From Down Under to the Far East: Aussie firms capitalising on daigou market to increase China presence

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Australian supplement firms are using the daigou platform to appeal to consumers in Australia, as well as to raise awareness of their brands in China. ©Getty Images
Australian supplement firms are using the daigou platform to appeal to consumers in Australia, as well as to raise awareness of their brands in China. ©Getty Images

Related tags daigou Australia China

Australian direct-to-consumer firm Australian NaturalCare is using daigou sales to establish itself in China, thanks to its partnership with Australian company DaigouSales.

The firm, which has been in operation for almost 30 years, has about 70,000 customers in Australia, to whom it ships its products directly from its warehouse.

And like many of its compatriots, it has been looking to crack the China market for some time.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia​, CEO Peter Jamieson said: "We've been looking at ways to access the Chinese market, particularly through daigou shoppers, who are a very strong sales force for products coming out of Australia.

"There are a number of ways to do that. One is to generate enough interest so people go to retail stores and buy the products off the shelf, which is obviously a big phenomenon in Australia.

"But without a retail presence, we had to look at alternatives."

Broadening appeal, creating brand awareness

This led the firm to team up with DaigouSales, which was founded last year by CEO Dr Mathew McDougall to facilitate the sales and marketing of Australian brands' products to Chinese consumers via daigou​ intermediaries.

McDougall is also president of the Australia-China Daigou Association (ACDA) — founded in 2017 as well — which seeks to promote cooperation between Australian firms and Chinese communities in Australia that conduct cross-border daigou ​trading.

Australian NaturalCare was one of the first members of the ACDA.

Jamieson said that without blue hat registration, cross-border e-commerce was the only way to get the company's products into China.

Hence, it is currently communicating with several distributors in the country, and working with the daigou ​sales platform to establish a strong sales and marketing channel into China.

"There are three key markets for us in Australia: Australian Chinese residents, Chinese students who also work as daigou shoppers to make an income while they're studying in Australia, and Chinese tourists who come to Australia as daigou shoppers.

"We want to use the daigou sales network to create awareness for our brand, to appeal to consumers in Australia as well as create demand in China.

"We've spent a lot of time facilitating a lot of focus groups in China and Australia, and we've completely changed our packaging based on that, to a much more premium-looking package."

At present, the firm — which also carries health foods and skincare products — has made its entire range of Australian NaturalCare-branded vitamins available on the daigou ​platform.

Bridging the gap

McDougal told NutraIngredients-Asia​ that prior to heading the ACDA and DaigouSales, he had been living and working in China as the founder and executive chairman of brand agency Digital Jungle.

He returned to Australia two years ago to open a local Digital Jungle office, and soon discovered that the markedly smaller budget he had in the country meant he had to find other ways to best serve the agency's clients.

"I observed a growing trend of Chinese living in Australia becoming daigou shoppers. The market was fragmented and chaotic, so I wanted to see if I could disrupt that environment.

"We wanted to have a deep understanding of how the daigou market operates, as well as how to address the concerns of its constituents and help them become better at using the system.

"We also wanted them to go about it in an ethical way — basically, we're about professionalising daigou and making it a longer-term prospective channel as opposed to a short-term money grab."

McDougall then set up a WeChat marketplace for daigou​ sales, and soon attracted queries from "hundreds of brands"​ looking to sell to China via daigou​.

He said, "Australian NaturalCare was brand new from a Chinese perspective, so it worked with Digital Jungle on how to do brand marketing in Chinese, how to establish a website and handle the B2C aspect, and how to get support from the daigou community in its home market — the first and most important step for companies that want to enter China via daigou sales."

The ACDA then worked with Australian NaturalCare to help the latter successfully enter the marketplace, and according to McDougall, this relationship has worked well so far.

"We run and operate their store and marketing programmes, and Chinese awareness of their brand has been growing, which has in turn helped their sales."

Playing with the big boys

This initial success Australian NaturalCare has experienced on the daigou ​platform has boosted the firm's confidence.

Jamieson said, "We think we can hold our own in the marketplace against any of the major players in Australian vitamins.

"We were looking for a conduit between us and daigou shoppers, and this sales platform is allowing us the opportunity to put our products in front of a substantial number of daigou shoppers in Australia."

Apart from DaigouSales' part in facilitating Australian NaturalCare's entry into China through daigou​ sales, however, Jamieson believes the quality of his company's products also play a role in its success.

"We are one of the only companies left that develop and carry 100% Australian-made products in the vitamin industry," ​he said.

In terms of which products Chinese consumers prefer, Jamieson said supplements that aid sleep, alleviate stress, lower diabetes risk, and support cognitive, ocular, liver and joint health were popular.

In addition, the firm is targeting working mothers aged 30 to 50, as well as children and seniors.

Jamieson said, "We're focusing on products with a real Australian flavour, using them to target key areas of concern on the Chinese market."

The firm is also eyeing Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam South Korea, and Turkey.

"We're talking to a number of people who are keen to bring quality Australian brands to these countries, so we have been in negotiations for some time with a number of them, and we'll be looking to finalise opportunities within the next six months."

As for DaigouSales, it aims to continue offering a full suite of services to Australian firms looking to break into the China market.

McDougal said, "Most Australian companies don’t have a clue what 'daigou' means or how the whole thing operates, so we take care of it for them. But more than that, we represent the brand.

"When we run a store in the marketplace, we run its customer service, provide warehousing, handle costing and shipping, and handle marketing campaigns. We do everything for the brand within the daigou community.

"All the brand has to do is help us with the marketing details, sign off on relevant documents, and approve the strategies we employ."

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