five Two Zero” in Chinese sounds like “I love you”. In the past, 520 marketing was more based on giving gifts to express love for loved ones or relatives.

However, with the mainstream awareness of women caring for themselves, 520 marketing on e-commerce platforms focuses more on the value of “self-support to improve happiness” which subtly eliminating the sense of distance between the brand and women.

June: Children’s Day & 618

Children’s Day

Children’s Day has been a popular shopping day in China, where elders spoil children with many gifts, such as clothes, toys, etc. However, it should be noted that children’s Day has spread from children to adults, and people hope to find the memories and happiness of childhood through this festival.

Brands need to adapt quickly to these changes in perceptions and preferences. Everything from the target group, campaign topic to the marketing copywriting and page design needs to change.


618 is the most influential e-commerce campaign in the first half of each year, and it began live-streaming last year. In last year’s 618 live broadcast war, the leading host broadcast 17 live shows, bringing in 3 billion RMB of sales amount. The popularity of live broadcast will continue to this year, and the product category will be more diversified.

August: Qi Xi

As the Chinese Valentine’s Day, Qi Xi has been a great marketing opportunity for jewelry, restaurants, clothing stores, flowers, movie theaters, cosmetics and gift shops. In last year, Chanel invited two brand ambassadors to shoot a special Qi Xi festival short film.

(Image Resource: CHANEL)

September: New Academic Year

For Chinese students, September is the beginning of a new academic year, which is a good opportunity for educational products to be promoted and usually achieve good sales. Although the campaign seems to be aimed at students and their parents, it is often easier for brands to engage with creative marketing, such as co-branding campaigns.

October: Golden Week

The National Day holiday is also called golden Week, which lasts for seven days from 1st October, is a good opportunity for most people to take a vacation or go back to their hometown. It is important for travel related brands to pay attention to the fact that consumers usually plan their travel arrangements in advance, so we recommend that marketing campaigns should be arranged at least one month ago.

November: Double Eleven Campaign

As the largest e-commerce festival in China, double eleven of 2021 achieved 540.3 billion RMB on Tmall and 349.1 billion RMB on JD, with a total of 290,000 brands participating. According to QuestMobile, Taobao, Pinduoduo and JD had 684 million de-active users on the launch day of double eleven campaign.

Livestreaming e-commerce is still very popular. In terms of sales categories, beauty cosmetics, food and beverage are still popular. Taobao livestreaming sales account for 91.2% of beauty cosmetics and 5.7% of food and beverage.

We suggest never miss the Double 11 campaign and strive for a new annual sales record through it.

December:Christmas Day

Christmas Day is the most important festival in the West, has become very popular in China in recent years, especially among young people. The survey found that 70 percent of Christmas goers in China are younger than 38 years old, and 45 percent of them have strong purchasing power. Therefore, for businesses and businesses, Christmas is the last marketing opportunity at the end of the year.

As you can see, China offers a ton of opportunities for brands to promote their products on the countless e-commerce holidays on the various big and smaller platforms. Our advise for every brand is to pick and choose wisely, finding relevant events for their niche and target audience. Participation in the biggest events such as Double 11 and 618 might be a must. But it is best to plan the years promotion budget split for the other events based on where your brand could achieve the best possible outcome.

Would you like to get support in making your annual promotion calendar, and finding the right ways to reach your target audience during these popular e-commerce holidays in China? Don’t hesitate to get in touch for an initial consult with our local team of experts. Let’s make 2022 a great success for your brand in China!

What’s Behind the Rise of Chinese Domestic Brands?

The rise of Chinese domestic brands is the talk of the town.

Chinese domestic brands leveraged “home court advantage” to identify consumer needs and create demand across social media and e-commerce. This has resulted in increased market share across a variety of product categories.

It’s our observation that Chinese domestic brands’ success is poorly understood. It’s often been simplified to patriotic consumer preference. We created a workshop exercise, called the “Domestic Brand Rorsarch Test” to break the idea local brand success can be simplified to one cause. Here’s an extract from the exercise (which you can download here) to show you the multitude of factors at play.

