Service de sourcing à budget fixe- Est-il normal que vos agents de sourcing en Chine se rémunèrent avec un pourcentage de vos achats?

Le sourcing à budget fixe est un service qui fonctionne comme pour une société “de services” pour les acheteurs, dont 100% des bénéfices leur reviennent.

Contrairement à la plupart des services de sourcing basé sur des commissions, la solution budgétée est une stratégie d’externalisation appropriée pour des projets critiques qui doivent aboutir à une liste de fournisseurs fiable basée sur la compétitivité des fournisseurs de façon à choisir la meilleure solution.

Il est facile de trouver une entreprise de sourcing en Chine. Essayez par vous -même en postant sur un groupe sur Linkedin par exemple, et vous obtiendrez un grand nombre d’indépendants ou d’entreprises désireuses de vous aider.Leur rétribution est en général un pourcentage sur le montant de vos achats sur une période définie. La plupart d’entre eux sont à même de vous fournir facilement une liste de fournisseurs, souvent gratuitement. En considérant que vos choix s’orientent vers les solutions les plus économiques, celui-ci fera son travail de sourcing suivant sa méthodologie (supposant qu’il y en est une), et vous mènera finalement à un fournisseur en accord avec vos critères.
Un certain nombre prendront en charge les négociations avec le fournisseur et même la pré-industrialisation du nouveau produit. L’agent sera ensuite rétribué, par vous, ou par le fournisseur, ou par les deux, suivant les termes du contrat.
Le travail s’arrête ici.

Intéressant n’est-ce pas? C’est vrai, mais dans certains cas seulement. Imaginons d’autres scenarios. Supposons un projet d’un montant d’un demi-million d’Euro pour lequel vous avez besoin d’une liste de fournisseurs fiable d’ici 3 à 4 semaines. Vous savez que la plupart des usines sont en Chine, mais vous n’avez ni l’expérience, ni les compétences nécessaires. Bien sûr, vous avez vos critères comme par exemple un fournisseur qui propose des produits équivalent et donc qui comprend votre besoin et connait votre domaine industriel. Ce projet est bien sûr critique pour votre activité et rationaliser les coûts à court terme n’est pas une option. Vous n’avez pas le droit à l’erreur, sachant que le temps est compté et que vous ne pouvez pas faire confiance à une agence qui ne s’engage pas sur les résultats.

Classiquement, vous postez vos besoins sur internet, et vous obtenez des propositions pour ce projet. Vous discutez alors des détails et de vos critères de sélection ainsi que de l’importance d’atteindre certains objectifs particulièrement sur les coûts. Dès que vous vous êtes mis d’accord, l’agent commence ses recherches et se met en relation avec un certain nombre de fournisseurs potentiels. Malheureusement vos objectifs sont ambitieux et les fabricants Chinois ne sont pas toujours intéressés par votre demande de cotations, en particulier à cause de la complexité de vos exigences. L’agent revient donc vers vous, d’abord avec de mauvaises nouvelles concernant la progression des recherches, et pire encore, il souhaite se retirer car il comprend que le travail demandé est bien supérieur à ce qu’il avait anticipé. Bien entendu vous êtes contrarié par le temps perdu, mais il n’y a pas grand-chose à faire. Par la suite, l’agent disparait et ce n’est pas la peine de le recontacter. Pour lui, la situation est normale, il n’a pas été payé, et n’a pas signé de contrat. Il ne s’agit que d’une relation temporaire, sans réel engagement.

Avec des professionnels du sourcing tel que SAOS, ce scenario ne peut pas se produire. Nous faisons une analyse du projet en amont pour juger des difficultés et des risques, et nous ne facturons qu’à la fin du projet comme convenu dans le contrat commercial.

Quel est le cout d’un tel service de sourcing? Generalement, la plupart des agents prennent entre 3% et 8% de la valeur d’achat (Par exemple, certaines agences de sourcing réputées sur Hong Kong et gérées par des américains, demandent entre 7% et 11%).
Imaginons un cas où vous travaillez avec une agence qui ne vous prend seulement 2%. Avec ce projet à un demi-million vous devrez reverser 10K$ à votre agent.
Avec nos coûts fixes, nous facturons généralement au coût horaire effectif, et même pour une liste de produits similaires nous dépassons rarement ce chiffre. Notre prix est purement basé sur la complexité du projet et peu importe la taille de votre entreprise ou de votre projet.

Lorsque nous avons établi notre modèle financier à SAOS, nous avons été surpris d’observer que les agents de ce secteur prenaient presque systématiquement un pourcentage du montant des achats. Que ce soit un petit ou un gros projet, il reste toujours primordial d’avoir l’assurance que l’analyse sourcing a été bien faite. Dans un fonctionnement au pourcentage, l’effort de l’agent sera proportionnel à sa rétribution potentielle.

Chez SAOS, nous pensons qu’un service de sourcing se doit d’être sans risques, et avec une méthodologie efficace et transparente. Contrairement aux traders ou importateurs, qui incluent un certain nombre de risques et peuvent justifier les marges, le sourcing se doit d’être un service purement professionnel, facturé sur les coûts réels.
C’est notre approche et c’est la raison pour laquelle nos clients nous font confiance aujourd’hui.

Ben Chu & Fabien Gaussorgues, SAOS Founders

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Protégez vos achats en Chine contre les escroqueries

En Chine, les escroqueries en ligne arrivent régulièrement lorsque des acheteurs étrangers recherchent des fournisseurs sur une plateforme B2B (Business to Business). La version la plus rependue étant lorsque le vendeur demande un paiement initial, et disparait aussitôt après que l’acheteur l’ait versée. En Chine, il est classique de demander des avances car ils ont souvent des problèmes de paiements avec les compagnies étrangères. SPour les nouveaux clients, il y a peu de chance qu’il vous fasse confiance pour les premières transactions.
Néanmoins, il existe des solutions pour pallier à cette situation.

