How to Contact Chinese Manufacturers?
Buyers can always contact Chinese manufacturers on the Business-to-Business platforms (B2B) or other online platforms without necessarily understanding the Chinese language or visiting China. Some of these include Alibaba. Amazon, DHgate, ECVV, Global Sources, and trade wheel, among others.
How to contact Chinese manufacturers? A modern and easy way to effectively communicate and negotiate with the supplier is through some apps.
How to Contact Chinese Manufacturers？
WeChat is China’s ‘super app.’ Everyone has it and uses it for shopping, paying bills, buying tickets, selling online, communicating via text and voice messages, video calls, banking, etc. Because it’s such a personal thing, by having business communication there (easy as it may be), you’re mixing your business with all of their other activities and discussions with friends and family and it can become indistinguishable. Also, if someone stops working for your supplier but they keep communicating with you, would you even know? This could lead to your orders being diverted to, say, their new trading company (a quality and compliance nightmare as your product is probably not manufactured with what and by whom you expect).
supplyia has a rule where WeChat is more or less banned for business communication. If a supplier does confirm something there, we ask them to reconfirm it by email, otherwise, it may become impossible to trace important matters.
Messages sent here may not be saved and could be hard to find later on to check an important point. At least, they’ll be jumbled up with a lot of personal messages coming in. Also, WeChat is not secure. Anything said there could be accessed by the government. This may be an issue for many Western businesses.
Email can be saved and archived and is fairly easy to search for specific messages. It’s a good option for business communication and certainly better than WeChat, but it can become messy over time.
It’s possible to add structure to communication, such as giving a clear list of questions and requesting that each is answered in turn in the follow-up message, rather than adding everything as a paragraph. If the former, something will be missed as the supplier follows your lead by using a freestyle structure the same as you did.
It can be a slow way to communicate if a chain of emails takes everyone a day to receive each response (so structuring email becomes all the more necessary).
Project Management Software
This is one step above email and software like Trello, Asana, and Basecamp are commonly used. Chinese suppliers don’t use it often and they can be slow to use in China, especially down and uploads. But they provide benefits like being able to assign to-do’s and expected dates and everything is stored in categories and can be searched fairly easily.
Some importers schedule a weekly video meeting with key suppliers and they go through the to-do’s in the PM software and discuss progress and get feedback task by task. This really helps keep suppliers accountable and they know you will push them for answers.
DingTalk is a paid Chinese business app that is liked and easily adopted by Chinese staff as it is a familiar style. It allows instant messaging, but also to-do’s and assigned parties and dates straight to their phone (which is the main source of attention in China), so it is good for managing tasks. It is far more secure than WeChat and not expensive.
It is probably easier for Western customers to adopt this than to expect Chinese suppliers to use Western PM software.
You can create a master file, hosted in the cloud, that can be accessed by you and the supplier. It will contain the information they need such as CMF info on drawings, user manual, etc, and also your expectations and what you do not like or want. During new product development and production you may get samples with defects and photos of these can be added and you can comment that you don’t like or accept this.
By having a living document like this nothing can be forgotten like in WeChat messages or emails and it can be referred back to for current information. It’s possible to request feedback and written confirmations of your new changes.
Inspection results and engineering change requests can also be added and the supplier can refer to these in future productions and the facts of what happened are there for all to see later on if issues persist or there are problems with materials or components that were supposed to have been changed (so perhaps your supplier didn’t take the action needed and you need to make them accountable).
Common Contacting Chinese Manufactures Issues that Cause Communication Difficulties
English language skills must be considered when selecting a supplier. If they can’t speak with you, or the one person with good English leaves, what then?
Timing expectations may need to be tempered. Expecting a response from Chinese suppliers during the same work day might be unrealistic, especially with the time zone difference. Also, the suppliers may not answer quickly unless the inquiry is very urgent which could be surprising. This could drive communication onto instant messaging via WeChat which is also problematic in its own ways.
Speaking in the local vernacular, such as using sports expressions like ‘ballpark figure,’ might also fall on deaf ears because it simply isn’t understood.