Indeed, if you read previous introductions to local brands like Saturnbird and BUFFX, you’ll know that domestic brand success is down to great choices on where to play and how to win.

If you want unfiltered, nuanced advice about what’s required to compete in China, get in touch with our experts.

Silver Consumption Patterns

The biggest consumption trend for seniors is in the industry of smart digital products. Last year, the number of people between 45 to 55 who purchased smart equipment had doubled, and that for people above 56 had also grown by 250%. Other than catching up with the society’s technology trend, they are buying other ingeniously designed items for emergencies, such as wireless emergency buttons, and portable oxygen machines.

Prospects for Oat Milk in China

Have you heard of Oatly? If so, chances are you know a little about the market for milk alternatives. But what are the prospects for milk alternatives in China?

Read on to find out what China’s market for milk alternatives looks like today, with a focus on oat milk.

Growth Tailwinds for Oat Milk In China

Before getting into some of the tailwinds, it’s worth noting that Chinese cuisine already has a number of alternative milks, like soy milk, almond milk and peanut milk. Indeed, these kinds of milk are alreadt enjoyed at breakfast tables across China. We think this means the barriers for consumers to accept alternative milks are lower in China than other countries. Further, when you consider some 90% of Chinese adults may have some level of lactose intolerance, you get a sense of alternative milks’ potential in China.

So, what does the size of China’s alternative milk market look like?

In 2020, China’s alternative milk market was worth RMB55 billion (USD$8.5 billion). This includes a wide-range of beverages, principally soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, walnut milk, peanut milk and coconut milk. You could say 2020 was a watershed moment for plant-based milks in China. Tmall’s Plant-based Protein Beverage Innovation Trend Report showed an 800% increase in plant-based protein beverages sold through the platform.

We expect this market to grow between CAGR 2% and 4% to 2025. Outside of lactose intolerance, the other factors driving growth in alternative milks are:

  • Perceived nutritional benefits
  • Low fat and low cholesterol properties
  • Purchase convenience, availability and affordability
Are you looking to find out whether your food or snack brand has a taste profile that works for Chinese consumers? Contact us to see how research solutions like focus groups and product trials might be able to help!

Early Movers for Oat Milk In China

Oatly has had much success in China. Indeed, some commentators have gone as far as to say that Oatly’s future fortunes are tied closely to success in China. However, Oatly isn’t running this race alone. In May this year, it was observed that there are over 50 oat milk brands on Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall, an increase of 152% year on year. Of these, the brands who have raised VC funding and have a compelling go-to-market proposition include:

  • Oakidoki
  • Yili
  • Oatoat
  • Cereal Planet
The oat milk market in China: From cafés to nation-wide e-commerce
An Advertisiement for Yili’s Oat Milk Beverage

Ongoing Themes for Oat Milk In China

Whether optimizing their own nutrition, pursuing new beverage trends or experimenting with healthier lifestyles, Chinese consumers will likely have plenty of alternative milks to choose from.

What’s particularly interesting about alternative milks in China is that it marks the intersection of a number of themes in China’s food and beverage market:  weight concerns, changing lifestyles and new preferences.

We’ve seen similar themes in functional dairy and sports nutrition. If you’ve got an interesting food or beverage proposition, talk to us.

Douyin and Kuaishou Open China Cross-Border e-Commerce

China’s two largest short video platforms, Douyin and Kuaishou, have embraced cross-border e-commerce. This further illustrates how these short video platforms are building out their e-commerce capabilities.

Last December, Douyin flagged its intentions to help merchants sell through Douyin via cross-border e-commerce. It subsequently started onboarding merchants in January 2021. Kuaishou quickly followed and began onboarding cross-border e-commerce merchants in May 2021.

This means overseas brands can launch an e-commerce presence on Douyin and Kuaishou, China’s largest short video platforms, without having a local Chinese business entity.

Why Douyin or Kuaishou For China Cross-Border e-Commerce?

When people think of China cross-border e-commerce, they typically think of Tmall Global. By GMV share, Tmall Global is the leader in China’s cross-border e-commerce channel. However, there are compelling reasons why Douyin or Kuaishou may be suitable for China market entry for cross-border e-commerce.

