ICP & Wechat Store Positioning for Foreign Businesses in China with Chance Jiang

Michael MicheliniBusiness, Ecommerce, Podcast0 Comments


Chance! Coolest names out there, and a nice guy who helps a lot of us foreigners understand Chinese tech business and policies – he is on the show to give us all insights and tools and tips on to get started on Chinese hosting and Wechat development.

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Intro Chance

    We met at Guangzhou Startup Weekend I was organizing way back in 2012! You’ve been doing quite a few startups! working on his 3rd startup, Chatek LLC, building marketplace technologies native to social networks. His part-time gig is Director of Startup Grind Guangzhou. He was co-founder and designer of welomo.com(2012-2014), the 1st connected hardware on WeChat offering millions of users instant photo printing fun.

  • Start With Why

    Foreigners Should Set Up in China? How can they get their tech setup? What is the best thought process.

  • Tech Stack

    What should a company look for, what are some keywords in the Chinese tech scene that they need to use when getting their technical footprint started.

  • Do We Need A Website?

    Is a website still relevant in China?

  • Server, ICP, what?

    Some listeners may not be aware that they need a license in China to get a server, can you explain the process.

  • What are the steps needed

    How many pieces – or long does this take – what are the steps needed?

  • How much, how long?

    How about this whole process from company set up to ICP to Wechat store.

  • Wechat shops

    What kind of wechat stores do we need? Custom, ones by Wechat, by a third party? Seems overwhelming.

  • Case studies

    Can we talk about some examples.

  • Reaching Chance

    How can they reach out to you and your business? Thanks for coming on the show!

People / Companies / Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Episode Length 36:49

Thanks everyone – thank you Chance for sharing – and hope to catch you all at Cross Border Summit 2017!

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Podcast Transcription

“WeChat actually is just a thin layer on top of your mobile shop.”

Welcome to the Global From Asia podcast where the daunting process of running an international business is broken down into straight up actionable advice and now your host, Michael Michelini.

Mike: Thank you everybody for tuning into another Global From Asia. We’re on episode 169 and it is now the very early April and is spring time and we are in the month of Cross Border Summit. So, that’s the only thing in my mind right now. ‘Coz this is less than 3 weeks away now. So it’s like countdown timer is there. How are you doing, Claire?

Claire: I’m doing good. What about you?

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I’m great. We’re recording this on my birthday but I will be an older man. Can be closer to 40 than close to 30. For my birthday, I love business. And my birthday party would be at the Cross Border Summit. So, I’m delaying the party a couple of weeks. But will always be that much better. Any updates on the Summit for us, Claire?

Claire: Yes, we got a lot of speakers adding up.

Mike: Yeah and I’ve been working my butt off to preparing some things for the Summit to announce. We’ve got a jobs board at globalfromasia.com/jobs because there are tons of people that both want to get jobs. And there’s companies that are looking to hire a lot of marketers and hustlers that listen to the show. So check that out at globalfromasia.com/jobs, totally free for everybody just kind of want to help people and my inbox is getting full of people looking for jobs. So hope this can help out. Make businesses in Asia are growing. So, that’s another one and we also launched a marketplace globalfromasia.com/market. So, we are already getting people listing their services and kind of like, making it easier to buy online and different services in Asia like quality control or manufacturing services and other help in China, which I had this when I was starting out. But we really hope to make it easy buying on Amazon as it is buying services or helping the business in China or Asia. So it’s exciting times, so how about the speaker? The speaker, he is a speaker for the Summit, too. But this guest today, do you want to talk?

Claire: Chance Jiang.

Mike: Yeah, she got, Claire got to meet him and he want to talk?

Claire: Market meetups.

Mike: Yeah, he’s done few different marketing meetups. He’ll actually be on a panel with me on April 6 on a couple of days from now in Shenzhen. He is a local Chinese but he’s English is amazing and he’s a techie, too. He’s done a lot of different tech products in China and he’s working with lots of foreigners. So, we’re having him on the show today talking about different ways that foreigners can do website and hosting an apps outside of China, of course WeChat. I know it’s always a hot topic, the painful process of hosting in China and everything. He tries to break it down and I have the idiotic questions. I tried to make it as basic as possible for us that have no idea. Let’s listen in and what are the show notes.