Mais alors, comment faire pour les éviter?

Il existe plusieurs façons d’éviter ce désagrément, Déjà, en regardant sur Internet, il est possible de trouver facilement des conseils d’usage. Mais il est toujours préférable de faire appel à un agent professionnel local pour vous aider et conseiller, car certaines arnaques sont très bien organisées, et difficilement décelable pour un acheteur peu expérimenté.

Par exemple, nous avons reçu récemment un appel à l’aide d’un acheteur qui semblait avoir été piégé. Celui-ci, dans l’urgence, recherchait des matières plastiques. Il avait trouvé un fournisseur chinois sur une plateforme B2B en ligne réputée, similaire à Alibaba.

La suite est un classique de la fraude en ligne: le fournisseur a changé les termes et les conditions de l’accord après le paiement initial, et l’acheteur n’a plus pu contacter le fournisseur après avoir le transfert d’argent.

Cet acheteur nous a donc contacté via Linkedin, afin de faire appel à nos services. Il nous a alors communiqué sa situation, ses contacts et toutes les informations relatives à son problème pour que nous puissions investiguer.

Il était malheureusement trop tard, mais nous avons fait notre analyse pour vérifier la fiabilité du fournisseur concerné.

Notre démarche est la suivante:
 -Appeler les fournisseurs: l’interroger pour déterminer s’ils sont vraiment dans ce domaine d’activité (pour ce cas-ci, par exemple, nous avons demandé des conseils relatifs aux différents matériaux plastiques, ainsi que quelques questions techniques). Il est en effet peu probable qu’ils soient à même de répondre à certaines questions techniques, s’ils sont des escrocs. Nous parlons aussi du client, en demandant au vendeur quelles sont les modalités de livraison. Un vrai fournisseur sera capable de nous donner les détails et des informations réelles.

 -Vérifier les bases de données d’exportation: Nous utilisons des sources officielles telles que Panjiva, pour voir si le vendeur a déjà exporté ses produits, et si de réelles transactions ont été faites. Si des rapports existent, le risque d’escroquerie est faible.

 -Analyse des données: Nous vérifions leur adresse officielle, site internet, nom de domaine, pour voir s’ils sont consistants et apparaissent authentiques. Cela peut paraître subjectif, mais cela correspond aussi on notre expérience.

Un de nos points forts est aussi le partenariat que nous avons avec la Chambre de Commerce des activités en Ligne de Wuhan. Nombre des escrocs potentiels ont leur adresse à Wuhan et prétendent avoir leur entreprise basée dans cette ville. Il nous arrive souvent de demander à nos contacts dans cette Chambre s’ils les connaissent.

La Chambre de Commerce des activités en Ligne de Wuhan, composée d’une centaine de membres, est l’un des groupes les plus actifs et organisés dans l’exportation de Chine. Nous y avons été reçu récemment en tant qu’intervenant, pour une conférence sur le comportement du consommateur.

Notre sentiment était que l’entreprise en question était frauduleuse, la Chambre a donc pris des mesures pour vérifier si des personnnes l’a connaissait. Le dossier fut aussi étudié par le bureau local d’Alibaba, ainsi que par le directeur de la branche Alibaba de la région centre-ouest de la Chine, Mr Zheng Li, qui l’a étudié, bien qu’il ne soit pas de sa responsabilité.

Mr Li a donc vérifié dans leur base de données les informations relatives à cette entreprise Il découvrit que l’escroc en question avait enregistré plusieurs entreprises dans d’autres provinces, ce qui confirmait notre suspicion.

Depuis, la Chambre de Commerce et Alibaba s’impliquent dans ce genre d’affaires, et s’efforcent de maintenir un environnement sûr et protecteur pour les industries locales.

A ce point, il est certain que notre acheteur s’est fait escroqué, pour les raisons suivantes:
 -Le site de l’escroc est en anglais uniquement, ce qui n’est pas courant pour les entreprises chinoises. Ceci donne l’impression que cette personne ne cherche qu’à traiter avec des entreprises étrangères.
 -L’entreprise du vendeur existe bien sur Panjiva, mais son historique ne contient aucune transaction.
 -Nous avons appelé tous les numéros de téléphone à disposition, et aucun d’entre eux ne nous a permis de trouver le vendeur. Nous avons cependant pu, à force d’acharnement, joindre une personne a un de ces numéros, qui, quand nous avons exposé le problème, s’est empressée de dire qu’elle ne savait rien et de raccrocher.

Par ces observations, il parait évident que l’acheteur ne se retrouve pas dans un cas de non-réponse de la part du vendeur (problème que l’on retrouve fréquemment lorsqu’un étranger cherche à acheter en Chine), mais qu’il a bien été escroqué, perdant ainsi 30% du prix de la marchandise, payé à l’avance.
Que peut-il faire alors? Honnêtement, pas grand-chose. Il peut appeler la police chinoise afin qu’elle s’occupe de ce cas, mais il est souvent difficile de gérer ce genre de situation de l’étranger. Certains avocats spécialises peuvent cependant prendre cette affaire en main.

Mais nous souhaitons bien insister sur le fait que des mesures préventives doivent être prises pour éviter ce genre de situations. Si l’acheteur avait fait appel à SAOS ou bien à un agent professionnel équivalent, ce désagrément aurait pu être facilement évité.

En conclusion, si vous n’êtes pas certains de la fiabilité de votre éventuel nouveau partenaire en Chine comme à la première transaction, et s’il vous demande de payer une partie de la marchandise d’avance, pensez à vérifier ses antécédents avant d’exécuter le paiement.
Pour prévenir ces problèmes SAOS offre un service simple mais néanmoins efficace et professionnel, “Scam-Alert”, destiné à vous protéger contre ce genre d’arnaques en ligne.