  • Douyin and Kuaishou are among China’s largest apps. Douyin is reported to have 600 million Daily Active Users. That places it as one of China’s largest apps. Kuaishou is no slouch, either. It has Monthly Active Users.
  • Douyin and Kuaishou have significant e-commerce ambitions. By GMV, last year Douyin transacted around $28 billion and Kuaishou transacted $56 billion in GMV. These figures pale in comparison to established e-commerce players, such as Alibaba ($1.2 trillion of GMV in 2020), JD ($398 billion of GMV in 2020) and Pinduoduo ($255 billion of GMV in 2020). However, these com[anies have grand ambitions for e-commerce. Douyin’s parent company, Bytedance, has ambitions to triple e-commerce GMV this year. Kuaishou reckons its GMV will double this year. As such, the excitement around Douyin and Kuaishou’s burgeoning e-commerce businesses comes from future potential, rather than current scale.

What Are The Advantages of China Cross-Border e-Commerce?

Cross-border e-commerce in China holds a specific distinction. International companies are allowed to sell certain goods to Chinese consumers online, through platforms such as Tmall Global, Kaola, Douyin and Kuaishou at preferential duty rates and without a license to operate a business in China. As you can imagine, that’s a significant reduction in red tape. It also lowers the cost of doing business in China.

As we’ve previously discussed, launching via cross-border e-commerce also has a number of advantages:

  • Test Market Demand: A launch via cross-border e-commerce allows new market entrants to de-risk their entry into China and assess market demand over a 12 or 18-month period, before looking to commit further resources and explore distribution opportunities within China’s massive consumer market.
  • Validate Market Entry Business Case: North American and European brands prefer test-and-learn approaches to market entry. Entry through e-commerce allows brands to gauge what sort of effort and resource commitment they’d need to pursue entry into China. In addition, it also allows newcomers an opportunity to test and finesse assumptions about their unique value proposition, marketing, pricing, merchandising and relative strength against domestic and international competitors.  
  • Build in-Market Presence: Although there are indirect channels to reach Chinese shoppers (like overseas influencers and airport retail), these don’t deliver the return-on-investment that in-market presence does.

What Are The Next Steps To Enter China via Cross-Border e-Commerce?

Overall, cross-border e-commerce is an effective channel for overseas businesses to test and learn market entry China. With Douyin and Kuaishou in the mix, brands have more choices about which cross-border e-commerce channel they enter China with – they can enter through Tmall Global, Kaola, Douyin, Kuaishou or even Pinduoduo. If you’d like to know more about cross-border e-commerce, please get in touch with one of our team.

3 Things You Need To Know About Douyin e-Commerce

China’s popular short video apps, Douyin and Kuaishou, are significant marketing channels and are rapidly gaining scale as e-commerce players. Brands are not only directing their content marketing budgets towards these apps, but also using them to create multi-million-dollar sales channels. For instance, L’Oréal Group recently became the first major international brand to open a Douyin flagship store, which it’s reported raked in more than CNY 22 million (USD $3.42 million) in Gross Merchandising Volume (GMV) between April 30 and May 6.

Against that backdrop, here are the three things you need to know about e-commerce on Douyin.

If you haven’t seen China’s see-now, shop-now livestream e-commerce format, check out this video before reading on.

Douyin e-Commerce Isn’t The Biggest Player in Town

While there might be plenty of media talk of Douyin’s e-commerce ambitions, Douyin is still a small player in China’s e-commerce scene. By GMV, last year Douyin transacted around $28 billion. Douyin’s rival, Kuaishou, transacted $56 billion in the same period. These figures pale in comparison to established e-commerce players, such as Alibaba ($1.2 trillion of GMV in 2020), JD ($398 billion of GMV in 2020) and Pinduoduo ($255 billion of GMV in 2020).

However, Douyin’s potential as an e-commerce player lies in its current scale. Douyin is reported to have 600 million Daily Active Users. That places it as one of China’s largest apps. Further, Douyin’s parent company, Bytedance, has ambitions to triple e-commerce GMV this year. As such, excitement around Douyin’s burgeoning e-commerce business comes from its future potential, rather than its current scale.