Formal legally-enforceable agreements
These agreements clearly outline how you will work together, expectations, and who is responsible for what. There will be legal penalties in China for breaking the agreement.
If a buyer does not work in a structured manner and forgets to get important points confirmed in writing, problems can occur, such as a supplier assuming that since they did sourcing for free, for example, the BOM belongs to them and they will not share it. If you don’t have access to your BOM, you have little control over your project and it’s basically the supplier’s product, but if the expectation that you will own the BOM wasn’t made clear from the start, can we blame the Chinese supplier for wanting to own work that they did ‘for free?’
Clearly, the solution is to sign clear product development and/or manufacturing agreements before starting any work together that will cover the BOM, ownership of tooling, what happens if there are X% of defects in a batch, etc. If you wait until there is a problem to discuss agreements, it’s too late, because you don’t have much or any leverage over them.
The need for working templates
You may need to work with parties who have the expertise you need in order to create your deliverables in clear working templates.
For example, Chinese business lawyers to create legal agreements. An engineering firm to provide 2D drawings with CTQ measurements etc. A supply chain management company that makes sure that the BOM is well-arranged on a clear template. Test results in a clear template added by quality and reliability engineers.
What is WeChat?
It is a multi-purpose application developed by Tencent Holdings Limited and first released on the 21st January 2011 as Weixin in China. It was then rebranded as WeChat in 2012 for the international market. It held the record for the largest standalone app for mobile in the world in 2018. It has become among the leading and most-used apps in China, with more than a billion active users monthly.
More often than not, WeChat has been labeled as China’s app for all you need, given that it has a wide range of functions. It is a ‘super app’ because it is like a combination of the functionality of Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Uber, and Apple Pay.
The app runs on an operating system for macOS, Android, iOS, and Windows. The app for android for released in 2018.
For communication purposes, it offers messaging functions such as hide-to-talk voice messaging, text messaging, broadcast messaging, and others like photo and video sharing, location sharing, and video conferencing.
You can, therefore, use WeChat to contact Chinese suppliers. The process of communication between yourself (buyer) and the supplier includes the following:
- Message the supplier your questions and have them respond by providing quick and simple answers.
- You can monitor the progress of your order’s production at the factory.
- There is an option of making voice calls to the supplier at no extra cost.
- Video calls to the supplier are also a function of the app, making it possible to show the supplier any faults you found or describe the modifications you need for your product.
- You can share videos or photographs of the products with your supplier.
- The app has a function that allows you to send money to cover the cost of samples easily.
- It enables you to build relationships, connections, and facilitate serious deals and networks with your supplier aside from business. In Chinese culture, it is known as Guanxi.
Who Uses WeChat to contact Chinese supplier?
Statistics as of 2019 show that both Weixin and WeChat had an active user base of 1.15 billion persons, which marked a 6.3% yearly growth. These users range from kids to adults as well as students. An average of 45 billion messages is shared daily on WeChat.
The elderly generation uses it to video call and checks up on their grandkids. Students consult their friends, and the seniors use the same platform to address their juniors on several matters.
The app is linked with other apps on the WeChat ecosystem to enable you to accomplish tasks such as paying the monthly telephone bill, requesting a taxi or a cab, ordering your lunch, and delivering the same.
It is on the same app that you will contact Chinese supplier and access them24/7 for orders, requests, or any other form of inquiries.
Why should you use WeChat to contact Chinese supplier?
The most admirable aspect of WeChat is its speed of communication compared to using a phone or email. In the 21st Century, the smartphone is among the must-have gadgets, and it is mostly within one’s reach at any given moment. This makes it possible for the suppliers to receive your requests and adhere to them as they promptly provide you feedback.
The Chinese culture has taken into account the smartphone’s position in the current day business. Therefore it is socially allowed to check the phone in the middle of sharing a meal. This is unlike in most Western countries, where that would be considered inappropriate.
WeChat is a convenient and easy app to use, and it offers a simple interface. After getting all the settings in the order, you can conveniently contact Chinese suppliers.
