Blog / 10 Beautiful Shopify Stores That Don't Work in China (but Should)

10 Beautiful Shopify Stores That Don't Work in China (but Should)

The ultimate goal of any e-commerce website is sales. One of the first steps after coming up with an idea and creating it, is to create an online store to reach customers globally to support those sales.

That's why many merchants go to Shopify to launch their business - putting love and labour into a creating beautiful, effective, online store to sell to customers worldwide.

Especially as technology makes it easier than ever to setup a store, competition in the e-commerce space is fierce. This is why it's increasingly important to invest in not just creating a great product, but a great user experience that builds trust, delight to users, and a loyalty that brings them back for more.

I'm going to walk you through some 15 beautiful Shopify stores, highlight some key performance factors that contribute to their user experience and ultimately, revenue in China. 

These factors include website speed, compatibility, and social media channels. We will separately discuss the SEO of these sites in China in another article. 

Learn more about how Chinafy works with Shopify merchants to expand their reach in China here.

I'll then provide recommendations to optimise each site and share expected results as achieved in a testing environment. Hope you enjoy!

10 Shopify Sites Examples 2019

Newton Supply Co

Tattly

Studio Neat

Heraldic Jewelry

Shwood Eyewear

Chubbies Shorts

Maiden Home

Harper Wilde

Allbirds

Staples

Full, sharable, performance report of these sites here.

P.S. We 'Chinafied' all these sites in just a few days. Get in touch for a free analysis to see how we can help you Chinafy yours.



1. Newton Supply Co

Newton Supply Co sells colourful, hand-waxed, canvas bags made in Texas. 

Newton Supply Co. Unknown Theme

Overall Speed Analysis

Page Load

Home Page Load Time (North Virginia, US): 1.9s

Home Page Load Time (China Average): 11.9s-14s

Deliverability 

When breaking down the home page into the resources that make it, we can see that there are a number of third-party domains (domains other than www.newtonsupplyco.com) that serve these resources which range from media assets, google analytics, payment processors, email management etc. 

Resource Analysis by Domain (Load Time)

Resource by Source & Total Load Time

Note: 30 Resources loaded from cdn.shopify.com, as powered by Fastly CDN.

The effectiveness of their CDN outside of China shows, with these resources loading 

In under 1 second on average outside China vs iChina, where the same resources take a total of 35.2-45.2s to load.




Resource by Source & Total Download Time

Even if we remove the variables of network conditions, SSL certificates, processing time on servers and purely look at the download time it takes for these resources. 

Outside China, under 0.5 seconds vs in China, where the same resources take a total of 9.4-28.6 seconds to just download.


Compatibility Analysis

For the most part, the site is free of blocked resources common to E-commerce sites or marketing sites in general. Commonly blocked resources found include Facebook, Twitter, or instagram embeds, Recaptcha, Googleapis and more. 

Takeaways & Recommendations 

One main reason this site is so fetching is because its products are showcased with such eye-catching imagery. The visitor is immediately pulled in with a full-width cover image, then directed to a thoughtfully put-together product page.

One performance hiccup that takes away from that experience and disrupts that 'wow' moment, is when the images don't load fast enough.

As no major compatibility issues were found on this site, my recommendation would be to use Chinafy primarily for its China-CDN & File optimisation functionality - which would move both primary & third-party resources over to delivered via the China CDN. The expected impact of this would be about a 2x impact on speed, taking the home page to a steady 5.3s load time.

Items that need to be dynamically retrieved can be simply retrieved from the origin server as it normally would, but the number of third-party domains where resources are delivered will be minimised, creating a faster overall experience.

Home Page: Pre & Post Chinafy Comparison

Expected Chinafy Testing Results


View the full Visual Speed Test & Analysis for Newton Supply Co here.


2. Tattly

Tattly makes high-quality & thoughtfully-designed temporary tattoos for all ages.

Tattly.com 

Overall Speed Analysis

Page Load

Home Page Load Time (California, US): 2.7s

Home Page Load Time (China Average): 35.1-52.7s

Deliverability

# of Resources Delivered (California): 147

# of Resources Delivered (China): Beijing (101), Shanghai (135), Guangzhou (27)

# of Third-Party Domains on the Home Page: 34

It's quite common to find a correlation between total # of third-party domains and a longer page load time both globally, but especially in China. Once again, this is another case where certain third-party resources are blocked in China and others are from slow networks,

Blocked & Slow Resources

In the breakdown below, I've highlighted some domains that are blocked or time-out in RED, and those that inconsistently deliver resources based on differing locations in China in ORANGE.

Resource & Third-Party Breakdown for Tattly.com

You'll note that some resources may contribute to visible elements on a page (e.g. Google APIs like fonts, while others are related to analytics, ads (e.g. Pinimg, Pinterest's Website Stats and Valuation).

Blocked and slow-delivering resources 'hold-up' the web page from loading fully. When browsers in China keep trying for resources that will ultimately fail to load in China (e.g Pinterest Embed), other resources remain the queue.

