There’s a huge market in China for British-made products, since 2003 UK exports to China have quadrupled to £12.5 billion. We spoke to Christopher Dobbing, founder and CEO of Cambridge Mask Company, about how he successfully entered this market.
When Christopher moved to Beijing to work as an education consultant and study Mandarin, he noticed that many of his students were developing serious respiratory illnesses as a result of air pollution. Determined to find a solution, Christopher carried out extensive product research and now runs Cambridge Mask Company, which manufactures anti-pollution masks in the UK.
Here are his top tips:
1. Understand how online retail works in China
“In China, e-commerce is incredibly exciting. There are 700 million consumers connected to e-commerce in China – the potential is vast.”
Local platforms such as Alibaba are China’s main e-commerce channels, whereas more globally well-known channels like Amazon have a smaller market share.
If you are looking to trade internationally via e-commerce, remember to research your target location and audience and think about how they shop online. For example, Chinese customers tend to prefer third party websites for purchasing, so Cambridge Mask Co. deals less with front-end parties on their website and use a back-end system for distributors to make orders.
2. Get your export documentation right
“In China you need an export licence – getting it is not too difficult but there’s lots of paperwork involved.”
It is important to carefully manage all the documentation involved in international trade. Make sure you talk to agents and logistics providers to ensure items are quickly cleared through Customs.
One of Christopher’s main challenges was packaging the masks and sending them to the right places on a specific budget. When sending shipments between the UK and China (or any other destination), make sure you understand duties and taxes.
3. Build relationships and find support
“I think the key thing is local partners, understanding what you’re doing and getting good advice which you can rely on and trust, which is difficult.”
A great way to really understand your target market and build relationships is to visit the countries to which you’re considering exporting. Think about how you will develop strong relationships with suppliers, logistics partners and business advisors.
With the right research and support, Christopher was able to establish Cambridge Mask Co. in his target market and develop a sustainable global growth plan.
Read the full case study here.