Grâce à nos vérifications, nous fournissons un index de risque avec nos indicateurs, qui vous permettra de réduire les risques d’être escroqués en ligne et de décider faire ou pas la transaction en ligne.

Exemple d’un rapport de visite d’usine dans le cadre d’ un projet de sourcing par SAOS

Faire une analyse sur les visites d’usines que nous effectuons afin d’évaluer les meilleurs fournisseurs facilite les décisions et rassure nos clients. Nous le savons bien et c’est pourquoi nous faisons un rapport à chaque visite. Ci-dessous un exemple récent d’une de nos visites, en l’occurrence une compagnie de fabrication de moules plastiques par  injection, dans le cadre d’un projet de saladier et de tampon à biscuits.

En voici un résumé:

  • Vue d’ensemble de l’usine: Bonnes méthodologies en place, usine bien organisée et entretenue, précédemment évaluée de BV (audit qualité – Bureau Veritas). Cette usine est dédiées aux produits d’entrée de gamme (et donc fabrication à bas coût) utilisant des machines à injection relativement anciennes. L’activité pendant la visite était réduite (seulement 30% environ de la capacité de l’usine). L’entreprise possède une autre usine de sac à main que nous avons aussi visitée, mais celle-ci est totalement vide (les machines sont présentes mais aucun ouvrier).
  • Situation financière: les dirigeants nous ont annoncé un EBIT de 10%, ce qui est difficile à croire, vu la faible activité de l’usine. Il y a une forte probabilité que cette compagnie soit en déclin et une évaluation financière serait nécessaire pour vérifier la solvabilité.
  • Responsabilité sociale: la direction n’a pas assez étudié nos exigences sociales (audit social type SA8000). Ils vont les relire et les valider.
  • La technique d’impression de couleur utilisée est thermique. Elle ne marche donc que des surfaces planes et ne répond pas aux exigences requises pour les produits 3 et 4 qui ne sont pas des surfaces totalement planes. L’équipe de direction n’avait pas réalisé cela avant notre visite. De plus, le procédé est sous-traité parce que leur capacité d’injection est trop basique.
  • Les produits 3 et 4 peuvent être fabriqués en mélanine, mais la fabrication sera de toute façon sous traitée. En terme de coût, cette solution n’est pas idéale.
  • AQL (Acceptable Quality Level):Ils ne connaissent pas ce standard et donc les conditions d’acceptation, malgrè  leur acceptation dans le RFI/RFQ. Cela semble d’autant plus étonnant qu’ils travaillent pour des fournisseurs japonais. Néanmoins, après explications, ils pensent pouvoir remplir les critères en se basant sur des échantillons approuvés par le client  final. Une inspection plus poussée sera nécessaire lors de la réception des premiers échantillons.
  • En ce qui concerne les échantillons, ils nous proposent 2 options: soit utiliser des produits issues de production (et dans ce cas le coût total serait le coût du moule + le coût de l’échantillon), soit juste la forme demandée dans une matière différente (prototype) et dans ce cas le coût serait de 100 euros chaque (correspondant à un produit fait main).

Ben Chu, SAOS CEO

Pourquoi les fournisseurs ne répondent pas toujours aux demandes de prix?

Lors des recherches de nouveaux fournisseurs en Chine sur un projet, il n’est pas rare qu’une partie significative des fournisseurs contactés ne répondent pas à nos demandes ou qu’ils répondent très tardivement, mettant en péril le projet et particulièrement les coûts associés.

Quel sont les raisons d’un tel comportement alors que l’on offre la possibilité de vendre leurs produits?

Dans cet article, nous allons analyser comment SAOS procède afin de contacter les fournisseurs et expliquer les raisons, que tout acheteur en Chine  se doit de gérer.

 

 I.          SAOS : Notre méthode de sourcing

 

Nous commençons chaque projet par établir une liste de fournisseurs potentiels. Sur demande du client, nous identifions les fournisseurs de notre base de données susceptibles de fournir le produit demandé. Pour trouver de nouveaux fournisseurs, nous utilisons les plateformes B2B comme Alibaba.com, Global-Sources, Made in China, ainsi que d’autres sources, comme les données d’exportation et d’importation, les réseaux sociaux et les moteurs de recherche.  Lorsqu’un fournisseur potentiel a été repéré, il est contacté pour un premier contrôle.

Nous commençons par contacter les fournisseurs par e-mail. A ce niveau, nous recevons entre 10% et 30% de réponses.

Si pas de réponse, le téléphone est alors plus efficace . Un contact direct est toujours mieux, la relation par mail est plus impersonnelle et est souvent considérée comme un spam ou un espion.

 

II.          Pourquoi les réponses aux mails ne sont que de 10 à 30%? Ce score peut-il être amélioré?

Il existe deux situations: Soit le fournisseur n’a pas reçu ou vu l’email, soit l’absence de réponse est volontaire.

  • Si fournisseur n’a pas reçu le mail :
    • L’adresse email est peut-être invalide
    • Ils n’utilisent que rarement leur boîte mail
    • Les informations de leur site web ne sont pas à jour
    • Notre e-mail a été classé comme spam

 

Certains fournisseurs reçoivent beaucoup d’emails chaque jour, ils n’apprécient donc pas de recevoir des emails avec beaucoup de pièces jointes. Nos demandes de quotation contiennent généralement un ensemble de documents rassemblant nos besoins et  demandes d’information, pouvant ainsi être considéré comme complexes particulièrement en Chine.