Douyin e-Commerce Isn’t Just Livestream e-Commerce

Douyin e-commerce started as livestreaming e-commerce. However, it would be a misconception to think that all Douyin e-commerce is livestream e-commerce. In March, Douyin expanded its e-commerce services with the launch of flagship stores for brand accounts. That takes Douyin a step closer to a mobile e-commerce marketplace. Other e-commerce marketplaces started from product listing and moved to recommendation feeds, flash sales, livestream e-commerce and other formats. Douyin, however, has evolved the other way.

Douyin anticipates flagship stores will increase brand exposure. A spokesperson for Douyin predicts the ratio of product views to total page views from the account’s homepage should jump from 17 percent to 80 percent, and click-through rates will also rise.

Douyin flagship store for fashion brand Peacebird
Source: Douyin

Whatever Direction Douyin e-Commerce Goes In, TikTok Will Go Next

Bytedance is the parent company of Douyin and TikTok. In both apps development, a good rule of thumb is that whatever happens on Douyin, TikTok will follow soon thereafter. Take livestream e-commerce as an example. This was Douyin’s foothold in e-commerce. Now, TikTok is doing the same in select markets, like Indonesia. Like Douyin, TikTok has very clear e-commerce ambitions. Per this article, TikTok has briefed advertisers on three new eCommerce integrations coming soon to the app:

  • A tool that lets its most popular users share links to products and automatically earn commission on any sales
  • The ability for brands to showcase catalogs of their products on the platform
  • “Livestreamed” shopping, a mobile phone version of television shopping channels, where users can buy goods with a few taps after seeing them showcased by TikTok stars

Sound familiar? That’s right, this is a carbon copy of Douyin’s e-commerce playbook. Accordingly, if you’re in China and have operations overseas, you can give your overseas colleagues a big head-start by sharing knowledge of local practices. Alternatively, you get in touch with one of our experts to give you a download on what’s happening in China e-commerce.

5 Export Opportunities to China in 2021

China’s economic planners have set a 6% GDP growth target for 2021. China, it appears, has shrugged off the worst of COVID-19. This has many brands asking:

Where are the export opportunities to China in 2021?   

We sat down with AgencyChina’s Research & Strategy Manager, Michael Norris, who relayed what he and his team of Chinese market research professionals had found on a few recent projects.

Below is an edited transcript. If you like what you hear, you can sign up to arrange a free expert call with Michael Norris, now available till May 31. A unique chance to get some great first-hand China knowledge!

Top Export Product Opportunities in China

Editor: What product categories do you think have the best prospects in China this year?

Michael Norris: I think the pillars for imported brands in China will remain largely unchanged this year – skincare, haircare, pet care and nutrition continue to have strong tailwinds. Principally, the purchasing power of China’s middle-class continues to increase and there’s a universal desire among the type of middle-class consumers we work with to look and feel their best.

However, what we continue to advise new market entrants is China is now a level playing field. That is to say, the ‘halo effect’ imported brands once enjoyed has faded away. As such, brands need to do their homework before they enter.

Top Export Product Niches in China

Editor: Drilling down, what niches do you expect to have strong growth this year?

Michael Norris: There are five niches I really like this year. The first is toothpaste, which is seeing ingredient and format innovation. This driven by a focus on dental beautification – straight teeth and a bright smile.

The next is cat food. Cat ownership is growing faster than dog ownership, and, if current trends continue, cats will become China’s most preferred pet in a year or two.

A further changing preference is perfumes and fragrances. Fragrances are increasingly signifier for style and taste among China’s younger white-collar types, both male and female. Recognizing this demand, Tmall has even opened up a direct air route to carry over niche perfumes by air freight.

When it comes to personal style, we can’t go past hair. I like the prospects of a number of hair care niches, especially anti-breakage and strengthening shampoos. The China Association of Health Promotion and Education reckons that China’s premature hair loss population stands at a whopping 250 million, most of them between 20 and 40 years old. Any help brands can give here is undoubtedly welcome.

I know it’s bigger than a niche, but I do have to say it as it’s one of my favorites: male skincare and cosmetics. We expect the average number of skincare products male consumers to rise from 1.5 to 3.5 over the next five years, which will drive significant category growth.

