In April 2021 Magento Commerce officially became Adobe Commerce. In China Adobe’s name is well known and loved. Magento’s name change will most probably end up in even more widespread use of this popular multi-site, multi-market eCommerce platform. Given that Adobe Commerce also has outstanding features for B2B enterprises, we are certain it will become a platform of choice for many Chinese companies.
Having said that, we have to acknowledge that Chinese eCommerce environment differs significantly from the international one. We already described some of it in the 2017 post “Magento Localized for China eCommerce? It’s Happening.” In short, Chinese consumers are accustomed to certain ways of doing purchases online and not following those practices may result in losing your customer base.
In order to help Chinese companies to use the full potential of Adobe Commerce (Magento) in China, TMO Group has been working on building a fully localized version of it since the release of Magento 2 in 2017. Among numerous features included in the localization there are: mobile-centered experience, localized payment systems, Chinese address conventions etc (more details about this project in the original article).
In almost 5 years that passed since the start of the Magento localization project, Chinese market didn’t stop evolving. The 00s generation, people who were born in the age of the Internet, are now a major consumer force; conversely, older generations are making online purchases more and more freely; B2B eCommerce is on the rise – all these changes make eCommerce more complex than ever before. In this article we will look at some of those changes, break them down into what it means in terms of eCommerce development, and share the experience we accumulated during the last few years.
1. Mobile-friendly login
As users’ grow more and more accustomed to mobile phone use, they become more internet-savvy, but at the same time less patient. To cater to this crowd, it is no longer just a question making your store look well on a phone’s screen. It is in huge part about having mobile friendly, smooth flow of operation, minimum input and transitions, simple and intuitive interfaces.
One-time SMS access code
One prominent example of such a streamlined approach is “dynamic SMS authentication”, also known as “passwordless authentication”. You don’t need to remember your password to login – you login by receiving a one-time access code via the short-message to your phone. In the digital jungle with dozens and sometimes hundreds of sites users need to login into – no wonder SMS authentication grew extremely popular and became the de-facto standard for any site in China that requires users to log in.
Solutions, provided by TMO Group, support all popular authentication methods – from traditional login and password to dynamic SMS authentication code.
This method is used in native apps: it allows users to login with their phone number by clicking literally one button. One-click method is beginning to gain popularity as it offers the simplest possible workflow, it does not require waiting for SMS, does not depend on your cellular coverage and results in increase in user conversion and retention.
From left to right: simple login form for one-time SMS code authentication; SMS used for two-factor authentications; more complex registration form using SMS code authentication; one-click authentication in an app.
2. WeChat mini-programs
WeChat is by far the most popular platform in China, it is no wonder that brands use WeChat mini-programs (”apps within app”) as a base for their social interactions with customers.
Traffic, originated at a brand’s mini app (or mobile app, webstore or any place the brand has full control over) is referred to as “Private Traffic”. “Private Traffic” is the opposite of “Public Traffic”, generated by search engines, paid ads, marketplaces – places that brands may have much less control over.
Similar to One-Click login in native apps, users can enjoy one-click authentication in WeChat mini programs too. When a user signs up in the WeChat mini program, merchants receive such commonly used fields as user’s name, profile picture, gender, phone number – along with physical address, invoice title – and other information that will facilitate future eCommerce transactions.
Diverse sharing options
When it comes to sharing, WeChat provides a number of options: events, products, pictures – all these highly customizable items can be shared in users “Moments” (public feed), shared in WeChat groups or sent through direct messages to friends. It can greatly increase engagement for social marketing activities and promotions, allowing companies to track results accurately and in real time.
Left to right: WeChat mini program one-click login; example of a profile page; product page sharing with embedded referral program functionality.
3. China-specific UI and shopping habits
Using shopping cart as a wishlist
Unlike eCommerce users in the West, who empty their shopping card every time a purchase is made, Chinese customers use their shopping cart in a different way. In China, users do not always add products to their shopping cart because they want to purchase it right now. Often they add products to the cart because they would like to make a purchase sometime later, or just entertain the idea of buying, or simply because they liked the item. This way, in China, a shopping cart is a hybrid of wishlist, favorites and bookmarks.
TaoBao allows users to have up to 120 items in their shopping carts, and many would put this space to good use. When it is time for a transaction, only a small number of items are checked out, with the bulk remaining in the cart. “Emptying the shopping cart” for someone is a generous gesture, something one can do, for example on Valentine’s Day. AliBaba’s Jack Ma once emptied shopping carts of Chinese Women Volleyball team as a sign of appreciation, after they won the Olympic Gold in 2016.
Payment time countdown
Sometimes, after the user puts an item in the cart, a countdown may appear, gently urging them to finish the transaction until the time runs out. This way the customer makes sure he gets the item if it is in limited supply. Alternatively, the transaction can be rewarded with a coupon for a future purchase. This type of encouragement is quite popular during big promotional periods.
User account dashboard
Chinese users expect their personal profile page to be an “information center”, to feature a detailed list of pending orders, broken down by their delivery status, history, loyalty points etc. Social sharing can also be initiated from the profile page.
