The Negotiation

In this episode of The Negotiation, we talk with Sally Zhang, VP of E-commerce here at WPIC Marketing + Technologies. Sally knows e-commerce in China, especially Taobao, given she is one of a select few of Alibaba’s hand-picked “Taobao Lecturers” teaching vendors on Taobao how to run their stores successfully. Naturally she speaks at length on Alibaba’s recommendations to drive e-commerce on their platforms, but we also spoke a great deal about this year’s record-breaking Singles Day and the most effective tactics that both brands and the ecommerce platforms were using. We also spoke about trends in the changing Chinese consumer profile in just the last 12 months alone and where she sees future changes ahead. We also look ahead to 2020 and what we can expect from the next big shopping time of the year in China, Chinese New Year.

Show Notes

Today on The Negotiation, Sally Zhang, a certified lecturer at Alibaba Taobao University, gives us a masterclass on the largest company in China today. What impresses Sally the most about Alibaba is its big data capabilities. “They know their customers, where their customers go, what they like, and what their habits are,” she states.

As a lecturer, Sally notes that a lot of new vendors do not know how to run their own e-commerce stores, with regards to legal, logistics, and supply chain know-how. At the same time, while Sally is a lecturer to many “students”, she learns just as much—if not more—from a number of them about running a business. Her students, in fact, include a number of CEOs.

Sally speaks on a variety of topics, including Alibaba’s winning edge with regards to their ability to retain competitive prices (Chinese consumers, after all, tend to opt for the lowest available prices). She also discusses Alibaba’s loyalty program, which she believes to be one of the key tools the company used to maximize its 11.11 sales.

Sally is then asked about the difference in tactics between how platforms drive traffic versus how the brands using the platform drive traffic. What stands out here is integrative marketing—or “Uni Marketing”, as Alibaba calls it. They reach their customers through a large variety of ways, from traditional to social media advertising.

The next major consumer group in China are those generations who have the freest time and are the most mobile-savvy. These are the later millennials and Gen-Z, who were born in the 1990s and the 2000s.

For the upcoming Chinese New Year (also called Spring Festival) in 2020, Sally forecasts an increase in wine sales—exceeding even those of 11.11. She encourages wine sellers to take advantage of this occasion, likening it to “cutting the grass” or cashing in after accumulating a large customer base over time.

Adaptation is the key to driving eCommerce results on Alibaba’s platforms. Western brands tend to have difficulties entering the Chinese market due to their preference for a lot of flexibility when the government imposes many restrictions on foreign companies. Sally observes that these companies usually refuse to change their ways until they “hit a rock”.

It helps tremendously to take advantage of Alibaba’s big data resources in order to create appropriate market strategies. Lecturers such as Sally advise on these very topics, for example by drawing parallels between the foreign company and their vertical competitors on the platform they are using.

If a foreign brand is looking to enter the Chinese market, Sally suggests finding a local partner to help with growing the business. This local partner knows the data, the customers, and industry trends.

What is The Negotiation?

Despite being the world’s most potent economic area, Asia can be one of the most challenging regions to navigate and manage well for foreign brands. However, plenty of positive stories exist and more are emerging every day as brands start to see success in engaging and deploying appropriate market growth strategies – with the help of specialists.

The Negotiation is an interview show that showcases those hard-to-find success stories and chats with the incredible leaders behind them, teasing out the nuances and digging into the details that can make market growth in APAC a winning proposition.