Advice For Brands Entering China

Editor: What can brands do to keep up with changes in China’s consumer preferences?

Michael Norris: Top performing brands tend to have a strong sense of what they already know and what they want to find out about the consumer. They then craft a research agenda around those things to make sure they keep up to date. There’s a quick mental quicklist anyone can use to start their own research agenda.

  1. What are the three things you’d most like to know about your Chinese consumers current habits? How are these things important to your business?
  2. What are the three things you’d most need to learn about to prepare your business for the future?
  3. What evidence do you have about these things already? How would you rate the quality of that evidence?
  4.  What plans do you have to update existing evidence or gather new evidence?

AgencyChina is a full-service agency, covering market research, marketing and e-commerce operations. That means we’re in a great place to help new and established brands at any point in their journey.

We can help size up an opportunity and build a business case, use consumer interviews to understand changing needs, create a distinctive brand in-market, or identify which parts of a brand’s e-commerce operations need some fine-tuning.

I always encourage folks to have an open dialogue with us. Let us know where you’re at, and we can see whether we’re a good fit.   

3 Brands To Help You Understand Healthy Snacking In China

It’s no secret that China’s Post 90 and Post 95 consumers are turning towards healthier snacking. Healthy snacking in China represents a desire to treat oneself, minus the guilt of becoming a couch potato.

So, which brands deliver best on China’s healthy snack trend? We asked our e-commerce data insights manager, Teddy Wang, to give his top three picks. If you’d like to get more insights, book a free consultation with one of our experts here.

Trending Healthy Snack in China #1: Sugar-Free Yoghurt

The first trending healthy snack is sugar-free yoghurt. Last year, amid the pandemic, dairy products rose to prominence after local dairy lobbies put dairy products’ immunity benefits up in headlights.

Simple Love, a diary brand hailing from Guangzhou-based Honest Dairy, is a beneficiary of this trend. It produces a high-protein spoonable yoghurt, a classic plain spoonable yohgurt and a drinking yogurt. The name – Simple Love – comes from the fact the brands ingredient profile is exceptionally simple. The dairy range contains only high-quality milk and probiotics from Finland-based dairy company Valio.

Trending Healthy Snack in China #2: Cereal and Muesli

The next trending healthy snack is cereal and muesli. China’s consumers have been warming to cereals and muesli for a little while now, with names like Quaker, Calbee and Wangbaobao making their way into kitchen cupboards across China.

While cereals and muesli may seem old hat to overseas readers, for Chinese consumers the appeal lies in versatility – cereal can be eaten dry, combined with yoghurt, combined with fruit, added to warm milk or even used as part of DIY desserts.

If you’re thinking about bringing a cereal or muesli into China, you’ll need to understand and cater to what consumers appreciate – low sugar, baked oats with chunky pieces of dried fruit.

Trending Healthy Snack in China #3: Fortified Gummies

Fortified gummies, as typified by BUFFX, are Teddy’s third pick for trending healthy snack.

You might have noticed that we’ve previously written about BUFFX, as a challenger in the fortified foods and health supplements category.

By way of back story, BUFFX recognized that Chinese consumers are daunted by imported vitamin and supplement pill sizes. If you compare pills and caplets in China to overseas, you’ll find there is a demonstrable size difference. BUFFX understood this and designed a gummy supplement – the type that you might typically find for children.

These gummies have a taste and texture profile which is far more palatable to local consumers, and far closer to a snack than a supplement. Indeed, most consumers we’ve come across treat them as a snack – which is why they make this list.

What can you take away from this?

The biggest takeaway here is Chinese consumers want it all – the indulgence of snacking, high-quality ingredients, great taste, and low-calorific content. That sounds like a high bar, and it is.

The good news?

Chinese consumers are happy to pay a premium for brands that can deliver against their high expectations.

Speak to one of our experts to understand whether your brand meets the bar.

Local Challenger Takes On Foreign Brands In China’s Supplement Market

In April, we wrote a popular post on how China’s Saturnbird Coffee is taking on Nestle in China’s instant coffee market. Given we love innovative products that unlock new growth, here’s a new example in China’s Supplement Market: BUFFX.