 

  • Le fournisseur néglige notre email:
    • L’introduction est très importante et les fournisseurs Chinois ont une expérience limitées à l’international. Par exemple, avec une salutation du type « Dear Supplier » peut être considére comme étant une publicité. A peu près 30% des fournisseurs nous confirme cette raison par téléphone quand nous nous entretenons avec eux par la suite.
    • Nous envoyons jusqu’à 5 pièces jointes par mail pour nos demandes de prix. Cela paraît beaucoup pour certains fournisseurs qui se découragent avant de les lire. Ils sont trop occupés pour vouloir considérer l’opportunité, même quand la demande de prix est basée sur plusieurs millions de pièces par an.
    • Limitations techniques: certains produits demandés sont difficiles à produire pour certains fournisseurs contactés, ou ils ne sont pas dans la capacité de produire les quantités demandées dans le délai requis.
    • La barrière de la langue: certains fournisseurs ne comprennent pas les descriptions en anglais fournies par nos clients car leur niveau d’anglais n’est pas suffisant. Ils estiment donc que nos attentes ou explications sont trop compliquées pour eux. C’est une situation classique, et ce, même chez des fournisseurs qui exportent  depuis des années.
    • Le problème de confiance: lors du premier contact, on demande les prix. Certains fournisseurs pensent que l’on agit pour la concurrence. Dans d’autres cas, ils ont travaillé auparavant avec plusieurs compagnies sur des projets de sourcing comparables à celui que nous lui proposons, et le résultat étant négatif, ils préfèrent éviter de travailler de nouveau avec ce même modèle de coopération.

 

Il y a plusieurs manières d’optimiser cette phase du sourcing, comme par exemple la communication par téléphone (de préférence en chinois). Ou alors l’application d’un email qui ne démarque d’un spam. L’utilisation des messageries instantanées classiques en Chine, comme Alibaba, Wechat, Skype ou QQ est aussi une solution alternative. Avec notre expérience, nous appliquons diverses méthodes pour optimiser le taux de réponses et augmenter les chances de succès pour nos clients.

Fabien Gaussorgues, SAOS founder and General Manager

SAOS organized a free coffee tasting for the launch of the Coffeeman Taobao shop

On Saturday August the 31st, SAOS organized a free coffee tasting for the launch of the Coffeeman’s Taobao shop (http://coffeeman.taobao.saos.biz/).

                       DSC_0661

Thirty one people (including employees of the French Chamber of Commerce) went to enjoy free coffee and delicious little desserts especially made for the occasion by the Clare’s food restaurant: English scones, chocolate mousse, passion fruit mousse and “marbré”, were sold for 6RMB each. Espressos, americanos, macchiatos and lattes were made by the staff of the restaurant for the happiness of the guests as well as regular customers of Clare’s food.

 

DSC_0656

Coffeeman is a customer of the e-commerce service of SAOS (click here to know more about us). SAOS has created the shop on Taobao and the event was a way to promote the initiative. The goal of this event was to give the opportunity to people to discover the taste of the coffee from Coffeeman before buying it on e-commerce website. It is not easy to choose and buy coffee on Taobao or simply on internet, so people generally don’t want to buy new coffee as they don’t have the opportunity to taste it.

This tasting allowed people to try this new Colombian coffee and to enjoy a convivial moment in the lovely British restaurant Clare’s food  localized in Shenzhen (Luohu).

DSC_0667 DSC_0657

The coffee offered for the event was a Colombia Arabica, with delicate citrus notes, silky mouth feel and refined with hints of cocoa. It is directly imported from Colombia by Coffeeman. A lot of nationalities were represented during this event: English, American, Chinese and French. All liked the taste of the coffee, despite the fact that the tasty notion can be different from a culture to another one,which is an assurance of the quality of the product.

WeChat—A New Way for SNS Marketing in China

WeChat (Chinese: 微信, Pinyin : Weixin, literally means Micro Message) is a newly fashionable mobile app in China owned by Tencent Holdings, the Chinese company has the largest worldwide community through QQ and is the third largest internet company in the world. Launched in January 2011, WeChat has already gained over 300 million users in 2 years (the last 100 million users were added in less than 4 months!), making it already a significant platform for e-marketing and SNS marketing in China.

Who are using WeChat? The dramatic increase of WeChat users is enhanced by the rapid growth of smartphone users in China—330 million in the end of February 2013 according to CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center), close to the number of WeChat users.

From a research by Search Engine Journal, China’s young, affluent and urban young contribute to the majority of WeChat users. 76.1% of the users are aged from 22-35, mainly in big cities. As for their occupations, white collars rank the first at 24.2% with a trend more and more middle and low class young people joining in.

Main Functions of Wechat: WeChat provides social media networking via photo/video/article/message sharing, which forms shared streaming content feeds for convenient viewing, and location-based social networking plug-ins to chat with and be friend with other WeChat users.

– Live chat Chat with friends in a Live Chat session like Viber in Europe or USA, both text chat and voice chat are available. Moreover, video chat feature has been added recently. You can also select contacts to form a group and initiate group chat easily. wechat1

– Add friends & QR codes Friends can be added via searching or scanning a QR code. WeChat allows users to simply create a QR Code so as to let others to do a quick scan and become a follower. Adding public account with QR codes is one of the most popular ways for users to get information outside their friends circle, which is also a very interesting tool for marketers. Nowadays, many companies like Starbucks, Microsoft and AirAsia have registered their public account and use it for marketing campaigns. Thus, WeChat QR codes are very common in many marketing materials to encourage people to follow them on WeChat. wechat starbucks Starbucks WeChat QR code, scan it with your WeChat to find out more.

