Twitter, traction, and dried seafood product shops

August 27, 2009

For those who are not aware, dried and preserved seafood products is an important part of the Chinese diet. From dried beans to expensive dried abalone, most Chinese families in Hong Kong and aboard (myself included) have some in our pantries.

From Sheung Wan's famous dried seafood streets

From Sheung Wan's famous dried seafood streets

Dried seafood products are sold in traditional shops where things are measured, graded and sold by weight. Most people will go to any of these shops based on recommendations from friends, past experience and prices. As some of these products are very pricy (a dried abalone can cost thousands of US dollars, swallow’s nest are sold by the gram), it is not a trade that thrives in mass consumer retail / eCommerce. I for one will never walk into these shops and drop thousands of dollars unless I am with an experienced shopper (my grandmother) who will scrutinize every product, select and inspect each item and haggle prices with these store owners. This is an industry where prices can vary depending on what hour of the day you walk in and how the owners feel like that day.

I was pleasently surprised that in recent years some of the bigger brands have online sites. Wai Yuen Tong has a fully functional shopping site and Eu Yan Sang has a corporate website with information for consumers and investors. The products sold on these sites are not the raw materials variety, but are products in pill/gel capsule formats. It makes sense, because of raw products’ shelf life, shipping and product grading issues.

So imagine my surprise when I found out a dried seafood product shop called 海味軒 began to follow me on Twitter!

Twitter has very little traction in Hong Kong, ok let me correct that. Twitter has very little traction in Asia. Suddenly, I have a dried seafood product shop following me on Twitter. Curious, I went onto their Twitter site and it promises to send me links to recipes everyday.

The problem with this approach:

  1. Most Chinese consumers who will buy these products either go and buy these things for their pantry, or they already have an idea of what they need before they head to the stores. You won’t spend thousands on dried abalone “just to try it out”
  2. As most dried seafood products have medicinal uses and purposes, the chance of a Twitter subscriber finding his/her “appropriate” recipe is slim to none
  3. Simply put, most of us do not use Twitter in Hong Kong (unless you actually work in this industry)
  4. If I’m dropping thousands of dollars on dried seafood products, will I be convinced by a sponsored tweet?

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