Robert Castley at Catchpoint Systems, looks at the challenges of selling into China and focuses on a case study relating to a start-up.

As the Brexit process encourages British businesses to look at new global markets beyond the EU, China is at the top of the list for exporters. The growth in consumer spend in China offers great opportunities especially for UK digital businesses who can overcome the challenges of doing physical trade in that region.

One British digital business that seeks to make a big presence in China is Lost My Name. Founded in 2012, this independent technology and digital publishing business has won multiple start-up and innovation awards for how it offers personalised digital picture books for children.

Lost My Name combines the power of storytelling, with the possibilities of technology, to create magical, personalised experiences for kids. Their software generates unique stories for every child, or child's name, and their mission is to make children around the world cleverer, more curious and kind.

The Chinese market offers great opportunities for Lost My Name. With about 220 million under-14s and a rapidly growing middle class, China has the potential to be home to a massive market for children’s picture books. Only last year more than 40,000 children’s books were published and even though the overall book sales have dipped, online sales have more than quadrupled during the past five years.

To enter this market, Lost My Name has developed Chinese-language websites to allow Chinese consumers to order customised children’s picture books. But, for a digital business like Lost My Name, simply building sites in the right language is not enough to assure success in this market. The company needed to find a way to be able to continuously monitor and analyse how good the experience of accessing their Chinese site was for Chinese consumers.

China presents a special challenge for digital businesses. While there are pockets of poor connectivity in some parts of the country, the biggest obstacle is the Great Firewall of China. This regulates Internet data traffic coming into China and can inadvertently affect the quality of website access and performance for legitimate ecommerce brands.

To support its plans for growth in China, Lost My Name needed to have full visibility on customer digital experience from behind the Great Firewall of China. As a small business, this also had to be done remotely from its London office where the quality assurance team is based.

The team, therefore, has invested in tools to continually monitor and analyse digital customer experience for Lost My Name whether the customer is located in Birmingham or Beijing. They are using digital experience monitoring tools from Catchpoint that are able to get real view of what it’s like to access the service via over 685 monitoring points globally. Significantly for Lost My Name, this includes 57 monitoring nodes in 19 cities in China itself and means it doesn’t need to rely on employing or dispatching highly skilled but expensive system performance engineers to China itself.

By centrally checking Chinese consumer experience from London, Lost My Name was able to finetune its desktop and mobile sites to successfully navigate the Great Firewall of China. The analysis revealed that Cascading Style Sheet files that are used to format web pages and images were having a detrimental effect. Lost My Name identified how social media plugins for Facebook and Twitter were being blocked by the Great Firewall of China. These are also examples of how any ecommerce web site depends on an array of third-party elements to function. If any of these malfunction, there can be knock-on effect on how the whole site performs for the customer.

The detailed continuous monitoring that’s now possible is also helping Lost My Name develop the service in China because the company can be assured that any expensive site developments will work correctly for its Chinese customers.

As Dan Kitchen, Head of Infrastructure at Lost My Name, explains: “Our site is regularly changed with dozens of new feature releases, which presents a huge monitoring challenge. Having such a clear visibility of accurate data on local digital experience gives us assurance that these new features are not affecting the web performance and the experience in international markets.”

Entering any new international market is always a challenge especially for a smaller business. Lost My Name is increasing the odds for success and reducing the barriers to entry through how it has developed a clearer view and ability to control customer digital experience for its new Chinese customers.

Robert Castley is a Senior Performance Engineer EMEA at Catchpoint Systems.