Tango Waffle was one of the products selected by Alibaba 11-11 Global Shopping Festival in China. (ID Photo/Tino Oktaviano)

Penetrating Post-Pandemic Chinese Market With Stories


MAY 29, 2020

Jakarta. Products with strong storytelling, small-size, and localized packaging can thrive in the Chinese market, providing ample opportunities for Indonesian companies seeking to expand their market after the global Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent business discussion.

China has always been an attractive market, thanks to its large population of 1.4 billion people. Also, after months of struggle against coronavirus, the second-largest economy in the world economy is set to be the first to return the normal level with factories and shops reopened.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects economic growth of 1.2 percent for China this year. The country sets to lead the global economic recovery by bouncing back with a growth rate of 9.2 percent in 2021, IMF said.

Many Indonesian consumer packaged goods are also eyeing to gain entry to China. But, the overcrowded Chinese market calls the need to set the product apart from the competition.

Indonesian Ambassador to China Djauhari Oratmangun said that products with stories are most likely to pique Chinese consumers' interest.

"What is unique about the Chinese market is the emphasis on product storytelling. For example, the story can be tied to our historical relation with China," Djauhari said at the Kingdom Business Community webinar on Thursday.

A possible narrative is a history of how Sunan Gunung Jati married a Chinese royal, Princess Ong Tien. Stories on how the princess enjoyed eating Indonesian snacks during her stay in Cirebon can attract more sales, he said.

Brands can also try on medical storytelling on the product's immune-boosting capabilities as the public is becoming more health-conscious due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other ideas include stories revolving around saving the environment for the eco-friendly younger generation, Djauhari said.

Customer Expectation

Stories alone, however, do not immediately send the Indonesian exports straight to the shopping cart.

According to Orang Tua Group's former international business chief executive Michael Joni, businesses must follow several rules. Besides completing the necessary documents, they also need to adapt to the local tastes.

Chinese people tend to avoid high sugar intake for health reasons. That forced Joni to cut down the sugar content in his products by up to 20 percent.

In contrast to the Indonesians who are into large packaging, the Chinese prefer smaller ones.

Joni added that the use of the local language on the packaging could be an attractor. Even so, businesses still have to make sure that Chinese writing is grammatically correct to get the message across.

"The most important thing when expanding to the Chinese market is the willingness to adapt to a different audience. Many businesses refuse to do so, and this is where they are wrong," Joni said.

Going Viral

Indonesian businesses should also consider using digital platforms, including e-commerces and influencers, to expand their customer base, Djauhari said.

For instance, Alibaba selected Orang Tua Group's Tango Waffle Crunchox as one of the special packages on the world's largest online shopping event, Alibaba's 11.11 Global Shopping Festival last year. To promote the snack, the e-commerce giant worked alongside top Chinese influencer Viya on a Taobao live stream viewed by more than 43 million people.

Indonesian companies may also need to consider TikTok as one of the rising platforms for marketing their products, the ambassador said.