Claire: It’s www.globalfromasia.com/episode169.

Mike: Yeah, let’s go guys.

Mike: Happy Chinese Lantern Festival, Chance.

Chance: Happy Chinese Lantern Festival.

Mike: Yeah, I know it’s, I think we’re just having lunch. Does anybody know that it’s a holiday? What is this holiday represent? I couldn’t see any feedback.

Chance: It represents the last day of the traditional Chinese New Year. It’s officially the last day and it’s also a meaning of date of reunion for family.

Mike: So, let me introduce you quickly. So, thank you Chance Jiang for coming on the show. We met at the start of weekend in Guangzhou way back in 2012. You’ve always been so active in community, developer community, and startup community. You’re currently the CEO of Chatek LLC which is making marketplace technologies for social commerce or new commerce. You are also the director for Startup Grind in Guangzhou. You were co-founder and designer at Welomo, which is the first connective hardware platform to WeChat with millions of users for photo printing. So, it’s a pleasure having you on the show. Thanks for being here, Chance.

Chance: I, thank again. Pleasure here.

Mike: Great! So, we are discussing today to do this, the show. We’re calling it positioning your technology for the Chinese market for, I think a lot of our listeners are e-commerce enthusiast or product sellers. So, a little bit focus on e-commerce world. But of course it could be applied to any kind of technology. So first is the why. So, a lot of times I still get tons of emails, people just emailing me, how do I get a server in China or how do I make sure my website is not blocked in China. This might be a basic question definitely for you. But I know there’s a lot of difference strategies but what should somebody think of when they want to come to China for their tech company or business.

Chance: For e-commerce, I particularly WeChat it’s a new emerging social platform that bet by some people’s definition. It become the internet from China. I’ve been very lucky to be one of the earliest adapter of that platform to build my first successful stuff on my instant photo printing machines it’s called Welomo. I’ve been helping Chinese and non-Chinese clients to set-up their WeChat based mobiles sales apps and services like that. Yeah, and as long as the why I think, the decision process is probably 80% of the thinking probably just like, okay, do I, doesn’t make sense of my business to open a mobile app for certain demographic. So, you can translate that question to like, okay, it doesn’t make sense for my business to open my WeChat mobile, you know sharp, to the Chinese demography. So, I think that the skill, the thinking 80% of the stuff is the same. Also, coming down to the difference, let’s say, it’s about 20% the difference. What it takes to do that, to achieve that? I mean, number 1 is like, for business point of view, yeah, the thinking is a bit 80% but from the technical and product point of view it’s a little bit different because of the technology stand. Because when you talk about application on top of WeChat, firstly it’s very much like mobile website. But you can imagine if you want to have various experience it has to be a really polished mobile ready website for many way. So, the basic step is okay, you probably need a domain name, just like whatever online service. And, then you need to rent a server that is legally successful inside China. So, it takes like domain and hosting and also ICP registration.

Mike: So, people start to learn ICP and then they wonder about how to get ICP. And we also get into WeChat stores. So, domain, probably should get a different domain and then their current English or western domain, right? Like maybe localized.com.cn or?

Chance: I mean, the domain it’s pretty a multi-dimensional issue that you can consider it branding issue. Some brand they want to register equivalent of the .cn domain in China. You know some company they just don’t care because technically, now the entry point for mobile application is not the domain anymore. Just QR code or say simple message share on the chat group. And, coming back to the question of the domain, the least costly probably just to second domain and then you start to host the mobile version, your mobile version for WeChat and that’s it technically. But, if we talk about hosting in China and getting the ICP, even if you register your .com domain outside of China, it also makes sense to do a ICP registration in China. Given nowadays crowd competing source in China it’s really a metro market right now and you have a quite few options like Tencent Q-cloud by Tencent and also the Aliyou by Alibaba and a few others. I personally been working with Q-cloud for quite some years and recently I was so amazed that they already have a full English version for administration inter-phase. So, I would recommend, highly recommend Q-cloud.