– Location-based plug-ins

  • Shake: Shake your phone to find people shaking their phones as well, then you can choose from the list of “people found” and “Send Greeting” to make friends.
  • Look Around: Use “Look Around” to find people using WeChat nearby, and select to “Send Greeting” to make friends. Only user with the “Look Around” function enabled can be found.
  • Drift Bottle: Throw & pick Drift Bottle. Select “Throw” to send out your voice or text message, and then wait to see who will pick up your bottle and reply. Select “Pick” to pick a drift bottle from the sea. You can reply to it or throw it back to the sea.

    wechat2

– Moments See all the updates from your friends in the Moments, for it photo/video/article/message. Like or Comment on the moments, a simplified, easy to use Facebook sharing tool.

wechat3

With all these convenient and interesting functions for social networking, WeChat had soon become very popular in China, and keen marketers started to study marketing on Wechat. Yet, the real marketing practice on WeChat didn’t start until August 2012 when the WeChat Public Account platform was launched. On this platform, verified public accounts have more choices for marketing: – User management: You can manage the followers of your account and categorize them by different types. – Posting messages: You can edit the message that you’d like to share with your followers and select to post to all or to specific groups. There are the five types of messages: text, voice, picture, video and text+picture. Links are allowed to be added for further actions. – QR code: You can download the QR code of your public account and can put it on your website, other social media or marketing materials for increasing followers. (See also in the Add friends & QR codes section.)

wechat4

AirAsia Wechat QRcode on its official site(left), Text+picture message of promotion info from AirAsia(right)

Everyone can register a public account, however you need 1000 followers to verify the account, not too difficult considering the huge potential number of users. Up to now, WeChat has over 30,000 verified accounts, in which the corporate account accounted for 70%

Though WeChat isn’t the passkey for all marketing, no one can deny that it is an effective SNS marketing tool to build your brand community and increase sales in China, the world’s most large and competitive markets. What’s more, WeChat isn’t stopping in China. The app is now available in English, Russian, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, and Vietnamese. And popularity is soaring in other parts of Asia with WeChat top on Apple’s social network app in several Asian countries. It’s a good idea to tap into this for your business in China and Asia now.

 

 

By Cornelia Yan

The Chinese social media landscape

Social media are an importantWeChat—A New Way for SNS Marketing in China part of the Chinese life. They have 597 million users at the beginning of 2013. In China, 91% of the online population has an account on a social media site, as compared to 67% in the USA. 88% of Chinese social media users are active on one social network at least. This is the case for 67% of Americans only. Regarding to a 2013 study of “We are social”, the number of   social media’s users  in China today is almost the double of USA’s population. Social media is a huge phenomenon in a collectivist country as China. People like to share and being connected every times with their friends, in a much more emphasized manner than in western countries.

Because of the Chinese censure, called the “Great Firewall of China”, numerous of western social media are not allowed on the Chinese internet. To satisfy the Chinese consumer, the country has developed his own social media. Perfectly adapted to the local culture (which is totally different than the western ones), those social media are the most popular in China and most of them are owned by the local group Tencent Holdings.

In this article I will present the main Chinese social media: QQ, Qzone,  Weibo (Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo), Renren, WeChat, Kaixin.

I.                 QQ: The Tencent’s chat.

 logo QQ

Launched in 1999, the first version of QQ was named “OICQ” (open ICQ, for reference to the previous instant messaging computer program ICQ owned by AOL). Because of a conflict with AOL for the brand’s name, the Tencent’s software was renamed “QQ” in 2000. “Q” is often use in Chinese as a translation of “cute”.
It is today the most famous social media in China, with 784 million users. Mostly of them are second tier cities teenagers.  This social media is accessible by computer or by phone. The phone version is more used for practical reasons.

QQ is a kind of MSN. Users can chat instantly, sharing mail correspondence or speak by videos with each-others. The service is free, but people can pay to obtain privileged memberships. This system is based on seven kinds of services illustrated by seven diamonds of different colours:

  • Red: QQ’ services Access (QQ show, personal avatar, clothes…)
  • Yellow: allows to personalize Qzone
  • Blue: access to basic games
  • Purple: access to famous games of Tencent
  • Pink: offers for QQpet, a game of pet farming, like a veterinary visit for free
  • Greenish: access to QQmusic
  • Black: access to DNF (game)
  • And a VIP diamond which allows to use the QQ version free of adds

QQ is also widely used in business even with foreigners have business in China.

II.               Qzone

 Q zone

Qzone is a kind of « My Space ». Owned by Tencent Holdings, this website allows the users to create their own page and to share their personal content, photos, videos and texts.

According to the go-globe.com, Qzone has 712 million users in 2013. To access Qzone, people must to be registered on QQ. It is the most popular platform for social sharing.

Users can listen and share music, write diaries and blogs, send photos to other members and make friends.

III.              Weibo: Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo.

weibo

Weibo means “microblogging” in Chinese. We can compare this social media as a mix between Facebook and Twitter. For example, users can write messages of 140 characters maximum, sharing photos and videos and sending messages to other users.

The landscape of Chinese social media owns two main weibo social media: Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo.

  • Sina Weibo is used by 500 million people, mostly in big cities. Its multimedia function was created before the Twitter’s one.
  • Tencent Weibo, owned by Tencent, has 507 million users who live more in smaller cities that Sina Weibo’s. But like Qzone, Tencent Weibo attracts new customers thanks to its instant messaging base: QQ.

Even if less people use it, Sina Weibo has a very important and maybe the most influence on the Chinese society. It is a source of expression and of information. The limit of 140 characters has nothing to do with the limitation in western countries: with 140 Chinese characters, people can write short novels, named “Wei Xiao Shuo”(micro novels). This high capability relative to the content allows more the circulation and the exchange of opinions. As it is really difficult to control the information on social media, Chinese people trust more information they find on Weibo than on traditional media.

