Understanding cross-border health care e-commerce with China

Daxue Talks transcript #40: Understanding cross-border health care e-commerce with China

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Based on this episode of Daxue Talks with Olivier Verot, a digital marketing specialist, you will better understand cross-border health care e-commerce with China.

Full transcript below:

Are cross-border sales relevant to health care?

Yes, it is relevant for cross-border sales. It is extremely relevant. Chinese people want to buy health care products will search online and prepare to buy overseas products and brands since they have a better reputation. Chinese people tend to think that there is better quality with overseas products. When it matters to their health, they prepare to buy something they trust than local products. The second thing is about the process. If you are a health care company that wants to sell to China, it takes a long time to register your product. It can take from 1 to 3 years (most of the time it is 3 years). So, during all this time, you can use cross-border to sell your products. That is how most health care companies are doing. They invest online to sell their products due to all these legal issues.

Which health sector works particularly well on the internet in China?

Two main things are doing extremely well in China: vitamins and health supplements. It is huge in terms of sales on Tmall global is number 3 or number 4. When people are searching to buy vitamins or supplements, they will search on Tmall global. The health supplements are when you cannot sleep or have a problem of digestion for example, you will search for these kinds of products and order it to your place. For health supplements, there is fish oil. Chinese parents buy these products during the pregnancy because it has the reputation to be good for the brain and they believe that the child will be smarter. 

Are there restrictions on digital marketing for health products in China? If so, which ones?

There are restrictions on health and medicine. Everything that is linked to medicine and for which you would need to visit a doctor, there are restrictions. Everything that is linked to health has restrictions. It is not allowed to communicate on the result of your product if you are not able to prove it. So, most brands will sell their product as a lifestyle product. For instance, companies that sell vitamins don’t have the right to communicate on the health benefits so they will communicate on the beneficial impact of the lifestyle, the positive attitude, etc. For each product, there are different regulations. If you want to open a WeChat account, a Weibo account or launch your product on any other platform, it takes more time and more documents than for other companies. These platforms will check if what you are doing is legal to be sure they are on. The safe side. So, it is more complicated and there more legal restrictions. It is the same everywhere around the world – in France or the US. When it matters to health, the authorities want to have more control over it.

Can you use doctors as KOLs?

It is a complicated question. Most of the time, you cannot use it. If it is a foreign doctor, then you can use it. But doctors are not KOLs. There are the people that will explain the product. Most doctors have limitations and don’t have the right to act as a KOL. So, if you are a doctor in a Chinese hospital, you are not allowed to be a KOL and sell your services to brands. That is so due to ethical reasons. So, foreign doctors can be used, but the company has to be careful how it communicates on that. In health care, companies mainly use customers and not doctors as KOLs because it is really complicated.


Daxue Talks is a show powered by daxue consulting, a china-based strategic market research company founded in 2010! With Daxue Talks, you will stay up to date with all the latest business updates in China.

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