3.2 Industry Analysis – China

3.2.3 E-Commerce Environment

3.2.3.1 E-commerce Technology

China is close to the average of developed nations using e-commerce technologies. There is a small gap for the newly employed technologies, such as intranets and extranets. Yet, the country lags far behind in using traditional technologies such as EDI and call centers (Tan & Ouyang, 2004). Several large Chinese enterprises, including multinational companies that operate in the market, use newly developed e-commerce more than small- and medium-sized ones. However, the latter have adopted Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) better, which could be due to the intensive involvement of these firms in international trade than the large firms. China is also behind other developed nations on upstream and downstream integration to their internal database and information systems. It is mainly because the information technology infrastructure adoption happened in most Chinese firms in the late 1990s. The manufacturing industry is one of those with low integration.

3.2.3.2 Incentives and Barriers

Drivers for internet use in China are similar to most other global firms. The main drivers are market expansion for existing products, customers’ demand, entering new markets, and cost reduction. In manufacturing, the government-provided incentives are crucial because they can encourage more investors, including foreign companies such as Viega Holdings. Such companies consider the demand one of the key motivators of their entry, and most large enterprises consider government incentives the most significant motivator. Data privacy and security issues and inadequate legal protection for internet purchases are the top obstacles to e-commerce diffusion. There are other identifiable difficulties in the market. According to Tan and Ouyang, “‘Business laws do not support e-commerce’ was reported as a serious obstacle in China, while the global firms consider it as a moderate obstacle (40.8% versus 24.2%). In addition, the ‘prevalence of credit card use’ is perceived by Chinese firms as a more serious concern than in other countries (30.2% versus 20.3%). This matches our expectation that China is insufficiently established in the general legal framework, security protection and credit card use for e-commerce diffusion” (2004, p. 29). Small and large firms all have a similar perception of these obstacles. Only large firms report the easiness of recruiting staff and using credit cards.

3.2.3.3 E-commerce Diffusion

China continues to experience an exponential expansion of the e-commerce industry in both B2C and B2B sectors. It is a trend that has further opened the economy to multinational companies and foreign investors. The B2C, for instance, has experienced a decline in the number of websites, but its annual growth remains impressive (see Table 1) (Tan & Ouyang, 2004). Entrepreneurs with domestic and foreign venture capitals support have the highest percentage of B2B websites in the country (see Table 2). The burst of the global internet bubble and the uncertainty associated with return-of-investment have caused a massive decline of domestic and foreign venture capitals, causing the shutdown of many startups. According to Tan and Ouyang, at the same time, large companies and those affiliated with the government begin to dominate the B2B sector by purchasing existing websites or creating their websites.

Table 1: B2C sector in China in 2001

Source: CCID’s 2001—2002 Annual report of E-commerce in China.

Table 2: B2B Sector in China in 2001

Source: CCID’s 2001—2002 Annual Report of E-commerce in China.

Overall, firms in China conduct fewer business transactions than their global counterparts. Out of all Chinese firms, Tan and Ouyang (2004) estimate that 40.2% have done online procurement, compared to the 50.8% of the global firms. Another vital piece of data identified is that Chinese firms spent way less on online procurement. Tan and Ouyang state, “The mean dollar amount spent via the Internet on direct goods for production is 3.9% for Chinese firms versus 8.3% for global sample firms. The mean amount of money spent via the Internet on goods for resale is 4.8% in China versus 6.8% in global firms. The mean dollar amount spent via the Internet on supplies and equipment is 3.2% in China versus 8.3% in global firms” (p. 31). The wholesale/retail sector is the most active in China. There is higher spending on online procurement than in other sectors. The discussed factors imply that small- and medium-sized companies in China spend relatively more purchasing online than large firms.

E-commerce logistics system informational main problems in China

There is low e-commerce logistics accuracy in China which is way below most developed countries. One possible explanation is that the distribution network-intensive is inadequate (Xianglian & Hua, 2013). Other facts worth mentioning are the low security of e-commerce distribution in the country, the high rate of cargo damage, and untimely delivery. Causes identified include improper packaging, backward logistics, and insufficient awareness of the e-commerce business, among other factors. The benefit of e-commerce concerning traditional retail is price. A company must ensure the distribution process minimizes costs and still allows value addition at the end. This process must rely on a professional logistics management talent to design programs for consumers and businesses. However, China notably lacks some of these conditions, which impacts the ability of a company to reduce distribution costs and improve distribution efficiency.