Mike: Wow, I didn’t know about the English interphase there. It’s awesome.

Chance: Yeah, it’s happening. That’s also the service I’ve been using for quite a few clients whether Chinese or non-Chinese.

Mike: Very cool. So, ICP then, I know people will always which I respect I think in startup community we always say like be lean and test first. But to get these licenses like ICP and WeChat shops you need a license inside Mainland China, which means you need a business registered here.

Chance: Yeah, that’s absolutely. For Chinese, if you want to operate your WeChat app, for Chinese they have demographic in China, you need an ICP and that’s the time when you register, when you get a like Q-cloud host server. And then the service will instruct you to, not a process in parallel, of you know renting the server to get your ICP. The Q-cloud ICP registration process is pretty much streamline your dimension and for the sub. There this hassle the requirement of setting up legal entity in China it doesn’t match for getting ICP. And there might be 3rd party agency in China, actually helping you to set that up. But I’m not knowledgeable about that. That could be the background if you talk about how to keep your link and get a quick start to get with all you ICP thing while you’re renting the Q-cloud server.

Mike: Yeah, of course I got. I’ve offered some people open a WeChat account and might trying this company that I have. But I think just got to be aware that there’s risk on both sides, the company in China registering it for you and you as the foreign company because the control is in the company in China. But also the risk if there’s a problem in China with filtering, if something bad is set or something is not on the way, maybe the government says it should be done there’s liability for the person in China. And also, as far as I understand, it’s not transferrable. Maybe the ICP could be transferred later but I don’t think the WeChat store can be transferred later after it’s been established just as far as it is.

Chance: No, for WeChat store, as far as I know now. So, but before ICP, yes. You can transfer they called it the registered entity, the person domain you can register with entity 1. You can later on apply for the an update, for the change. And all that is already automated in, the cloud can be a platform like Q-cloud.

Mike: Very cool. So, great this is kind of why you know. Of course, they can always, we always encourage to test, try to test the market as much as possible. Probably using personal accounts or manual payments or even for giving samples or. I think you should come to China at least maybe bring some samples if you have physical good or checking Tao Bao or checking the stores. Can you think of other ways or is that, what would be some ways to invest in all these Chinese market? How could somebody, probably maybe better idea before they go all in?

Chance: You mean, the process of having a product for the Chinese?

Mike: Yeah, maybe somehow just get some feedback or get some market research or, of course they take a pay for marketing firm to do surveys or focus group, is that the right way? Or is it WeChat group, I mean, I know there’s no right answer but more on the business marketing side. I don’t know if you had an experience or ideas.

Chance: I would highly recommend you to talk to a marketing or digital marketing agency on the ground in China to ask them. And, let them do the testing and probably do warming up for a brand. Yeah, that’s probably the best way to go.

Mike: Okay, alright. And now, what to do? You said first you have to get the server in China they’re doing their app. I know this is confusing even to me. A lot of times you’ll think, kind of like, maybe even in Facebook app you do have a server. But at some point you can do stuff on Facebook or WeChat. But there are certain level you got to need your own server hosting account which would then host the code you made to put your product in the store.

Chance: Exactly, yeah. In terms of technology and this co-hosting, there’s this you got to make, supposedly you already have this legal compliance thing already sorted out. And now you’re trying to set up something. But I would say if you just doing content, editing, polishing and pushing, I mean the default service offered by WeChat public account is already sufficient but if you want to open your own shop and you want to offer the mobile experience inside WeChat just ask you do with a regular mobile app. Yeah, you definitely need a server you need to pick a, nowadays like a cloud computing solution. Whether it’s AWS or something inside China. Preferably should be something inside China because of the cross country, we called then the data, the data.

Mike: Sometimes, GFW.

Chance: Exactly.

Mike: Great fire wall. You’re talking about the WeChat store or WeChat account so that’s probably the more important the branding and the name and of course the domain. So, picking a name but actually that really don’t matter to you because the QR code and everything. But I know we used to talk on recording there’s different ways or name, choices that people could pick? Maybe you could give us some ideas.

