Saying that China is a market worth investing in can hardly be categorized as a revolutionary statement. It is the world’s most populous country and its inhabitants enjoy ever higher disposable incomes.
What this means for your E-Commerce strategy is that it could be a grave mistake to neglect the Chinese market. There are customers there waiting for new products and services and more than willing to pay top yuan for them. However, many companies don’t give them the chance.
For many global companies’ websites, due to their servers being placed far outside the country, response time to queries from China is excessively long, often surpassing one minute or even more. Customers wanting to make a purchase or trying to book a hotel or trip can’t be expected to wait this long to give you their money.
If you want to serve these customers and increase your presence in China, the only way is to get closer to the user – by hosting in China. We at Niteco can tell you what you need to keep in mind as you contemplate this step.
1. The ICP license – where hosting in China begins
Now, let’s put this out there right now: When it comes to hosting, as with so many other things, China is like no other place. Not just anybody can waltz into the country and start hosting their website there. To do so, you must first acquire an Internet Content Provider (ICP) license. These are issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and are the prerequisite for any hosting activity in Mainland China. These are not easy to obtain and only make you eligible to post information on your site.
If you want to sell products online in China, this will not be enough. You’ll need a commercial ICP license for that. And those are only granted to companies registered in China, with less than 50% of capital held by foreigners. So, you want that E-Commerce website hosted in Mainland China? Then you’re going to need some local partners.
Due to the complexity of the process, some ICP vendors have begun to offer consultancy services as part of their portfolio, with some going as far as promising end-to-end business establishment and registration assistance. However, you can expect to pay premium prices for services like this.
It’s more sensible and cost-effective to work with companies that have been active in the area for some time and have accumulated the experience necessary to successfully target the Chinese market. Niteco, based in Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi, just about 130 kilometers from the Chinese border and with offices in Hong Kong and other cities in the region, is in a prime position to help companies looking to enter China.
2. Is hosting just outside the country just as good as hosting in China?
Speaking of Hong Kong – There’s always the option of hosting your website there, as regulations are far less strict and more accommodating of foreign business interests there. Hosting in Hong Kong will put your servers in much closer proximity to Mainland China’s market, but carries a considerable risk.
Using a hosting service in the city, while geographically closer, puts you in the same legal position as hosting in a neighboring country. You will be outside China’s Great Firewall, so your website could potentially be blocked with little to no explanation as to why. And believe us, convincing Chinese authorities to unblock access to your website is far more difficult than getting an ICP license.
So, hosting outside Mainland China can be an option, but it’s by no means a perfect one.
3. Forget everything you know – well, almost
All those things you’re used to using when you set up a website? Many of them can’t be used in China.
Google Analytics? Nope. Facebook integration? In your dreams. Amazon Web Services? While it’s technically available, it’s only as a very constrained service.
So you’ll have to get familiar with the alternatives to all these services that are used in China. Instead of Google, it’s Baidu. Instead of Facebook, WeChat or Weibo. Instead of AWS, there are options like Alibaba Cloud. With the absence of all-encompassing powerhouse Google, you’ll also have to find other options for map services and SEO – usually, you’ll default to Baidu for these aspects too.
This means that building a well-oiled machine of a website doesn’t happen by following the same steps as in other countries. You’ll need developers that know what they’re doing when it comes to the Chinese web ecosystem.
If you want to know more about targeting the Chinese E-Commerce market and hosting in the country, come to Niteco. Our experts can tell you exactly what you need to launch your website in China.