How brands tackle the emerging market in China digital world


The lasting impact of Covid-19 on China’s market has accelerated digital transformation and marketing innovations. For brands trying to enter a new market, primary factors that should keep in mind are in setting the correct position, identifying the target market, and creating an attractive story to trigger early adopters. In order to illustrate how this should be done, UMS establish team will be looking at Saturnbird Coffee and how they were able to win customers in the highly competitive coffee market.

Saturnbird Coffee, a Changsha-based company that sells coffee beans was initially founded in 2015 and achieved impressive success as an instant cold brew coffee brand. During the double 11 shopping holiday in 2019, Saturnbird Coffee surpassed Nestle, assuming first place in the coffee category. During this year’s “6.18 e-commerce festival”, the brand’s sale volume increased by more than 600%, contributing to its new ranking as the No.1 coffee brand and blending category in Tmall.


How to win over the market post Covid-19 – the case of Saturnbird Coffee


1. Understand the market’s pain points

Based on consumer insight analysis and competitor reviews, Saturnbird believes that a more realistic and meaningful product in China’s market would be something that tastes nice but is also budget-friendly and convenient. The founder noted that Saturnbird sits somewhere between what it terms the ‘vast majority of poor tasting instant coffee’ and more boutique coffee that is labour-intensive to brew.


2. Find a suitable position and “create” the unique selling point

To differentiate their market position and highlight the product’s unique selling point, Saturnbird didn’t define itself as ‘instant coffee’. Instead, they spent marketing dollars to create the ‘artisanal instant’ category. Saturnbird’s differentiation doesn’t just stop at creating a fancy name for a new sub-category, but saw it adopt bright, eye-catching packaging for its coffee pods as well.


3. Build a bridge between online and offline

A lot of brands that go viral online try to integrate offline and online activities to enhance the customer experience. Last year, Saturnbird collaborated with coffee stores, artistic galleries, and other artistic locations, and launched a “returning campaign” – where customers could recycle empty coffee cans at physical coffee stores for sustainability purposes. Users could take their empty coffee cans to the physical “return points” to recycle during the campaign in exchange for a new pack of coffee. Users were required to book through WeChat first and choose an offline site to complete the experience.


4. The power of WOM

Saturnbird initiated brand marketing through XiaChufang- China’s online foodie community and Red-China’s prominent lifestyle sharing platform. It found loyal enthusiasts and asked them to participate in product development and marketing activities. Due to the inspiration of those early adopters, consumers enjoy sharing their creativity of how they play with the brands packaging through WeChat, Weibo, Red, Tiktok and other social platforms. E.g. consumers like to use the package as flowerpots for plants and share the tutorial on how they do it.


5. Centralise the social and e-commerce customer relationship management

Nowadays, Saturnbird coffee has established and continued to run its own channels through multiple social platforms, including WeChat, Weibo, Red, Tiktok, etc. However, to maintain consistency of the brand’s image, it keeps a very similar look and feel throughout different channels. Better yet, consumers can easily register their membership through multiple channels, allowing for user behaviour and historical purchases to be recorded in a centralised CRM system.

Similar look and feel on WeChat and Tmall.


6. Build the loyalty program to increase repeat purchase

With a strong centralised customer database and collaboration with e-commerce platform, Tmall, Saturnbird can trace the behaviour of individuals and accelerate conversations through retargeting activities. They find when customers consistently drink 50 cups of coffee within two months, 40% purchase again within 90 days. This type of consumer has a consumption habit which Saturnbird can easily capitalise on through well timed retargeted content. For example, when a customer comes to the end of their coffee pack, Saturnbird can individually target them and influence their next coffee purchase.

UMS establish team is dedicated to helping you understand who your new emerging target is. Find out what their priorities, preferences, and consumption behaviours are and how to effectively (re)engage with them. Tying to engage with us to support your success in China market.