IV.             WeChat: Tencent

 wechat

WeChat is a mobile application which is very successful in China based on same concept as Viber. 300 million people use this micro-messaging app in 2013 in the whole world. 260 million of them are Chinese people; 40 million are from other countries.

Wechat is a big success as you can see. And analysts are convinced it will be used by 100 million people more in 2013. As a foreigner living in China I can say WeChat is a big discovery and a very useful tool to keep in touch with my family and my friends around the world. I totally understand why WeChat is the favourite way for Chinese people to stay in touch with each other. This application is free, we can chat everywhere, both writing and speaking, it works for every Smartphone from every countries. There are a lot of funny applications and emoticons. It can be used to share pictures and short texts, like on Twitter.

An application allows us to see what happen around our place, which people are connected. It is a very efficient marketing tool, as you can see more deeply in this article.

V.               Renren

renren

This social media is a kind of Facebook. Indeed, it offers similar appearance and functions than the famous American social media. Created by students in 2005, it was called Xiaonei (means in the campus in Chinese) before.  It was recalled Renren. “Ren” means “person” in Chinese. So “Renren” means “everybody”. This social media had 172 million users at the beginning of 2013, mainly students and teenagers.

VI.             Kaixin 001

Kaixin001

Kaixin (“happy” in Chinese) is a kind of Facebook too. Kaixin 001 has 113 million users.

The difference between Kaixin and Renren is that Kaixin’s targets and main users are white-collar workers. Thus the audience is older than Renren’s.

VII.            Conclusion

In many aspects, Chinese social media landscape is an adaptation of the western one. They answer to the same basic needs of people and adapt the platform, options, apps to the particularities of the Chinese users and culture. Those adaptations to the Chinese culture are necessary, as eBay learnt with its failure in China and the incredible success of Taobao, its local competitor (to know more about this topic, click here).

Social media in China is particularly important for companies. According to a McKinsey Institute study “High influence: China’s social medias boom” (January 2013), Chinese people are mere likely buying a product if it is mentioned on social media and purchasing it if it is recommended by a friend or if it has a good reputation on social medias. In a country where traditional sources of information are controlled by the government, people trust more the opinion of other users in social media. Moreover, as China is a collectivist country, people naturally like to be connected and value the other’s opinion, even more than western countries. As a phenomenon, 91% of Chinese people of this study’s respondents said they visited a social media site in the previous six month, compared to 30% in Japan, 67% in United States and 70% in South Korea.

Social media are a vital source of information in China, and having a good reputation on it is a vital criterion for brand and companies. Social media influent a lot on the customer’s buying decision. That is why each company must take care of its reputation and marketing on social media if it wants keep doing business in this country.

By Leïla Hatoum


Scam Check—Protect Your Business from Being Scammed

Scamming could happen whenever buyers go to B2B platform and look for new suppliers. One common way of scamming is when the seller asks for deposit and disappears after the buyer pays. As a matter of fact, it is not always avoidable to pay in advance when you are a new customer to the supplier. What you could do is to pay enough attention to avoid it. And how to avoid being scammed? There are many ways to avoid being scammed and is quite easy to find those tips online. Yet it’d better to use a professional agent to help you as in some cases the scamming is really complicated and is very hard for a non-experienced customer to identify. scam alert1

Unfortunately, we received a SOS recently from a buyer who seemed trapped. The buyer was urgently looking for plastic materials. He found a Chinese supplier online with B2B platforms like Alibaba, quoted and selected. He paid deposit as requested by the Chinese supplier. As the story goes, the supplier suddenly changed its terms and conditions and he couldn’t contact this supplier again after he transferred the money.

The buyer contacted SAOS via our Linkedin, as a local professional services provider. He emailed us the situation, provided all the contacts and information for our support to clarify the case.

It was too late already, but we tried our best to check. As due diligence services, we normally do:

–  Call the contacts: Ask questions to understand if they are really in that business (e.g. this time we planed to ask advices on various plastic grades and material recommendation). Scammers have low chance to demonstrate real knowledge on subject matter and will avoid answering.

Also we ask about the client case, what he understands and how he is planning to arrange the delivery. A real supplier will be able to provide more details and genuine information.

–  Check custom data: We use official sources like Panjiva, a custom data provider, to see if the supplier has been doing export business and had real transactions. If records are existed, then we consider low chance of scamming.

–  Observations: We look into their official address, website, domain name, and see if they are wired. It is subjective, I agree, however that is exactly what we call experience.

For this time, what more than regular procedure is that we work with our alliance, the Wuhan Online Chamber of Commerce. The potential scammer has their address in Wuhan and claims to be a local company there. It makes full sense that we ask if our friends in the Chamber know about them.

The Wuhan Online Chamber of Commerce, having about 100 of members, is one of the most active and organized group of the exporting industry. I was there last week in Wuhan for a speech regarding buyer behavior as a guest speaker. Learning about this case, the Chamber took serious action to check if anyone knew about this company and the person who named in registration. The case also concerned the local office of Alibaba and their head of the Mid-west China business Mr. Zheng Lei, who took immediate action even it was not their responsibility. He checked their local database on the information of the company and found that the same reg. person used to register different business in other province. That information made the case more suspicious. Both Wuhan Chamber of Commerce and Alibaba are involved since they are dedicated for a clean and safe business environment of the local industry. scam check

As a result, unfortunately, we believe the chance that the buyer is scammed is high:

–  The scammer website contains only English, which is not common for most Chinese companies based on our long sourcing history dealing with local Chinese companies. This gives a feeling that they are only interest to dealing with (or, scam with) foreign business.

–  They are existed in Panjiva as well, but with no transaction history.