3.2.2 Summary of Differences between e-Commerce in the West and China

In China, there are fewer privacy concerns than in Western countries. Companies in China can collect more data about consumer behavior and hence have a better analysis. When a company such as Viega Holdings intends to determine the performance of its products in a specific region, it can obtain that data with more ease than if it were to collect the data in Germany. Many large firms rely on big data to inform their strategies and create vital forecasts. For instance, when you shop on Alibaba several times, you find more accurate suggestions on the website, and the overall experience turns highly tailor-made. At the same time, you begin to find products that you didn’t know were necessary, resulting in more sales for the company.

In China, people are turning to purchases made through messaging apps and groups. Setting up stores can be expensive at times for brands that deal with bulky and delicate products. Chin’s market allows an easier way to deal with this challenge because of the rise of online stores within apps, such as Wechat, the most popular messaging app. It has many functionalities, including paying bills, sharing life experiences with friends, ordering items, and other functions that facilitate e-commerce. With over 1 billion active users, companies can leverage this newfound market segment to increase their sales. Additionally, customer service is very crucial in the country because customers prefer personalized shopping experiences. In China, companies need a shopping assistant service because customers are likely to ask pre-sale questions.

There are significant differences between e-commerce in China and the United States. The two countries differ in how businesses are structured. In America, it is more prevalent to have B2C, which is also the dominating structure in the global market. In China, the primary method to conduct e-commerce is usually C2C (Consumer To Consumer). The concept of e-commerce in China did not gain momentum as it did in the US. The emergence of e-commerce received a lot of attention from people, and the US government was a big supporter of the same. China, however, started introducing e-commerce gradually in the late 1990s. Electronic commerce gained momentum after Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, proposed an establishment of an e-commerce company in 2000.

The scale of the US logistics industry is about $900 billion, which is almost twice the size of the high-tech sector and still more than its GDP. The logistics industry has good market segmentation, including wholesale, retail, and warehousing. During recent years, the Chinese logistics industry has developed far more rapidly than its GDP. Since the nation joined the World Trade Organization, logistics has been one of the earliest industries to participate in international competition. Many foreign companies are now taking advantage of this development, with a significant number of these foreign enterprises establishing their distribution centers in the country. In terms of e-commerce accessibility, the rising number of internet users in China has been crucial in developing the Chinese e-commerce market. Despite trailing the US in internet use, China’s number of internet users will triple in the next decade, surpassing the US. Its large population may therefore be vital in supporting the market growth in the next few years.

3.2.2 China’s Consumer Discretionary Industry Overview

The consumer discretionary products industry includes products and services considered non-essential by consumers but desirable if their available income is adequate to buy them. There are several products in this industry. The main products are plumbing and heating systems, pre-wall and flushing, drainage, pipe connection, and pipeline systems. Usually, before a firm enters a market, it has to carry out an industry analysis to determine the project’s feasibility (Aithal, 2017). Industry analysis is a case method of research used to study an industry or industry sector to create new knowledge and understanding vital for industry players. It evaluates a problem, its possible options to address the problem, and provides adequate information necessary to decision-makers. Industry analysis also includes trends analysis based on the changes experienced in technology, environment, people aspirations, opportunities, and the overall economy.

Internalization and expansion are two of the most popular scenarios associated with the need for industry analysis. Entering a new market and gaining a considerable market share requires well-informed decisions to guide the entry strategy. Such decisions can only happen if there is sufficient data. Information collected gives insight into the available opportunities and potential threats in the industry (Aithal, 2017). Even after a firm has entered a new market, industry analysis might be necessary to improve the brand’s footprint. Industry analysis is crucial, therefore, in terms of assuring sustainability to the firm. A company can use it to propose changes in its business model and scenarios in the industry to leverage available opportunities. Industry analysis also encompasses competitor analysis. Evaluating the market rivals can help understand the effect competition has on performance and sustainability.