If you have a complaint or need some directions on using the supplied commodity, you can easily take pictures and send to the supplier or make a video call to get step by step guidance. Having the app on the phone makes it super easy to have your queries and any form of information/complaints relayed to the supplier and attended to within no time.
WeChat is like home to most of the Chinese population. This makes it simpler to make any follow-ups since it is almost a universal communication platform.
When a supplier may not be at their factory or the office during the weekends and holidays, they can still communicate with their clients via phone. The communication chain is, therefore, continuous.
One other upside of WeChat is that a casual tone of communication is used, unlike emails or telephone. The aim is to structure your message in a manner that the supplier will clearly understand. The emphasis is on passing the right message and not the accuracy of the grammar used. Simultaneously, the supplier can respond immediately regardless of where they are, whether at an outdoor party or on holiday.
Like Facebook’s news feed, WeChat has the supplier Moments section where the client can visit and learn more about their suppliers besides business. This can be hobbies or passions or their family life. All this helps in building the Guanxi.
This includes sending messages such as ‘‘happy holidays’’, ‘’congratulations on becoming a dad’’, ‘‘happy birthday”, etc.
How to use WeChat to contact Chinese suppliers
Here are the different ways through which you can contact Chinese supplier on WeChat.
- One-One chat– the client can send direct messages to the supplier and share pictures and content such as PDFs.
- Group Chats- Just like WhatsApp, you can form groups on WeChat and add/invite members as you please. It can be a group comprising the supplier, client, freight forwarders, product inspectors, etc. If the client posts a query, it is easy to get the input of different members and easily arrive at a conclusive solution. It is a platform to discuss and present opinions.
- Sharing of files- On this app, you can share content in documents, pictures, or videos with the supplier.
- Making Free Calls- On WeChat, making international calls is free. The call quality is also guaranteed when placed on the app to all other countries. It has no location restriction of where to make the call from.
- Making Video calls- The supplier can initiate a video call with the client and give them a tour of their factory’s different sections. It is also a nice way to show the supplier some of the customized items you would need to order and show them the modifications or designs of your order.
- Sending Red Packets (Hong Bao)- These are like tokens of appreciation or gifts, which can be in the form of cash that you can send to family and friends. It is a good idea to use this for gifts, for example, at a wedding rather than having guests give physical gifts and ending up with many similar items.
Where do I get WeChat?
Like most other mobile apps, you can easily download the WeChat app from your app store. There is a version for the app supported on Windows, for Apple, and one for Android.
Once you have the app successfully installed on your device, proceed to get started by inputting your details, i.e., your name and telephone number. Once you are set on your phone, you can try signing in to your accounts on the desktop app.
How to contact Chinese supplier – Best Practices for WeChat
- Begin by downloading and installing the app, then sign up for a WeChat ID. Just like Facebook or WhatsApp, you only request your supplier for their WeChat ID and add them as friends. The supplier may pick the conversation from the online B2B platforms to WeChat, reducing time.
- You can then quickly ask your supplier questions, and they can provide quick responses.
- The app has functionality for translation from English to Chinese and the other way. This means that the language barrier is non-existent when using WeChat!!
- To build your Guanxi with your supplier, simply slide and follow your suppliers’ moments for enhanced networks and connections.
How can I complete my WeChat security verification?
Friend Verification on WeChat
As a security verification protocol, WeChat may send a notification instructing you to contact a friend who qualifies for the following:
1) A user from China for over 6 months or an international user who signed up on the app for over the past 1 month.
2) A user who has not filled the ‘Help Friend Register’ for others
3) One who over the past month has not been blocked!
4) One who is a user in China who has activated WeChat Pay!
When such a section pops up, you will be asked to ask them to scan a QR Code displayed on your screen, which you are supposed to scan since it expires within 10 minutes immediately. After this stage, you will be led to the sign-up page.
Note that only a friend who meets the above qualifications can help you register using the QR scanning method.
WeChat goes a long way in making business between people of different linguistic groups successful. All you need is to follow up and present your end of the conversation, and the deal can be easily closed. You also can hire a China sourcing agent to help you contact Chinese supplier.