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3 tips for Australian businesses looking to succeed in China

Udo Doring, CEO and Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce (AustCham) in Shanghai, says China offers an immense opportunity for Australian businesses. We recently had the chance to catch up with him to get his take on how Australian businesses and international brands can succeed in China. Here are his 3 key tips.

1. Understand the Chinese demand for Australian products

“China represents Australia’s prosperity for the next 100 years. Essentially every core industry or key product range we have, China has an immense demand for,” Doring says.

There is an increasing demand for wines and craft beers, packaged food and dairy products. In education, the Chinese are now looking beyond university levels, and searching for VET programs and education from primary school level. Tourism is growing, with Chinese tourists interested in individual attractions, events and experiences. Australia’s reputation for services sees demand across sectors such as architectural, legal, financial, banking and accounting. Another sector ready for Australian suppliers is health, following a major reform in the Chinese health industry.

2. Focus on quality products and long-term results

Australia competes on high quality, high end products, which are often some of the most expensive in the market.

Doring says “China is about niche markets; finding those who are interested in what we offer at the high end of the value chain. So, when we try to compete on price or scale, that’s where we come unstuck.”

“Where we fail is by not taking a long-term view. We try to do things too big, too quickly.”

Australia has been slow to recognise the opportunity that is China, and has been focused on traditional markets like New Zealand, UK and the US. Doring believes the key to success lies in moving away from Australia’s regular marketing methods and designing a marketing approach that is China-specific.

3. Develop a customised, targeted marketing approach

Doring points to an enormous gap between Chinese and Western thinking in marketing, and describes Australia as having “a slower marketing apparatus.” In China, standard marketing approaches such as TV advertising and billboards are consumed in an entirely different way. Australian campaigns are often not directly translatable into Chinese, as the meanings are different. They need to be designed specifically for the Chinese market.

“Having a good product isn’t good enough anymore. You need an understanding of how people will consume it,“ Doring says.

A key to success in China is understanding how the Chinese consumer operates, especially the importance of research prior to making a purchase decision. Consumers can spend around 6 hours per day researching via their mobile phones prior to deciding. Australia needs to get real information out to consumers to educate them about quality products, not just produce shiny brochures.

It’s vital to have someone with experience to tap into the market, and build networks. With the China market changing rapidly, it’s essential to understand what is happening.

While the pace of the market is incredibly fast, becoming established within it is not something that can be rushed. China is a market built on long term relationships and partnerships. Australian businesses that invest time into understanding the market and building trust will be well able to capitalise on the many opportunities awaiting them in China.

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