International and Domestic Background

For many years, China has been the largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world. However, with the ratifying of climate change agreements such as the Paris agreement, China’s government is determined to keep these emissions as low as possible. For instance, one goal of the government is to reduce CO2 emissions by 60%-65% in 2030 compared to 2005 (Su et al., 2018). Notably, China is highly dependent on fossil fuels as the source of energy, which covers most of the primary energy demand from the residential sector in the country.

The figure below shows the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by a few countries because of the Paris climate change agreement. Between 1997 and 2017, China’s GDP increased from less than 1 trillion US dollars to 12 trillion dollars, making the country the second-largest economy in the world (in terms of GDP) (Su et al., 2018). At the same time, the number of people migrating from rural areas to urban areas increased by over 16%. Poverty levels dropped significantly to less than 2%. However, these changes put more pressure on energy demands associated with a potential rise in environmental crises such as air pollutions in cities. Thus, it has become paramount for China’s policymakers to consider energy-saving and sustainable development as one of the most crucial goals today.

Share of CO2 emission reduction from Paris Climate Agreement. (Source: Su et al., 2018)

As far as these data and the goal of reducing emissions is concerned, policymakers should focus on investigations for sustainable development. That is, how current China’s heating systems that use fossil fuel could get replaced by renewable heating solutions with less harm to the environment. How the existing buildings could get equipped with an efficient heating system. And finally, how the buildings recently completed in urban or densely populated places could get efficient heating systems. Undoubtedly, these policies will put more demand on heating and cooling systems paired with the rise in consumption in China. It could be the new beginning for the industry players: a perfect opportunity for Viega to increase its footprint in China’s market.

The Meteorological Demographical and Social-economic Situation of China

China has the North and South regions as far as weather is concerned. The winter’s average temperature of north China is below 0oC, while that of the south is above this value. From a building heating perspective, north parts usually have cold and severe cold climates while the south experiences hot summer extremely cold winter, hot summer warm winter, and mild climate. There are population clusters in the north where winter temperature is low and others in parts where winter is very harsh, below -15oC. These differences can also impact demand for heating and cooling systems and could be a factor to consider in expanding market share.

China has four economic zones: East, Northeast, Central, and West China. East China is considered the most economically developed part, with coastal provinces that feature prosperous economic activities. The second is Central China which is increasingly getting to the levels of east parts. The west part of China receives financial transfers from the government but possesses an abundance of fossil fuels. Nevertheless, the overall growth of China’s economy will increase energy demand in the building heating sector despite these differences. These disparities can be crucial in developing a marketing strategy or expansion strategy for Viega. It could indicate other trends, such as the increase in possible competition and sustainability of the market demand.

 3.2.2 Industry Trends

China has seen explosive growth in e-commerce transactions in recent years. According to statistics from China E-commerce Report, the country’s total E-commerce transactions reached 28.9 trillion yuan in 2016, an increase of 38.9% compared to 20.8 trillion in 2015 (Hongfei, 2017). According to Hongfei, for five years, the average annual growth of E-commerce transactions was 38.2%. According to data provided by Ali Research Institute, the online retail trade in the country was 5,155.6 billion yuan in 2016, with a recorded growth of 32.2%. The proportion of B2C accounted for by the B2C and C2C has increased by more than 50% since 2015. B2C will likely become China’s main E-commerce model in the future.

Due to the continued expansion of the Asian market and specifically China, the influx of foreign capital has contributed to remarkable economic growth in the region since the 1990s. At the same time, demand for air-conditioners has been on the rise, shifting from industrial to commercial use. Demand for room air-conditioners (RAC) and package air-conditioners (PAC) in China has expanded remarkably, to almost 40 times greater in 1997 than in 1990. Using the data from those years, and despite the changes evident in the global economy in 2020 and 2021, early 2000 saw the market become one of the largest production centers worldwide. For instance, in 1997, the heat pump share of use was around 60% (Nishimura, 2002). Since the 90s, the output of RAC in China has been sharply rising due to the increases in the production of wholly Chinese and joint Japanese-Chinese manufacturers established over the years. According to Nishimura, by 2000, the projected total demand for RAC in China was 6-7.5 million units.

