How to Optimize a Shopify Site for China
OpenBCI sells open-source brain-computer interfaces globally via their Shopify-based website.
They asked us how to go about marketing in China. They're a small business and they wanted to keep things simple, so they were hoping that they could adapt their current Shopify-based website rather than create a completely new website for China.
The Shopify ecosystem isn’t particularly designed with mainland China users in mind, so we wanted to figure out if it’s feasible to use in China. Some systems that we work with are such a hassle to adapt to China that it isn’t worth it. Luckily, Shopify is OK for use in China, as long as some adjustments are made.
OpenBCI already has some customers in China although they haven’t advertised there yet. So, in my opinion, even just improving the performance of the website alone will help boost sales.
Here are some steps you can take to improve your Shopify site for Chinese users.
For the rest of the article, note that we’re mostly talking about shop.openbci.com, which is the part of the site based on Shopify. We also performed similar improvements on the rest of the site though.
Optimizing Shopify Load Speed For China
The site took 1.1 minutes to load in China. That’s a long time, right? After a few adjustments, it only took 6 seconds to load all functionality. There were a couple of remaining scripts that took longer, but those did not impact usability.
Use Jquery Files From China
Jquery files are third-party files that are used to add additional functionality to a website. For example, the rotating banner effect on OpenBCI’s site is done with Jquery.
The problem is that many of them are hosted outside of China. Within China, they may be slow to load or not load at all.
Resize and Compress Images
Decreasing the file size of images will help a site load faster anywhere. There were two steps:
We shrunk images to the size that users were actually seeing. There’s no benefit to the user if an image is stored larger than the display size.
Then we compressed images to a smaller size, which means to further decrease the file size without decreasing the quality.
We used Chrome to measure the speed before and after. Plus, another useful tool we use for checking load times across China is 17CE.
The solutions we use here are not perfect. It would still be better to create a new website and host it in China. But we got a lot of benefits with little expense and hassle.
Improving Shopify Site Usability for China
Once the site is working quickly enough, the next question is: Does anything need to be changed for their users? Are there things about Shopify that cause a problem for Chinese Internet users?
Luckily, Shopify sites are mostly ready for Chinese users.
A Chinese payment solution such as Alipay should be integrated, and there are solutions for this. It isn’t installed yet due to some registration issues, but it will be soon. We went through the credit card payment process from within China and it went smoothly.
The site must also be localized, which can be accomplished using manual translation and a plugin like Langify. This is a broad topic we talk about often in other posts and our newsletter. In short, a website should be translated by a professional translator/writer that is a native speaker of Chinese.
The Nanjing Marketing Group team working on this all felt that the site could be re-organized to some degree. I lean towards tightening up the text on the homepage, while only doing a minor reorganization of the content. Other team members recommend a more comprehensive redesign, citing competitors like Neurosky that look more modern. Note that this isn’t an issue specific to China though.
To sum up, it is possible to use a Shopify site for selling in China. It just requires some adaptations to the site and a Chinese payment method. We also don't recommend this as the absolute best method. Instead, we recommend it as a first step for Shopify-based businesses to enter China.