More Opportunities Than Challenges in the Chinese Ceramic Industry

As a sub-sector of the home decorative products industry, the ceramic industry has kept a low profile in China. But now its status in the overall decorative market is gradually rising. Whether it is viewed from the perspective of staffing quality, manager mindsets, management practices or operational processes, the ceramic industry in China is a promising one. The amounting pressures from environmental regulations, fierce market competitions and rising RMB have not put off the vitality of the Chinese ceramic industry.Management quality to be improvedSince the 1990s, the booming domestic and international demand for ceramics had led to the development of some large scale ceramic companies, which in turn had given birth to some quasi-professional talents in the ceramic industry. The rapid development of China’s electronics industry in recent years is partly due to its effective cultivation of a large number of management talents, so the ceramic industry is keen to follow the step to enhance its own staffing quality, by recruiting management talents from other successful industries.Having said that, there are still many family-run companies in the Chinese ceramic industry, and the widespread nepotism among these companies will no doubt put a constraint on their long term development. Although some family-run companies are starting to appreciate the importance of professional managers, the trust between them is still lacking. It is not unusual to see an entire management being removed by the boss in this industry. The key to this issue is probably not about whether a company is family-run or not, but about whether the owner has the awareness to employ modern management philosophies and methodologies to manage the business.Advanced production techniquesChina’s ceramic production today has been quite modernised and industrialised, and the extent of automation is also increasing. Despite management practices and company cultures may differ between different provinces, the use of technologies and production processes are quite similar among companies. This has inevitably led to homogeneity between product styles, with high volume but low differentiation products in the market. The high volume could certainly give pricing advantages to ceramics exports from China, but they’ve also attracted a considerable level of anti-dumping criticism from other countries. Many Chinese ceramics are sold as OEM products for foreign brands with no origin labels. Otherwise, many Chinese consumers would probably find that their imported TOTO toiletware at home are actually “Made in China”.Therefore, some industry insiders have pointed out that while the manufacturing processes are quite good now, the Chinese ceramic industry is still lacking a branding and marketing mentality. On a positive note, some companies have now realised the importance of international management and innovation and begun to pilot new management and operational models.Innovative thinking and design still weaknessesCopycat products are rampant in the decorative product industry of China. Many Chinese ceramic companies are good and quick at copying products, and this is the reason why Chinese ceramic representatives are not welcomed at some international trade fairs. While Chinese companies can make perfect copycat products, many of them are short at innovative ideas and design works. Dr Zhang Mengyou, CEO of Eagle Brand Holdings, a Singapore-listed Chinese ceramic company, commented that apart from technological and manufacturing developments, Chinese ceramic companies should also pay attention to marketing innovation. He said that comprehensive marketing awareness is not about planning a single campaign or event, but about mobilising all organisational personnel to achieve marketing innovations all the time, hence a quantum leap from “Made in China” to “Created in China”.Pollution issuesCompared to other decorative products such as floor, furniture and lighting, the Chinese ceramic industry is now facing more environmental pressure and controversies in an already competitive market. The newly introduced energy efficiency measures by the central government will no doubt lead to more stringent environmental requirements on ceramic companies in most provinces. Whether environmental issues can be properly solved is not only the key to a ceramic company’s compatibility with its local environment and resources, but also an important measure of a company’s social responsibility in the community.Low industry concentrationCompared to many other overseas tiles or ceramic sanitaryware industries, the Chinese ceramic sanitaryware industry still doesn’t have a market dominant brand, and this is also reflected in the whole decorative products industry. There are some larger size companies, but there haven’t been any true leaders. Although many large companies have established nationwide sales networks, their competitive advantages are often contained in their home regions. Therefore the Chinese ceramic industry is calling for more brand influences.On the other hand, the need for improvements and consolidations can also mean opportunities and prospects. For those decorative product companies which are trying to build their brands, or those first movers which have benefited from the booming capital markets, they certainly have the potential to become bigger and stronger. The relocation and restructuring of provincial ceramic industries and the rise of regional brands will no doubt intensify market competition in certain regional markets. Despite their differences in brand positioning and target customers, the surge in regional brands is likely to bring significant impacts to the Chinese ceramic industry in the near future.Conclusion The ceramic industry may not be a typical sunrise industry, but it still has lots of opportunities ahead. The strong demand for ceramic products in China, as a result of overall economic development and the positive real estate demand, has presented an unprecedented opportunity to the ceramic industry. From a macro point of view, there are still considerable growth room for decorative consumptions by Chinese households, and the demographic mix of the country is also pointing to a peak period for family establishments and associated consumptions. The trend for using more fashionable and niche decorative products in China is also bringing vast potentials for the ceramic industry. Therefore, it can be reasonably concluded that even though there are certain issues, we should remain optimistic about the outlook for the ceramic industry in China.

