The inevitable destiny of every brand in the digital age is doing e-commerce. These days, on behalf of my client, I have been contacting dozens of e-commerce solution service providers in China, hoping to select few suitable candidates. I felt myself as if a matchmaker while my client were a girl, and I would need to pair her with a decent e-commerce service guy for a "blind date". Most I have talked so far are more avid to offer one package service (instead of partially) for e-commerce BPO, from online store setup, design, CRM, IT support to logistics…well logistics can be tricky, because all of them need to cooperate with third party delivery companies, as for warehouse, some rent their own while others need to outsource as well.

Anyhow time for me to spill my certain experiences and I would like to categorize these service providers into:

  • Those pricey and inquisitive ones:

Since my client is a foreign brand, firstly I reached out to service providers with foreign background. I expected them to charge more expensively compared with local ones, however in the mean time I perceived they tend to be more inquisitive, too, of course under the cause for thoroughly understanding your needs. I am still waiting for their further explanation and quotation right now after their “interrogation on me”.  Nothing wrong here, but in a minor way, it just feels the whole process takes too long.

  • Picky one:

I always thought one of the coolest moments is you walked into the door of a service provider and said “hey, my client is interested in your service”. Not that I want them to shine my shoes, but at least I would receive a sunny smile. No, you might be turned down immediately via email. So the company declined me is a local company called Baozun, set up in 2007. I knew it is the team behind Taobao stores of Pepsi and Philips and you can check its client list here.

Since I am not a woman who takes NO for granted; well at least I need a convincing reason for rejection; I made a follow-up call to Baozun to find out why. But all I got was still “We are just not that interested in taking it”.

Well, my speculations are:

1)       Their market positioning is like an exclusive club which accessible to prestigious brands

2)       Alibaba is one of its investors. Therefore for mighty back-up like this, I suppose you are not that hungry for taking in new clients

  • Messy ones:   

This category I have those local companies which hold a more open attitude. But the situation seemed to get bewildering in proportion. Please be aware that in the survey sample of this category, I selected those which claim to have strong e-commerce expertise pertinent to my client’s industry.    

Strikingly they all told the tale of setting up a Taobao store is an indispensable strategy. Some even said that they help brands to setup e-store on Taobao ONLY, no slight intention to launch stand-alone e-store what so ever.

Apart from above, their quotation numbers are often composed of “monthly operating service charges + commission fees in percentage of your monthly sales”.

Depending on your specific needs, minimum monthly service charges would run from RMB30,000 to RMB80,000/per month whereas commission percentage could be between 8% to 20%. The trouble is I do not see the scenario that A’s billing is much higher than B’s because A is explicitly better than B.

Additional thought:

Somehow I began to wonder whether my client, the girl should do everything by herself, instead of marrying off a third party full-service guy. Again the hurdles might be the shortage of e-commerce talents in China. It is probably very difficult to find these people, hire them and eventually concert a spectacular symphony of online business for the brand.

For better or worse, if China e-commerce is booming according to the statistical report, then the hunt for e-commerce solution service providers, I mean the real good ones, should be on the rise.   


By Cécilia Wu
English & Chinese Editorial Manager