Chance: Oh, yeah. Is that. You had quite a few options in terms of picking your name on WeChat. Supposedly, you all finish, sort out all this legal company issues. People either use their brand, their product’s brand on top of a Chinese legal entity as a register for WeChat public account. And somebody just use the same company name plus, to, as a official you know, just like a public official photo for the company’s website. It just the feature, the letter that they print on the actual idea, the official website.

Mike: Okay, cool. Like even example here. I don’t know if I told you before. My official account is used to be my Chinese name which is My Li Ni and then WeChat told us you can’t use personal name as your official account. So, we change it to Global From Asia which is this podcast show but actually that’s not the company name. My company name is Shadstone Import Export in Shenzhen Company Limited. So that’s another example, they were weird, they didn’t let me keep, my face and my personal name and WeChat contact to Wendy who’s holding the account and said they can’t do that.

Chance: There are certain regulations that are actually imposed on WeChat official account that, there’s no imagery or certain things you cannot put on in terms of branding. But I got to say that it’s all about the naming and the branding thing. I think so.

Mike: Okay, cool. That’s a great answer. So, let’s just stop think about. I know a lot of times people get confused with the Chinese name or English name. Probably who’s your targeting. But of course, if you’re here in China, I don’t think I have a Chinese name for global from Asia. Wendy’s thinking about it, but we don’t have one yet. But probably most like, 90% you should pick a Chinese name if you’re get to be targeting Chinese people.

Chance: Yeah, that’s for sure.

Mike: Yeah. That’s the recommended I would say.

Chance: And I actually saw kind of those few great example noble they say you know, target of course e-commerce borders.

Mike: And yeah, it definitely take some time to pick the right name. I don’t think, what confusing thing about WeChat to me is there’s the name displaying I guess and there’s the account ID. So when they change my account I couldn’t change my account ID is still the pin ying My Li Ni and you can look later. But the display name is Global From Asia.

Chance: Yeah, because the account ID is, you can only change, the time you register, there is not available. But if you give it a name which is unique and that’s the one time thing. And now you can change that later on. But for the, yeah, that’s how they enforce this trustworthiness on normal chat doing this services on their platform.

Mike: True ‘coz I guess the idea would be you just can do some bad thing and then change your name and they can’t find you I guess, maybe.

Chance: Yeah, some people, non-technical people imagine that, that’s exactly for all this merchant ID, it’s checkable. I mean, it’s so precise inside this gigantic platform.

Mike: So, I think one of the bigger stumbling blocks so I get email and request from people that you know are interested in trying to get ICP or Chinese. It seems pretty big investment to do all this. What would you say maybe not sure about the company formation? But, if they really want to do this properly, they have to register a company, prior to get a bank account, to get a merchant account for WeChat. And then they got to get a server, got to get an ICP.

Chance: Exactly.

Mike: Can we get a basic ID of maybe, ‘coz it possible end or time?

Chance: Yeah, at the time, and cost? Yeah that’s a good question. Because my company, because I’ve been doing this for a couple of times. My later start culture tech. Yeah, I actually started the plan for my Chinese ID. It takes me like less than 2 months to complete the entire process. And handling free, because I’m a Chinese citizen. The handling fee for this company, legal entity registration is like 1.4K RMB. And then for the bank account, it take less than a month and also for the ICP. Once you finish the legal entity, the company bank account in China and then the ICP part is really easy. You know taking charge is like 500 yuan RMB to handle all that. But it’s all about handling the paper work, you know getting all this license and copy everything and put everything into the automation service on the cloud service provider that you are working on. For example, Q-cloud, so Q-cloud has a really great ICP registration, automation service already. So, all I need to worry about is to get all these paper work ready, the e-copy and I just go to the process. And then that way, typically it takes like from 2 to 3 weeks complete ICP registration. And also, with all that in place you are good to go to get a WeChat public account whether it’s a subscription account or service account.

Mike: So, I think it’s a little bit easier for you as a local Chinese for a company though. I mean, we usually could be a, or a joint venture I am not as familiar JB. But the concept will be a little bit higher for sure for the company setup and the banking processing. I was still safe, in a few months, you know at least 10,000 RMB I think depending on what kind of service provider you need. ‘coz a lot of tomes foreigner need to speak in English speaking service provider and they need extra service, you know a lot of help because that’s so new. So, I definitely think for foreigners, it would be a little bit more of a time and money investment. So, I see like totally there like kind of thing, at least 3 to 4 months you say, for your case.