Internet Marketing – A 2013 Necessity

Internet marketing is no longer something anyone in business can ignore if they hope to prosper. I have been marketing online myself since 1995, so I converted long ago. However, I still marvel at statements made by small town merchants who say “Everyone knows me, so I don’t need to advertise”, or “We’re too small to need the Internet”, or best of all, “Our community is too small for us to have to worry about Internet marketing.”I have been hearing variations of these 3 objections put forth as excuses for not switching focus to online marketing for almost 20 years. Ironically, better than half of the business owners who voiced such objections are out of business. Most of those that remain have come to realize that the Internet is a market unto itself and now participate.The Internet is global, and therefore appears to be the realm of big players with outlets around the world. However, the Internet reaches every corner of the planet, pulling sales from large communities and small alike. Regardless of where your business is located, your competition is no longer restricted to the brick and mortar retailer down the street. Your business also has to compete with respected retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot, or Macy’s even when they have no outlet anywhere near you. Big box stores may not have an outlet in your community, but they do have massive online sales departments selling to your potential customers. Then there are the host of virtual stores that have no physical presence at all, but sell to the family living next door to your store. Just because you don’t see a throng of your neighbours shopping somewhere else, it doesn’t mean they aren’t doing so. By not marketing online yourself you have no hope of replacing the business the Internet has taken and continues to take.There is virtually no other marketing media with the speed, efficiency and reach of Internet marketing. Plus, the variety of Internet marketing strategies is as wide as the technology used to access the Internet, and it’s growing. Some of the basics to compete for a share of the global, Internet market are…1. A website with eCommerce capabilities. If you do not have the skills required to build a professional looking, and fully functional online presence, spend a few dollars to hire someone to do the work. Design, ease of navigation, and functionality are necessities when marketing online. I hear all the time that retailers can’t afford a website. I usually respond by pointing out that the old school method of increasing market reach was to open another outlet, which was a huge expense. A top notch eStore costs less that the amount needed to firm up a lease, and the annual management of an eCommerce website costs less then a single month lease payment on a storefront.2. Use videos. Print is virtually dead as an advertising media, and will be within a very few years. Likewise, textual advertising online will not be far behind. If you intend to market online, look to video marketing. It isn’t expensive to create a professionally looking video presentation for your product or service. In fact a decent 30 to 60 second, quality video presentation, costs less than $100 when purchased from someone with decent video editing software and reasonable editing skills.3. Embrace mobile technology. Just as print is in its death throws as an advertising media, so is immobile computer technology. Mobile devices already number in the billions, but within 5 years that number will double. By comparison, desk top computers for personal use have already started down the road to extinction.4. Social Media should make up a good portion of any business’ Internet marketing focus. Billions of users now get their news and entertainment, and communicate via social media. The number is only going to increase with time. If you’re already marketing online, or plan to, and you are not focusing a significant amount of effort on social media do so or be left behind.5. Email marketing, the opt in kind – not spam, will remain an Internet marketing tool. However, it will mostly be for business to business products and services. This is because email will eventually be replaced completely by texting in non commercial applications. Email volume is only maintaining itself now because the number of online users is still growing, and therefore email accounts are still being created and used. It will or already has peaked, and will decline as texting, video chatting and social media messaging increases for personal use communications.Internet marketing is still a relatively new media, so it is constantly changing. However, it changes to be able to more quickly and easily reach potential customers. Those customers are as likely to be your next door neighbour as they are the Nigerian exchange student attending university in Paris, France. Both may visit a website and buy a product you have on the shelf of your retail store, costing you as sale. On the other hand, if you’re focusing on Internet marketing then both may visit your website. Your website is naturally selling same goods you have on the shelf of your retail outlet. Your neighbour you may sell to in your store as easily as you do online, but the Nigerian exchange student in Paris is a sale you would never have made if your focus was on your local market. Such is the reality of Internet marketing.

Bringing Innovation to Your Online Business

Introducing creativity and innovation into your online business is one of the surest ways to achieve business success. To gain notoriety and attention online you need to have a unique business that stands out from the rest. A business like this involves a good deal of creative thinking. As much as being able to develop creative ideas is an asset sadly many lack the courage to actually implement their business ideas. Let’s look at some of the reason for these inhibitions and how we can best overcome them to tap into and utilize our creative thinking for greater business success.DistractionsDistractions are a common nemesis that can easily suck away many hours of productivity if you’re not careful. Some times we may not even realize that activities we are involved in are cleverly disguised distractions.
What I mean here is that some of our ‘busy work’ is not activities that are actually bringing us closer to our ultimate goal. On the surface we may identify some of these actions as being required but how important are they really?Focus on only those actions which will take you closer to your ultimate goal. To spend time on anything else is only to fall subject to needless distractions. Continually ask yourself “is this bringing me closer to what it is I seek?” “Is this the most important thing I currently need to be doing right now?”This type of ‘busy work’ often times is attributed to our own procrastinating. Putting off those things in which we do not want to do for fear of difficulty, risk, ridicule or failure. Knowing we have a great idea that makes sense and is very original but fearing it may not work so we therefore subconsciously put off implementing it. We find other things to busy ourselves with which are really not all that important.Analysis ParalysisGetting ready to get ready is also another common stall tactic many use that again eats into our own productivity. Instead of ‘moving forward’ we find ourselves more focused on perfecting every little detail.
The roots of this type behavior can again be found in our inner fear of failure, ridicule, or risk. If we don’t move forward we therefore don’t fail, get criticized or risk anything.Fear of MistakesHey mistakes are going to be made, know that, accept that, embrace it and learn from it. Use your mistakes as a way to improve yourself one step at a time. Liberate yourself from the shackles of fearing to make a mistake, only then can you move forwardStrive to Accomplish and Not AccumulateDon’t be afraid to give your business some meaning, give it some teeth, and add some spice to what it is you’re doing. Believe in what you’re doing and be motivated by what your business can contribute not what it can accumulate in terms of wealth.When your sole goal is wealth your thinking tends to be more conservative and less innovative.When you focus on what your business can contribute you’re more prone to thinking creatively and are more willing to take risks. Have your business stand for something other than just a way to make money. Allow the world to experience your creativity and ingenuity.Take ActionLearn to turn dreams into reality by taking action. Dreams are great but they’re even better when you share them with others. This can only be done by taking action plain and simple. Live your life and don’t spend the time thinking what if?A life without regrets is a full life.The surest way to make your online business a success is to make it unique. Having a unique business will mean you must have the confidence to step away from the pack. The use of creativity and innovation when developing business ideas is a sure way to stand out from the crowd. In the end realize that your own creative ideas should be viewed more as an asset and not a risk when making many business decisions. Having this confidence will allow both you and your business to grow and flourish long into the future.