Chinese websites don’t look the same as their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe.

The most obvious difference is the amount of text on each page. In the U.S., pages tend to be streamlined and uncluttered whereas Chinese consumers require much more detail. This is where companies sometimes come unstuck when moving into China: they try to simply replicate what works in their home markets.

“I’ve worked in e-commerce and marketing for quite a while; everything I know I can leave at the airport when I go to China. Everything is different, the way you build a website is different, the way you merchandize, the payments are different, the lot,” Lee McCabe, vice president of North America at Alibaba Group, said on stage at Skift Tech Forum in June.

“So for U.S. businesses, you certainly shouldn’t scrap what you have here but but you’d be mistaken if you think you can simply port that to China. You really can’t.

“You have to start thinking again, thinking of the Chinese consumer, the Chinese business dynamics and build something for them, and that’s the mistake U.S. companies have made in the past, they thought they could play the short game. China’s not the short game you have to go there with a long-term plan. You have to go there and think local. Hire local people, you can’t just send people from the U.S., it wont work.”

Connecting Online and Offline Worlds

There’s also a misconception relating to the amount of business conducted online. Offline retail actually accounts for around 80 percent of transactions, McCabe said, so companies like Alibaba have had to come up with clever ways of marrying the two worlds.

The company has a partnership with Suning (thanks to a sizeable investment) which enables it to create something of a seamless transaction flow.

“We simply take our userbase and the data and we match it with Suning’s. They have about 250 million loyalty members we have 600 million active users. And what happens when we match that data [is] we can provide a better experience for the consumers than they’ve had before,” McCabe said.

“So they can still come to our website and buy it but now they can see inventory at their local Suning store so if they want they can buy it online, they can pick it up, they can return it to the store. They can go to the store first and get the service then return home and buy it online. If [I’m] entering the store first, in the past it would have been a cold interaction, now the store knows me so they know my previous purchases and they can serve me in a much better way.”

You can watch the entire interview above, or consider reading more coverage of Skift Tech Forum.

At Skift Tech Forum in Silicon Valley, travel tech executives gathered for a day of inspiration, information, and conversation.

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Photo Credit: Lee McCabe, vice president of North America at Alibaba Group, speaking at Skift Tech Forum in June. Skift