Chance: In my case, it takes less than 2 months to complete my legal entity registration.

Mike: But then there’s like another for ICP and then there’s a WeChat payment.

Chance: Yeah, they totally it takes 3 to 4 months.

Mike: I would add couple of more months for foreign company, I think. I don’t know, I think so. And then, I’m sure there are some people you know, you are not even a local Chinese company and it takes quite a bit more time than any US or overseas. A lot of western companies it would not take that long and you get a server setup pretty quickly without a company. But here everybody has have a company or ICP.

Chance: Well, ICP, you can register ICP using citizen, using my Chinese citizen you know ID car. You can register either as a individual or as a legal entity, that’s an option when you register ICP and there are certain area that require a special approval like the area that the Chinese government would like to control like the media, then you know the kind of business category you are in. But other than that, it’s already pretty you know, make sure established process in the industry. ICP registration. Normally, we would just budget like, internally we budget like 2 to 500 yuan and also 2 weeks in handle an ICP.

Mike: Got it. For the WeChat account, I think, even Chinese they had a company for official account?

Chance: Official account, I think it works pretty much like the ICP. Official account you can also register if you are a Chinese citizen. You can register as an individual. You can also register as a business. I think for entity.

Mike: I think we should clarify, I’m trying to think of the listeners, that’s not something with all of these words. They are away which is official account. But then there’s WeChat shop, WeChat shop for me is confusing coz you can use 3rd party’s store. You can use WeChat own store. You can make custom stores. So, I guess it’s up to them to decide.

Chance: Yeah, because in the early days like 2005, things we were selling the photo printing vending machine. The service itself is also living on WeChat and we also make an offer to sell the machine itself on WeChat. So, the way for the technical point of view, the way we setup our shops on WeChat is like we leverage the WeChat like official product catalogue and also WeChat shop. WeChat have all these facility available years ago. And of course, they also open up the capability to 3rd party ecommerce shop so that they can make it really, really easy of you to integrate, to synchronize all the product catalogue between WeChat and yours. And, if you run your own server and your own mobile web shop and it’s entirely a 100% you own in a way how to handle the shopping experience in totally yourself. WeChat actually is a thin layer just like, use your own authentication layer on top of your mobile shop.

Mike: Got it. So, maybe we could say it’s kind of like, maybe a browser kind of like you click a link inside WeChat and then it would open up let’s say inside of a WeChat and you’re using H5 or html file, is it?

Chance: Well, technically speaking the way WeChat user lock it to your side they are quite a few ways to lock into technically. There’s an auto off to lock into. And that’s probably the typical way we, I would recommend in any third party mobile commerce apps or store that you are using to integrate with WeChat auto off. And even better, you can also have a both web browser version of your mobile shop plus a mobile version of your shop, you know in using the same mechanism to authenticate your user. Because you, in WeChat they’ve been taking you know, lock it them extra mile to not just using on off to authenticate user. They also tightly integrate the action of scanning QR code and use the QR code as the entry point to authenticate, user authenticate action, authenticate anything.

Mike: Very cool. Yeah, I think people, I hope people living technically it’s just like logging with Facebook kind of in a way, right? People use your Facebook account to log in, or twitter. In a way it’s like that you click on Linkedln, WeChat and then usually, it should ask you to authorize or say yes and then pass on your details to do that 3rd party server.

Chance: Yup.

Mike: Okay, guys. I hope you are not hurting too much. Maybe we talk about a couple of like examples getting towards the end here. I really appreciate this Chance. So there’s you know, there’s a brand new one that maybe we could just glance upon the Starbucks coupon app. Starbucks is really a tech company it seems and they do some innovative stuff which is just really coming out. So, I know it’s so new. But do you want to give us some ideas?