BUFFX is a vitamin and supplement start-up that launched in April this year, not long after China returned to work after a pandemic-induced lockdown. BUFFX attracted two sets of seed investment before its products launched online in September. In its first two weeks, BUFFX accrued CNY 1 million in sales. To us, this is a signal that the brand is doing something right. We think they’ve got plenty of success ahead of them.

Below, we outline what BUFFX did to secure early success in the China Supplement Market:

  • Solve a consumer pain point
  • Go where others are reluctant to go
  • Be bold and distinctive
  • Get investors to support launch

Let’s look at each of these in turn. If you work in FMCG, you’ll find the learnings practical and relevant.

BUFFX Solves A Consumer Pain Point In Vitamins And Supplements

Vitamins and supplements are a fast-growing category, posting a CAGR of 10% between 2013 and 2019 – much faster than the FMCG category average.

Vitamins and supplements are traditionally an area where imported brands, such as Swisse and Blackmores, have performed well. Given concerns around the quality and efficacy of domestic vitamins and supplements, the category is highly conducive to cross-border e-commerce.

However, there’s a consumer pain point which has long been overlooked by imported brands – consumers are daunted by imported vitamin and supplement pill sizes. If you compare pills and caplets in China to overseas, you’ll find there is a demonstrable size difference. Through in-home interviews, our research team has found that difficulty swallowing a supplement is one of the top reasons Chinese consumers stop taking supplements.

China Supplement Market - old style packaging

BUFFX understood this and designed a gummy supplement – the type that you might typically find for children. This has a taste and texture profile which is far more palatable to local consumers, which increases the chance consumers will make purchasing BUFFX a consistent habit, rather than a once-off.

BUFFX Goes Where Others Are Reluctant To Go

Common supplements in China include Vitamin C and E.

BUFFX wasn’t content with making a gummy version of Vitamin C and E supplements. Instead, it looked at specific niches. Skin, sleep, eye care and digestion are commonly-reported ailments among young Chinese consumers. That’s exactly where BUFFX went. Its initial SKUs include formulations for sleep, eye care, digestion and virility. In the category, eye care and virility had been overlooked in recent years and hadn’t seen much new product development.

We can’t stress how important this type of research is – looking for mismatches between consumer needs, existing propositions and new product development.

BUFFX Is Bold And Distinctive

A quick look at BUFFX’s packaging shows how bold and distinctive they want to be.

China Supplement Market - Buffx packaging

BUFFX have a clear ambition to be the most distinctive vitamin and supplement brand in-market. This marks a break from the minimalist design features which have defined consumer goods in recent years.

We also think the name BUFFX is important. First, it’s easily searched online. Second, it’s memorable. Third, the term ‘BUFF’ is understood by China’s gamer generation as a term which means an enhancement. That flips traditional impressions of supplements on their head – instead of fixing a deficiency, BUFFX augments and empowers.

This sort of branding and positioning work is essential if you’re looking to build a lasting brand in-market.

BUFFX Used Investor Support To Launch

Launching and succeeding in China isn’t for the faint of heart. You need to play to win. One of the first questions we ask brand partners is what resources they can commit to their expansion in China. That’s because we know that China is a commitment. Even n iterative, test-and-learn approach needs to be adequately supported.

As a start-up, BUFFX didn’t have the resources of category leaders like Swisse or GNC. So, it went to investors and pitched the idea – gummy supplements with distinctive packaging, targeting graduates who want to work and play hard. These investors are no doubt pleased with BUFFX’s launch in September – expertly timed for traction and a pop over this year’s Single’s Day.

Now’s your chance!

Alibaba wants to bring 1,000 overseas brands to China. Last year, Tmall Global piloted the incubation program with brands like Fenty BeautyDPC and Brandfree. However, to get backed by Alibaba, brands need to put in the work. We think BUFFX is a good example.

If you like the sound of BUFFX’s approach to market, our team has the requisite skills across research, marketing and commerce to launch a product from scratch, or adjust your product and business model to the needs of China’s consumers. Get in touch to find out more.