15th Sep 2016 HEATHER MCILVAINE (By Internet Retailing)
Building an online brand presence in China is a top priority for many retailers today. But few companies are able to form personal relationships with Chinese consumers to gain a better understanding of their wants and needs.
That was the idea behind a recent meet-and-greet campaign organised by Azoya, an e-commerce solution provider that specialises in helping global retailers break into China.
The ‘Walk into Australia and New Zealand’ campaign brought 12 influential Chinese online shoppers and opinion leaders Down Under to tour the warehouses and stores of retail pharmacies that have recently launched e-commerce websites with Azoya in China.
Amcal, a retail pharmacy brand owned by Sigma Pharmaceuticals, was one of five retailers that met the Chinese delegation at the end of August.
“We brought in a lot of our key suppliers who presented their products to the group and we educated [the Chinese delegation] on the history of the Amcal and Sigma brands,” Claire Pallot, general manager of multi-channel at Sigma Pharmaceuticals, told Internet Retailing.
This heritage is a key differentiator for Amcal in the Chinese market. “A lot of pure-play start-ups [in China] aren’t providing genuine products from manufacturers, they’re accessing the grey market. It was important to show that we have a genuine relationship with our suppliers and are selling authentic products,” Pallot said.
Questions about product safety and use were especially common during the tour. “They wanted to understand the active ingredients in the products, who they were for and any side effects. For instance, there were a lot of questions about what’s suitable for women who are breastfeeding or pregnant, and what was safe for babies,” Pallot said.
Australia’s strict regulation of pharmaceutical products and its reputation for quality was another area of interest. “The quality of the product seemed much more important to [the Chinese influencers] than the price,” Pallot said. “So they could tell their audiences, ‘we’ve been to the [physical] site, this is a real company, we’ve seen the products being picked off the warehouse shelves’.”
Sigma Pharmaceuticals launched the Chinese version of Amcal’s e-commerce site in June and attributed a small part of its FY15 earnings to the online business. Sales for the first few months have been double the company’s expectations, according to Sigma Pharmaceuticals’ CEO Mark Hooper.