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4 ways Australian businesses can make the most of China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA)


Australia and China’s free trade agreement will mark huge changes to Australia’s exporters. Australian exporters from all areas – agriculture, fashion, wine, automotive parts, pharmaceutical industries will be clambering over each other to get their hands on Chinese shoppers looking for the next bargain.

Although the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) may make your goods more affordable as a result of the elimination of tariffs, this won’t be enough to attract and retain Chinese shoppers. There is a lot more to think about beyond price.

Here are four ways Australian businesses can make the most of ChAFTA.

1. Protect your brand

If you have a quality brand, there’s a large chance your products can already be bought in China. There are many unauthorised resellers of goods in China who import from countries such as Australia and resell the products on of China’s many e-marketplaces.

Although purchases from multiple unauthorised resellers still profit Australian businesses, this can mean serious damage to your brand. Various incorrect translations and product descriptions can wreck havoc for the brand you’ve spent years cultivating.

Australian businesses therefore need to keep very alert, stay on the offensive and protect their brand by establishing a Chinese language website. An official Chinese website can discredit these unauthorised resellers, project your desired brand image and basically reclaim control over your brand in China.

2. Know your Chinese consumer

Creating a Chinese language website isn’t as easy as translating and localising your existing English language web presence. Australian businesses need to host their website from either China or its neighbouring countries to overcome slow loading speeds.

Businesses who choose to host from China will need state-issued ICP license to operate legally and overcome The Great Firewall. If not, they run the risk of having their website shut down by Chinese government administration.

As all Chinese websites are required to hold an ICP license, it will also instil trust in your brand – an important consideration in the Chinese market plentiful with counterfeits.

3. Understand where you’re going wrong (and right)

ChAFTA is a great opportunity for businesses with an established web presence in China to reassess their online strategy to ensure they can be heard above competitors.

Australian businesses with Chinese websites should review their online performance using Chinese web analytics. If you’re targeting the Chinese consumer, Chinese web analytics will give a more accurate assessment of your performance in the local digital environment, including search engines, social media, and traffic sources.

In fact, Chinese web analytics can often provide more detailed information about your web performance compared to Western services. For example, CNZZ and Baidu Tongji provide detailed segmentation of Chinese localities. You can choose to segment your visits by province or city and analyse visits coming from different regions within China.

4. Join cross-border e-commerce

To make the most of tariff-free trading, Australian businesses should join one of China’s many e-marketplaces. China’s eCommerce market has been growing exponentially over the past 6 years. This trend is expected to continue with a expected revenue of a staggering ¥16.6 trilllion by the year 2017.

Yet despite the huge opportunity for Australian businesses to sell directly to China’s rapidly expanding middle class via the web, Australian businesses are lagging behind the competition from other countries.

There are only 23 Australian brands sold on China’s Tmall, and sales volumes are still small. E-commerce in China is already a fiercely competitive market, with most of the world’s brands looking to tap into the growing affluent classes there.

Making your product available is just a first step. But it’s hard to be noticed without an effective marketing strategy, especially a digital media strategy.

Benjamin Sun is a digital marketer and researcher with extensive knowledge in Chinese digital marketing. He works closely with research institutes in Australia, undertaking his doctoral degree at the University of Sydney. Ben’s main research interest is on Chinese digital landscape and online consumer behaviours. He helps many clients to conduct and analyse market research to give them the strategic intelligence they need to make smarter decisions. Ben also co-founded Think China in 2013 to help Australian businesses approach branding, marketing and e-commerce in China more strategically and effectively.

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