In case you hadn’t noticed, China is a major player in the online ecommerce and social media market, and it can be a tough market for US-based creators to get into. Thankfully, we’ve got Julien Isaacs on our side. Julien owns and operates the Julien Isaacs U.S.-China Global Brand Consultancy Firm, and divides his time between Los Angeles and Beijing. Our CEO and co-founder, Brian Nickerson, sat down with Julien to discuss Chinese ecommerce and influencers. Read on for Julien’s insights!
Tell us how your passion for China first came to be? I have always been interested in Asian culture, and was especially fascinated by the visual, ideographic nature of the Chinese language. Additionally, I had a premonition at an early age that China would be vitally important to the global economy in the future, which lead me down the Sinophile and Mandarin-study path.
What has surprised you most about China / US ecommerce businesses? What factors are critical to success in cross markets? What has surprised me the most about the China e-commerce business, especially, has been the speed and scale of growth in the last few years. China, in many ways, skipped over brick and mortal major retail and went straight to e-commerce, particularly m-commerce, and currently is the largest e-commerce market in the world. In China, everyone buys everything online, not just in the fashion and apparel vertical, but for pretty much every category. In essence, there is a greater level of comfort in buying online than there is in the US. Usually, it is no more work than a couple taps on your phone in the Taobao or JD app. The cross-border, buying from the US to China, or 海淘 “haitao,” market, is a huge, huge business as there is a voracious appetite in China for all things overseas especially in certain categories, such as luxury, babycare, vitamins and skincare – any area in which quality is of concern. In terms of factors for success, localization is key and understanding the unique shopping and channel preferences of Chinese consumers and marketing/reaching them in an effective method is essential to success. Also, engaging Chinese KOLs is a great strategy, given the right parameters.
Tell us about the journey you are embarking on currently with your MBA studies? I am currently an MBA candidate at a joint program between Tsinghua-MIT, with the first year in Beijing and the second year at a variety of locations via partner institutions. The goal of the program is the foster future leaders in the international space with a strong sense of China roots. I was one of a select handful of students to receive a full scholarship from the Chinese government.
With some of your career being built around supporting influencers, what inspired you to be an influencer yourself? What can we expect to see from Mr. Julien as an influencer over the next couple years? I have always been interested in the fashion space, and, while I wouldn’t call myself a full-fledged influencer per se, I enjoy sharing my unique fashion point of view on Instagram and the Chinese social media micro-blogging site Weibo and chat app WeChat. Also, I happen to love scoping out cool locations, whether it be an awesomely bright graffiti wall or a gritty building edifice, to serve as backdrops for photoshops. In the future, I hope to grow my audiences and presence in the US and China digital media space and more closely engage with fellow fashion-minded fans and fanatics. In particular, I want to find and help bring more niche Asian-based fashion brands and independent designers to the US, as I believe there is a well-spring of talent and potential in this rather nascent sector.
What did you learn while working at MagicLinks? What did you like best about your experience with MagicLinks? Working at MagicLinks, I really learned that it is incredibly important to delight your core constituency and community, which in this case is the creator base, primarily on YouTube. If you build your platform and product to best serve your core base, and seek to keep them happy and give them the tools for success, then everything positive will emerge from there. What I liked best about the experience was working with the team and engaging with the LA tech scene, which I think is set to boom in the next couple of years.
If you were a US based creator looking to do more with China, what would you recommend? It can be a bit tricky, but I would recommend starting a Weibo or WeChat official account and start sharing pictures. Even if you can’t speak Chinese, the pictures still have visual resonance. Also, I would suggest getting in touch with a few talent agencies that represent influencers in the Asia market, as they are always hungry for cross-border and international talent. Lastly, brushing up on your Mandarin can’t hurt. 🙂
Where can we find you to say hello, either digital or in bricks & mortar? Right now, you can find me in the northwest corner of Beijing at the Tsinghua University campus. However, I am often in LA as I am a born and raised Los Angeleno. Also, I am always in the cyberspace so you can always reach me via email or though my social channels.