Takeaways & Recommendations

Using Chinafy, these are the steps we'd recommend -

1. Apply automated performance enhancements to primary & third-party resources via Chinafy

2. Using Chinafy 'Smart Actions', apply recommendations across the site removing or replacing (where possible) resources. 

3. Set Automation so that any new pages can follow the same optimisation rules and follow any updated best practices.

Expected Results


View the full Visual Speed Test Analysis for Tattly.com here.

3. Studio Neat

Studio Neat designs and makes practical, delightfully- minimal products. Company foounded by "Kickstarter Kings" Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost.

Studio Neat

Overall Speed Analysis

Page Load

Home Page Load Time (California, US): 2.4s

Home Page Load Time (China Average): 13.9s-47.4s

Deliverability

# of Resources Delivered (California): 58

# of Resources Delivered (China): Beijing (48), Shanghai (52), Guangzhou (47)

# of Third-Party Domains on the Home Page: 16

What's causing the hold up?

One might think that its the large-scale images, but upon further inspection at the total Load Time & Download time filtered by on Content Type, one can see that actually it's the CSS & Javascript that's taking longer than the images to load.

Content Load Time

Content Download Time

Compatibility Analysis

Blocked Resources

A quick glance at the resources shows that there are number of items that are blocked and don't load at all (e.g. connect.facebook.net, ajax.googleapis.com), other resources that 'sometimes' load (e.g. snfonts.objects-us-easy-1.dream.io).

Home Page Global vs. China loaded Resources

Vimeo Videos

Vimeo is blocked in China, meaning these gorgeous product videos aren't visible for visitors in China.

Vimeo Product video for Studio Neat's Markone

Takeaways & Recommendations

To optimise their website for visitors from China, Studio Neat would need to optimise address both infrastructural optimisations and compatibility issues. 

China-Optimisation Process 

Apply automated performance enhancements to primary & third-party resources via Chinafy

Using Chinafy 'Smart Actions', apply recommendations across the site removing or replacing (where possible) resources.

Replace Vimeo videos using Chinafy with an MP4 Video hosted on Chinafy's servers

Set Automation so that any new pages can follow the same optimisation rules and follow any updated best practices.

By optimising their onshore digital presence, Studio Neat can continue to apply its values of practical, beautiful, and effective design to its site for visitors globally - and not just outside of China.

Expected Results

As applied purely to studioneat.com's home page.

Home Page: Pre & Post Chinafy Comparison


Resource Load as bucketed by Resource Range

View the full Visual Speed Test Analysis for studioneat.com here.


4. Heraldic Jewelry

Heraldic Jewelry makes custom rings, family crests, pendants and cufflinks based on Heraldic Tradition.

Heraldic Jewelry Home Page

Overall Speed Analysis

Page Load

Home Page Load Time (California, US): 3.1s

Home Page Load Time (China Range): 6.2-42.5s*

*Missing Resources

Deliverability

# of Resources Delivered (California): 78

# of Resources Delivered (China): Beijing (70), Shanghai (74), Guangzhou (8)

# of Third-Party Domains on the Home Page: 18

Speed & Deliverability Summary Table


Full Visual Performance Test here


Blocked & Slow Resources

Initial Sample Testing

Running a quick code-test that samples 10 pages of the site, one can see that there are a handful of resources that are blocked.

Blocked Resources Found on a 10-page sample of heradicjewelry.com Pages

Third-Party Domain Review

Upon further inspection, one can see that while the site's other resources are not blocked and mostly load as they should in China, there remains a significant loading time difference between outside China vs. Inside China. 

Third-Party Domain Review of the Home Page


Takeaways & Recommendations

While the site eventually loads in China - it's loading speed is incredibly slow (upwards of 40s). Moreover, even when it loads, the site is missing a number of resources. This means, users get an experience that incomplete.

The site should be relatively straightforward to remedy, with steps being - 

Generate a version of the site using Chinafy where -

Blocked Resources are removed

Cacheable resources on both primary and third-party domains are moved over onto a single-domain, to be delivered by a China CDN


Expected Results

With these quick fixes, Heraldic Jewelry can expect a site that is at least 2x Faster, and a lot more stable. 

Home Page: Pre & Post Chinafy Comparison


Estimated impact on Bounce Rates & Conversions based on industry stats.


5. Schwood Eyewear 

Schwood Eyewear crafts quality, wooden glasses for every occasion.

Schwood Eyewear Home Page

Overall Speed Analysis

Page Load

Home Page Load Time (California, US): 4.1s

Home Page Load Time (China Range): 7.5-41.9s*

*Missing Resources

Deliverability

# of Resources Delivered (California): 142

# of Resources Delivered (China): Beijing (93), Shanghai (68), Guangzhou (90)

# of Third-Party Domains on the Home Page: 42

Speed & Deliverability Summary Table


Full Visual Performance Test here


Blocked & Slow Resources

Initial Sample Testing

Running a quick code-test that samples 10 pages of the site, one can see that there are a handful of resources that are blocked.