Chance: Because WeChat they, a couple of years back, they actually launch their WeChat coupon feature. But somehow, in Chinese internet domestically, I saw quite a few successful cases but not advisable. But to me their current effort to work with Starbucks or integrate WeChat coupon and also on top of that they also integrate really cool marketing and social sharing features that side is telling me you know that WeChat want to tell the world how the brand can leverage their service because there is really fine line between the old school like marketing you spend people with things between service itself as a branding action. It’s an idea that have been around in my head for couple of years since. I was lucky to be in the design team for my product and tightly integrate it with WeChat. Actually, I would encourage all this service provider to integrate, don’t think about the old service first and how to make it easier for the end user, for your customer to assess your service or brand and then along that natural both low between, particularly in the first world, this called shable face to face service, and then, once you leverage that process and then that’s most natural way that WeChat would like you to do marketing inside the old school marketing just show off something and hopefully people would just buy stuff. Because in the old school marketing, people would just say, I would suggest one thing to show, people will buy something but the WeChat take a little step further to just focus on self.

Mike: Yeah, I’ve heard they don’t like marketers so much, you know. They don’t like, nobody like spam. But WeChat one thing, like be natural without forcing or pushing too much, right?

Chance: Yeah, that’s, I’ve been observing this industry the reaction their comment on WeChat platform , the pros and cons, the debate ongoing. But again it’s all about how you envision a future that branding itself can go as far your actual service, the value, and the product that you can help people to provide value. So, if it means same process, it’s all about how you, can decide a mobile experience and implement that on top of WeChat to service your customer. so that’s the most legitimate thing I mean if you stick to that philosophy and designing your branding and your marketing strategy, I mean, you are likely be very successful on promoting and implementing a campaign on WeChat instead of violating all regulations here and there. If you are still using the old style of marketing. So, in one sentence like, WeChat’s marketing is actually more than marketing, it’s all about the actionable and the results of sales that you can actually make for a merchant’s points of view. And it’s all about the actual service that you can give to your end user to your consumer.

Mike: Okay, very interesting. So, thanks so much, Chance. Especially on the holiday, so how can people reach out to you? You help companies maybe talk a little about Chatek?

Chance: Yeah, my company since July 2006 and that’s my first staff. I’m really happy to share with people and here with you. It’s a great experience catching up and people can reach me my company website Chatek.co.

Mike: Yeah, great. We’ll link it up on the show notes, too and thanks for coming on, Chance.

Chance: And thanks for inviting me and happy to share what I know.

Mike: That was great. Thank you.

Mike : Thanks Chance for coming on. I look forward to seeing him also the 6th of this month and also at the Summit. So Claire has been super busy writing invitation letters for lots of guests. so she has like 6 or 7 invitation letters open on her computer. Just sense we’re doing this. And, it’s got to be little bit. We love it. There’s people coming for the first time to China for the show. People I haven’t seen, people coming from different parts of the world, like the UK, Europe, different parts of Europe and all over the place. So, I’m just really excited that we get come online listeners to come offline and meetup for 2, 4 days. It’s got to be our first 2 daylong event. I’m already thinking about 2018. We’ve got a lots of amazing feedback. We also added the track, right. We didn’t talk about that at the beginning today.

Claire: Yeah.

Mike: You want to talk about that a little bit, Claire?

Claire : Yeah, we add like another type to the Day 1 because we got lots of demand for that and I’m thinking it’s gotta be great for people to have more options.

Mike: Yeah, so there was lots of FBA sellers listening in export business. We’re not just Importing into China and selling in China so we added another whole track of speaker and content on the first day. So it’s 2 days you can choose on both days to go to, export related content and if you want also we have one of the day, you can learn about Importing and WeChat marketing as well. Were kind of trying to go both ways but it seems like our audience is more interested on out, exporting. It’s got to be great either way, we’ve got great secrets, great networking up to this and I hope to see you guys there. Again, show notes today are at globalfromasia.com/episode169. got that, Claire?

Claire : Yup.

Mike: Alright, see you guys next week. Cheers.

To get more info, on running international business, please visit our website at www.globalfromasia.com that’s www.globalfromasia.com. Also, be sure to subscribe to our iTunes feed. Thanks for tuning in.

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