–  We called all the phone numbers available and none of them successfully took us to any contact person. However, after several times of calling, we finally reached the project contact to pick up the phone. When we asked about the case, the girl on the phone said she knew nothing and hung up the phone. From the above observations, we believe the buyer is not just meeting a non-responsive supplier. He has been scammed, losing 30% of its advanced payment.

What can he do? Honestly, not much. He can call the police (in Chinese) and ask them to help handle it. However, in practice, it will be very difficult to deal oversea with this kind of crime. Some lawyers could eventually deal with this case. Still, I really want to stress on the fact that preventive measure should be taken to avoid scamming situations. Obviously, if the buyer had turned to SAOS or other professional agents to help check before the deposit, this suffering would have been prevented.

If you are not sure about your new Chinese supplier and you need to pay certain deposit to them beforehand, better to check before you do. SAOS offers a simple and small, yet professional and effective service called “Scam-Alert”, and our aim is to prevent you from being scammed. With all the checking via our local channels and even some official ways (e.g. Access the Chinese government database), we will provide you with our risk indicator index and accordingly, reduce your risk of being scammed.

Why Taobao Succeeds in China Unlike eBay?

China has the largest online population in the world: 538 million users by the end of 2012, versus 141 million in the USA. internet users Want to know more about Chinese e-market, click here

The Chinese e-market is huge today, and this evolution was predictable from years. That is why eBay chose to begin the leader of this market in 2002 by investing US$ 30 million in EachNet, a Chinese online auction founded in 1999. But the American giant eBay failed in China.

On the contrary, the local competitor, Taobao that was created in 2003 had and still has a big success in China. Even more, Taobao is the biggest e-tailing platform in the world today.

Taobao is an e-tailing platform created by Alibaba group in 2003, one year after the coming of eBay on the Chinese market. The managers of the American e-tailing platform considered that this Chinese version of eBay was not a danger for the company. But obviously, they were wrong. In March 2002, after doing a joint-venture with EachNet.com, eBay had about 80% of the e-commerce market for $30 Million and 33% of shares. In May 2003, Taobao went online. At the end of 2006, eBay cut its losses and shut its website because of Taobao’s success. Today, Taobao is the global leader of e-commerce with 80% of the Chinese market shares.   

Why Taobao has achieved commercial success and not eBay?

This is the “going first going fast” American e-tailing giant’s strategy that made it lose its Chinese bet. In fact, the ethnocentric management of eBay has not allowed it to adapt its services and logistic to the new target culture: the Chinese one.

Chinese culture is very different than occidental ones, than American’s in this case. Then, consumers’ expectations and needs are different too. While eBay didn’t want or think to adapt its strategy, Taobao is perfectly adapted to the local culture. You could tell me “of course, it is a Chinese platform!” and you would be right. Let’s have a look on the Taobao’s particularities that allow it to win the war against eBay for the e-commerce in China.

• The platform’s design To compete with eBay, Jack Ma (Taobao founder) has decided to give a strong local identity to Taobao.  Many aspect of the platform’s design are concerned.

First, every member of the administration team had to choose a nickname, and all of them are “from fictional characters from Jin Yong’s famous kung fu novels” (Sun Tongyu, Taobao’s president). The message transmitted through the famous Chinese kung fu writer’s reference is clear: Taobao is a Chinese platform. This message is important because Chinese people are very nationalist. They are proud to be Chinese and as China is a collectivist country, this kind of identification is stronger than identifying themselves as individuals. That is why Taobao’s manager chose to give a strong Chinese culture reference to the platform. Another reason for this is to ensure consumers their understanding of their behaviours and needs. The second thing is choosing nickname is giving an informal attitude, which is the key to allow people to feel welcoming and being a member of a community.

Secondly, Taobao’scolors are red and orange, which symbolize festivity and prosperity in Chinese culture, a very positive message for online customers. Symbolic is very important to doing business in China unlike in the occidental world.

Moreover, Taobao’s website is well charged with a lot of information everywhere. Life in China is like that: a lot of people, information and signs everywhere, no empty space mostly of the time. It’s a noisy, collective, moving and colourful environment. That is why Taobao’s design is reflecting this environment: it is what Chinese people are accustomed to.  Zhang Yu, vice president in charge of C2C marketplace operations at Taobao, explains: “Chinese consumers like busy web designs with strong colours. Westerners prefer sparse sites like Google’s, but Chinese customers want their website to be noisy, with lots of links”. taobao-homepage-aug-2009 Taobao homepage with red and orangecolors and filled info

Overall, the design is adapted to the Chinese spirit. As Porter Erisman (the vice president of International Corporate Affairs) said,Taobao’s “design was much more usable for Chinese eyes [than eBay’s]. It reflected how Chinese shoppers think. Even some small details, such as including a men’s navigation tab and a women’s navigation tab, made the navigation more suitable to Chinese online shoppers. It was like being in a Chinese department store”. It is not in the occidental culture to create one separated navigation tab for men and women at all, even if differences of men and women thinks have been proved.

• The trust One eBay’s error was to ignore the importance of the trust in the Chinese culture. For American and occidental people in general the main motivation to buy a good it’s the price. Of course they need trusting the seller, as each people from any culture in the world, but the trust in China is much more than that. Paul Ingram, professor at the Columbia Business school specialized in social network explains:

In the West, we tend to reserve trust from the hurt (affect-based trust) for family and friends and trust from the head (cognition-based trust) for business partners. We see emotional concerns in business as unprofessional. But in China, affect- and cognition-based trusts are highly intertwined, even in business. It is important that business partners have an affective bond. Few Chinese business relationships develop without socio-emotional exchanges such as sharing meals, gifts and socializing with each other’s family.

That is why Taobao provides many aspects to facilitate confidence among sellers and buyers.

