This post is the second part on conducting basic market research in China and it is about searches on Chinese marketplace sites. In the first part, we have discussed using Baidu for basic market research with search engines.
If you are selling a physical product, one of the best ways to find out what is already available is to research Taobao (Taobao.com), the primary C2C marketplace in China and its B2C equivalent, Tmall (tmall.com). Both platform belong to Alibaba and are similar to Amazon but much bigger.
Chinese Marketplace Sites Search
As mentioned before, none of Taobao or Tmall results will appear in Baidu searches, this is why it is important to research this channel separately.
While typing the search term (“sunglasses” in our example), more results will be shown as you type in, giving some insights on what other terms are frequently searched for (of course, you need to understand Chinese to make sense of it):
Additional search terms may give some more clues on what else you should be researching.
Taobao will also display a multilevel filters allowing for more targeted searches. In case of “sunglasses”, the results can be filtered by glasses shapes (oval, round, square, aviator, rectangular etc.), lens color, suitability for different type of face, gender and so on as well as price range.
The results, each with an attractive product photo, short description and the price, will be displayed right below the filters:
Typically, most results will be linking to either Tmall (like in the case of fashion items) or Taobao itself. Tmall is a type of an upscale version of Taobao with a strict policy against fakes. In the physical world, Tmall can compared to a branded department while Taobao is more of a bazaar style market.
How Taobao can help with the market research? First of all, it is the best to research product prices and price ranges for different subcategories of products.
Secondly, you will be able to better understand the overall popularity of the product category, competition and sales channels.
Finally, seeing so many competing offers grouped together may give you more insight on how yours could fit in the mix.
Side note: occasionally, you may even find your own products sold by someone else that you may not be aware of.
Stay tuned for the upcoming post on how to perform basic market research with Chinese social media.