Unlike Magento’s default approach, where any registered user can comment on an item, in China comments are reserved for people who completed a purchase. Their reviews, together with uploaded photos of received goods, are a credible source of information for potential customers.
Specific input option
Address input should be convenient for entering Chinese specific fields: provinces, cities, compound names, lanes, etc.
Left to right: partial checkout; user profile page; countdown to payment; order confirmation page.
4. Promotion methods
Group Buying / Micro Group Buying
In addition to usual promotional methods already implemented in the standard version of Magento, Chinese customers are fond of social promotional activities. One of the examples of such activities are group purchases: merchants can offer higher discounts to groups of 3-5 buyers, so users find ways to join forces with other customers, looking for a bargain. This type of promotion works not only for friends and acquaintances: members of various WeChat communities would often arrange such group purchases. There are a number of popular WeChat groups’ and apps created with the sole purpose of getting better deals with group discounts.
Another popular type of promotion is flash sale or, if you translate the Chinese name literally, “instant kill sale”. These are the promotions that offer huge discounts, which only last relatively short time (minutes to hours). This encourages users to react faster and generates buzz around the brand.
Coupons are a popular way of promoting goods among Chinese consumers. Using Magento, you can generate various types of coupons, then upload them to customers’ “coupon wallet”, motivating them to make even more purchases.
Left to right: various flash sales, note the countdown times to the end of the promotion; flash sale’s details page; collection of coupons in user’s “coupon wallet”.
5. Logistics tracking
These days Chinese customers’ expect fast, reliable delivery of their purchases. Any eCommerce operating in China should be ready to provide real-time tracking of the shipping, its current status and estimated delivery time. This way you can ensure your business ends up with more happy customers and fewer unnecessary complaints.
TMO Group supports logistics tracking of more than 50 most popular Chinese delivery service providers.
Example of a logistics tracking page.
6. Return and exchange policies
If the purchase does not satisfy them, Chinese customers are looking for a convenient return and exchange policy. Users expect to be able to notify merchants that the return is being made, state the reason, and upload a picture to support the claim. They should also be able to choose the convenient way of returning the goods: choose a delivery service provider, select a pick up time, etc. All these increase the chance of recurring purchases, even if something went wrong.
Left to right: example of return goods page; choosing the delivery service for the returns; return status page.
7. Fapiao (invoice) service
Despite the fact that “fapiao” is usually translated as “invoice”, it works quite differently from invoices in western world. Fapiao is issued by national or local tax authority, but provided by the seller. It is a receipt and tax payment tracker rolled into one. Fapiaos are used frequently in Chinese daily life – as a proof of purchase, base for an expense claim, tax deduction and so on. Not issuing fapiaos is illegal under Chinese law.
A few years ago, electronic fapiaos were introduced, and although they are not very popular in brick-and-mortar locations yet, they simplify life a lot for online businesses.
There are a few types of fapiaos: individual, corporate and special corporate: each with its set of fields to be filled and rules to be followed.
TMO Group provides functionality to automatically issue and manage fapiaos inside of Magento, greatly reducing the necessary effort to keep up with official requirements.
Examples of application for electronic fapiao (left) and regular fapiao (right).
8. Live streaming
In the last couple of years live streaming has become a popular tool of online marketing. Many eCommerce sites are now connected to various streaming platforms. WeChat mini programs, too, offer seamless integration with Tencent streaming services.
Stores would use streams to showcase new products, offer shopping guides and tours, and, most importantly, connect with customers in a real-time experience – resulting in higher sales numbers.
Left to right: Home page of Tencent’s streaming platform; announcement of an upcoming broadcast; stream in progress; list of products introduced in the stream; products ready to be placed in the shopping cart with one click.
The list of Chinese specific features for eCommerce development doesn’t end here. There are quite a lot of localized and Chinese plugins for Adobe Commerce (Magento) that can increase functionality of your eCommerce project even further, for example Baidu, Alipay or Bytedance extensions. We will discuss them, and many others, in our future installments on Chinese localization articles, here at TMO Group Blog. Stay tuned!
More articles about Adobe Commerce (Magento) and its localization for China:
Magento Commerce becomes Adobe Commerce: what it means for your business
TMO Group at “Meet Magento” – The Road to Magento China Localization
Magento Localized for China eCommerce? It’s Happening
About TMO Group
TMO Group is a certified Adobe Solution Partner and Magento Commerce Partner.
TMO Group is a Digital Commerce Agency based in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Amsterdam, providing brands with the full range of services in Mobile Commerce, Social Commerce, Cross-border eCommerce and Global Commerce.
We provide integrated solutions for the entire eCommerce value chain and strongly advocate data-driven and user-centric experiences building & operating true omni-channel solutions.
Our recipe of success is to guide our clients every step of the way: from gathering market intelligence, business conceptualization and planning – to developing the solution and driving their business.
We are committed to growing with our customers and forming long-term win-win partnerships.