Absorption-type heat pumps and heat-storage-type heat-pump systems also saw a massive increase in their demand and production over the years. For instance, the production output of absorption-type chillers (100 RT or more) was 2000 units in 1994, a number that increased by 500 units within the following year, and further 500 units by 1996 (Nishimura, 2002). Heat-storage-type heat-pump systems have also seen a rise in demand, and this figure is expected to increase rapidly in the future.

Due to the dense population and the shortage of land resources in most major cities in China, the government has encouraged the construction of residential buildings with higher densities and higher Floor Area Ratios (FARs). According to a previous survey conducted in 20 cities, about 87.7% of families are in buildings without elevators and only 3.7% live in buildings with elevators (Long et al., n.d.). Additionally, Long et al. states that 64.4% of families that have the potential to own a house have incomes of 1000-3500 RMB per month. Consequently, market leaders have postulated that multi-family residential high-rise buildings with higher densities and higher FAR will be the main type of residential buildings in major cities in China for the coming years.

The most suitable air conditioning system for multifamily residencies is the central air-conditioning system, i.e. DHC. This system has already been in use in several central-city areas in China. Today, there are several cooling and heating sources in the market, including traditionally known methods such as water-cooled electrically driven chiller for cooling with gas-fired boiler for heating and hot water supply and others. Household central air conditioning remains the main type of air conditioning for individual houses. Notably, RACS will still have a wide market in old buildings for the coming years. If even half of the current RAC owners were to buy a new one in the next few years, demand would rise incredibly. China has the biggest residential air-conditioning market in the world because of its population and large capacity per square meter and this might increase with time.

The Chinese government has been making great efforts to promote energy efficiency in buildings to achieve a 50% energy consumption reduction in buildings. The government and local authorities have already shown the intention to prioritize the development and refurbishment of energy-efficient building agenda (Liang et al., 2007). Among the supportive elements include financial support from the government, incentive measures, and compulsion, all laying a role in meeting the carbon reduction target. These are the changes that in one way or another, but foreign companies are at an advantaged position in expanding their footprint in China, by targeting regions experiencing more growth and development of residential places. Viega, and other industry players, have a responsibility to create a marketing and expansion strategy that leverages these changes to remain competitive and become sustainable amidst the global recession that has hit all industries worldwide.

Undoubtedly, the fast-developing Chinese construction industry is facing great challenges in various aspects. According to statistics, there are around 2 billion square meter new buildings completed annually in the country. The urbanized area has been increasing for years. Between 1990 and 2005, the urbanized area increased from 12,856 km2 to 32,521 km2 (Li & Yao, 2009). According to Li and Yao, the projections for the period between 2010 and 2020 were that the per capita housing area in China would reach 38 m2, with over 30 billion additional square meters of floor space completed by that year.

Figure: Urbanization rates and GDP growth of China (Source: (Li & Yao, 2009).

As part of urbanization, people move into towns and cities seeking better living conditions and higher incomes. They also pay more attention to indoor thermal conditions. There is a substantial growth in electrical appliance ownership in the market. For instance, central air conditioning systems have been installed in new office buildings, shopping malls, and hotels – all of which have seen significant growth in numbers- in recent years.

Owing to the current changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to assess this progress and determine the possibility of anomalies from the presented facts and figures before the pandemic. It is estimated that retail sales will decline in the second quarter of 2021 in sequential terms in line with seasonal trends. By the end of 2021, current China’s vaccine rollout is expected to boost in-person consumption, despite the continued localized outbreaks of COVID-19. Spending on discretionary consumer products will pick up and this growth is expected to surpass 6.5% by 2022. With an economy that is growing massively and an ever-increasing population, China remains one of the most viable markets for Viega Holdings and which the company cannot dare abandon. Viega will need to manage China’s public and government relations carefully, influence homes national policies such as climate change, and stress the value the company brings to China’s market.

3.2.3 Competitor Analysis

There are several competitors for Viega Holdings in China’s market. There are the established companies that would be classified as domestic, and there are the international brands that have expanded their market to China similar to Viega’s scenario. Nevertheless, the competition from these two types of companies remains crucial and almost carries the same significance as far as competitor analysis for the firm is concerned.