– The main one is AliWangWang, the Alibaba’s chat. Its function is to allow sellers and buyers to communicate. This tool has 2 main advantages. The first one is that Taobao proposes mostly fixed prices and only few auctions (on the contrary of eBay). It means that people can negotiate prices with sellers. It is interesting financially, but more than that, the bargaining is a part of the trust building between seller and buyer in Chinese culture. The second advantage is that people can directly ask their questions about the product to the seller or asking for assistance. aliwangwang AliWangWang interface

– Taobao sellers have to use their national identity card and their bank account to do their registration on the site. 

– A rating system of both sellers and buyers allows people to know who is trustable or not without taking the time to speak with the person. eBay offers a rating system for sellers only, but it is not enough in China. Moreover, in a collectivist society people like sharing and it is human trusting a person who has a good reputation. Thus, both buyers and sellers have to build and maintain a good reputation being honest if they want keep selling or buying on Taobao. taobao-seller-panel Rating info of a registered user

– Alipay, lauched in 2004 is an escrow service of Taobao. The buyer put the money on Alipay which inform the seller the money was given. Then, the seller send the item to the buyer, and only when the buyer tells the good is received, Alipay allows the seller taking the money. This service can be used for free.

– Another trusting idea is people can pay as they receive their item, mainly by cash on delivery. Indeed, the most usual way of payment in China is cash, and cash on delivery is like checking goods before buying, in retail shops. One more time, we can see that Taobao is perfectly adapted to the Chinese culture.

• Fees Listing and transactions are free of charge on Taobao. It is not the case on eBay.

In conclusion, we can say Taobao bested eBay for 3 reasons:

o It is perfectly adapted to the Chinese culture. It is a Chinese eBay especially made for Chinese consumers and consumers like to be considered.

o It provides very good services with low risks for online shopping.

o It is free.

Leïla Hatoum, SAOS Marketing manager & business developer.

Fix Cost Sourcing Service—Does it make sense that your China sourcing agents charge by percentage of your spend?

Fix cost sourcing is a type of sourcing service that performs purely as a service provider to buyer and is on 100% benefit to the buyer who is paying for the service. Unlike the most common commission-based sourcing service, fix cost sourcing service is a suitable outsourcing strategy for mission critical projects that expect to result in a list of fair, non-biased comparison on supplier competitiveness in a new supply market.

paid sourcing

 

 

It is fairly easy to find a sourcing company in China – try it yourself by asking for this in a LinkedIn group and you will have quite some people raise their hand for the work. Most common charging structure from them is to take a % from your purchase amount in a fixed period of time, say, the first year or so. Most of them could give you a list of suppliers easily, even for free in some cases. Assuming you pick one who asked for a reasonable % that you agree with, the agent will do their sourcing work by their process (assuming you pick one who has a clearly presented process), and eventually lead to a supplier that you can work with. Some of them could follow up the negotiation process or even new product industrialization process. Eventually he or she will either get payment from you or your supplier, or both. Case closed.

Sound good? True, but only in some cases. Let’s see more scenarios. Let’s say, you have a half millions sourcing project that critically requires having a shortlist of capable suppliers within 1 month or even few weeks. You know China is a good source for the product but you do not have any experience nor network locally to perform the task. As a new project you do not have all the necessary product and technical knowledge and you would like to work with a supplier that knows your product and industry well enough. Your business unit and product marketing folks need to launch the project on target quality, price and most importantly, on schedule, so as to compete in the market. Strong pressure that you just could not afford to waste time nor rely on an agency who is not committed.

You go to internet, list your request, someone raise their hand for the job. You discuss with them for your requirement and tell them how important it is to meet the target. You get a firm “YES” confirmation from one of your agent. The agent start to source and discuss with potential suppliers. Unfortunately your target is tough and not all suppliers interested to your RFQ due to the difficulty and complexity of your questions. Your agent come back to you, with the bad news of the progress, and an even worse news that he/she want to quit the project due to the complexity and uncertainty to meet the target result and earn his commission. Of course you are upset. You disagree, you yell, but it doesn’t help anything. The agent just disappeared. In most cases, I am not sure the agent will even consider there was something wrong. He didn’t get paid nor contracted. It is just a casual relationship without any official commitment.

Yet with a professional sourcing service provider like SAOS, this shall not happen. We will have project analysis before they make a commitment and will charge only when the project is completed as you expected. An official contract will also be signed for the insurance of your interest.

And What about cost of the sourcing service? From my understanding most agent charge between 3 to 8% (I understand a famous HK based sourcing company run by American charge as much as 7 to 11%!). Let’s assume you go for price and take an agency charge for 2% only. In your half million project you will pay 10K USD to your agent. In our fix cost based sourcing service, we charge by man hour in most cases and for a single product family sourcing we seldom go higher than this figure – not even close. Price is purely based on the complexity of the project and doesn’t matter how big or small of your business and project. fix cost sourcing

When I started to think about how my China sourcing company SAOS should charge on a sourcing service I was quite surprise to see that people in this industry is actually charging to a % of the total purchase amount. As a matter of fact, the sourcing effort required to do a good job for a smaller project should not be too different from a high volume project. The difference, if any, should be in the term of product development and industrialization process, which is naturally a post-sourcing process after you identify and contract with your supplier.

Think deeper, if my paid is related to the total amount of spending, will I make more profit if a supplier with higher cost is selected? Will this pay system discourage me from recommending low cost suppliers?? System Error!

I believe that sourcing service should be a non-risk taking, consulting+ operation based business process. Unlike trading, which aims to take advantage of an unbalance point of a market and take risk for higher profit, sourcing should be purely professional service. Charging by consulting fee and/or man-hour effort makes more sense to us. That is what we are doing today and our customer is comfortable to our relationship as we do.

Ben Chu, SAOS Founder

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