Jomoo Group Co., Ltd

This company was founded in 1989 and is headquartered in Quanzhou City of Fujian Province. It is one of the largest manufacturers and suppliers of sanitary ware in China. The company reported a turnover of over 300 million USD in 2008 and had over 6500 total staff by mid-2009. Notably, the company was given the responsibility of drafting and formulating the National Standard and acting as the secretariat of “Kitchen & Sanitary Ware & Hardware Product Branch Association in China and National Technical Committee of Standardization for Hardware Product”. It is a large enterprise with significant research and development, production, and sales in the sanitary ware industry, offering products to residential and commercial areas. It has a complete and strong network of sales and service, owning over 10,000 sales outlets including large flagship showrooms, authorized dealership shops, and special display areas in mainland China.

Notably, having served in the market longer than Viega Holdings, Jomoo Group Company has a better experience and overall skills. The company has a longer analysis of the market hence providing a superior information source for the strategy-making process. It also offers almost similar products to Viega Holdings, creating direct competition. Over the years, studies have indicated the significance of operating in a specific market for a long time. As a company serves customers for a long time, the possibility of enjoying massive loyalty is high as time progresses. Similarly, it is expected that a new entrant in the market cannot easily overtake the incumbents in terms of brand awareness because such firms are already established and brand recognition is high. For Viega Holdings, the management team in charge of the mainland China market must identify and leverage any opportunities to create a competitive advantage.

TOTO

TOTO ltd engages in the manufacture and sale of the restroom, bath, and kitchen equipment, ceramics, and eco-friendly materials. The company operates through the following segments: Global housing equipment business, new business domains, and others. The global housing equipment business segment deal with the sales of housing equipment which includes sanitary ware, faucets, and system kitchen. The company is divided into three regions namely Japan, China and Asia, and the Americas and Europe. The new business domains segment covers environmental and ceramic products. The company has other segments in the real estate leasing business. This company was founded in 1917 and has its headquarters in Japan. The fact that TOTO is a foreign company that has expanded its services to China’s market, indicates its resemblance to the German company, Viega Holdings.

The impact of the recession experienced in the United States economy creates economic slowdown conditions in China and other Asia countries region. TOTO Company focuses on strengthening its business model in China’s new developing cities as these experience relatively higher demand for its products than already developed regions (Adhiutama & Yoshikubo, 2009). This company is also known for targeting high-end hotels and office buildings. Other places that can be associated with the market strategy for TOTO include the Beijing National Museum Shanghai World Financial Center and Beijing Capital International Airport. In mainland China, the company competes with Inax in rapid construction projects and growing markets in the high-tech toilet segment. According to Adhiutama and Yoshikubo, there has been a notable product failure in China’s market as the company recalled more than 180,000 Washlet type Z for free repair based on the report of 29 units in Shanghai China.

Jinhua Duijiaoxian Hardware Products Co., Ltd

This company was founded in 2005 in YIWU China. It is a professional manufacturer of stainless steel pipe fittings, brass hose fittings, valves, and so on. The company is known to have a strong team of design, manufacturer, and inspection, and sales, and all its products are under the ISO9001:2000 quality control system and the ISO14001 environment management system. The company has a strong market in China and internationally as well. With its “quality focus” philosophy, it seeks to establish business relationships with more and more customers from across the globe. This information illustrates that the company has strong brand awareness in mainland China, and its immediate environment might be slightly different from Viega Holdings, possibly creating an advantage on its operations in the country. Jinhua Duijiaoxian Hardware Products Co., Ltd.’s main products include stainless steel pipe fittings, pneumatic components, brass fittings, copper ball valves, and plumbing hardware accessories. Its main markets include the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

These are among the top competitors for Viega Holdings in China’s market. Several others offer indirect competition and whose brands pose medium to little threat to Viega’s sustainability within the market. Still, Viega has a better strategy overall when compared to other Germany’s Hidden Champions in the industry and can leverage this advantage to increase its brand awareness and compete effectively in China. The profitability might be low compared with other regions, which is explainable by the stiff competition offered by numerous established brands and sprouting businesses in the same industry. China has over time been focusing on the manufacturing industry more than consumption, and the government has stressed its priority in turning the country into a production economy. With this in mind, it is expected that companies will invest a lot in their marketing and expansion strategies to outshine their rivals and gain more ground in China.

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