Blocked Resources Found on a 10-page sample of schwoodshop.com Pages


Third-Party Domain Analysis

Note how some third-party apps found on Shopify's official marketplace work as they should (e.g. Klaviyo), but others (Shogun, Notification Plugin Back in Stock) don't in China.


Condensed Snapshot of Domain Resources


Videos 

Videos on Vimeo

Videos like, Schwood Shop's "Our Story" is hosted and delivered from Vimeo, which is blocked in China.

Vimeo "Our Story" Video

Blocked Video Source in China

Videos loaded from Shopify Assets (cdn.shopify.com)

While not blocked as a domain, one can see that the the files cannot predictably load as fast or consistently in China, as it does outside of China in California.

On-Page Video


Takeaways & Recommendations

Using Chinafy, these are the steps we'd recommend -

1. Address slow resource delivery by moving primary & third-party resources to Chinafy

2. Using Chinafy 'Smart Actions', apply recommendations across the site removing or replacing (where possible) blocked resources.

3. Replace Vimeo Videos with an MP4 version on the China-version of the site, as generated by Chinafy

4. Set Automation so that any new pages can follow the same optimisation rules and follow any updated best practices.


Expected Results

With these quick fixes, Schwood Shop visitors can expect a site that is at least 1.9x faster and one filled with images and videos that capture the brand experience.

Home Page: Pre & Post Chinafy Comparison

Estimated Impact on Website KPIs

A based on industry stats here

6. Chubbies

Chubbies started with retro-inspired shorts, but has since expanded to sell swim trunks, shirts, hoodies and more that take on that same fun, colorful, weekend flair. 

Chubbies Home Page


Overall Speed Analysis

Page Load

Home Page Load Time (California, US): 3.8s

Home Page Load Time (China Range): 48--56.9s*

*Missing Resources

Note: Our test stops running at 1 minute, at which point we deem the site having 'timed-out' 

Deliverability

# of Resources Delivered (California): 187

# of Resources Delivered (China): Beijing (NA), Shanghai (118), Guangzhou (86)

# of Third-Party Domains on the Home Page: 70


Full Visual Performance Test here


Blocked & Slow Resources

Initial Sample Testing

Running a quick code-test that samples 10 pages of the site, one can see that there are a handful of resources that are blocked.

Third-Party Domain Analysis

This site is wonderfully integrated with Shopify and third-party services. While this gives more functionality to the site and more breadth of insights (lots of analytic plugins I see), this unfortunately, leads to a site heavy with slow third-party sources in China.

Lots of dashes (NA's) found here!

Home Page Resource Load Times by Source




Download Time by Content Type



Takeaways & Recommendations

There were few custom tweaks required in Chinafy to optimise a version of Chubbies for China. Once again, instead of building and managing a new site entirely, we'd recommend Chubbies founders to take the platform-based approach -

1. Removing all blocked resources using Chinafy resource detection & automation. Normally, Chinafy captures 85-90% of compatibility fixes required for Shopify sites. In this case, it appears we were able to capture and address 100% purely with automated rules.

2. Cache all non-dynamic items with our China CDN, adding smart compression to each colourful product listing to be delivered on the fly to visitors from China.


Expected Results

A site that moves just as fast as shorts fly off Chubbies' shelves.


7. Maiden Home

Maiden Home sells furniture hand-made by furniture craftsmen in North Carolina. Designer furniture without the designer price tag.

Maiden Home Home Page

Overall Speed Analysis

Page Load

Home Page Load Time (California, US): 2.7s

Home Page Load Time (China Range): 48.4-55.6s*

*Missing Resources


Deliverability

# of Resources Delivered (California): 137

# of Resources Delivered (China): Beijing (100), Shanghai (85), Guangzhou (47)

# of Third-Party Domains on the Home Page: 31

Speed & Deliverability Summary Table

Full Visual Performance Test here


Blocked & Slow Resources

Third Party Resource

Resources that failed to load in China are highlighted in red. You may note some familiar domains and resources as we view more of these Shopify sites...

Resources on the Home Page as filtered by Domain Source

Takeaways & Recommendation

Once again, few custom tweaks required in Chinafy to optimise a version of Chubbies for China. Once again, instead of building and managing a new site entirely, we'd recommend Maiden Home to take the platform-based approach of - 

1. Removing all blocked resources using Chinafy resource detection & automation. Normally, Chinafy captures 85-90% of compatibility fixes required for Shopify sites. In this case, it appears we were able to capture and address 100% purely with automated rules.

2. Cache all non-dynamic items with our China CDN, adding smart compression to each colourful product listing to be delivered on the fly to visitors from China.


Expected Results

A site that loads 3.5x faster fully loaded, moving the average page load time from 45.1s to 10.2.

Home Page: Pre & Post Chinafy Comparison

Now, that's what I call comfy on the eyes.


8. Harper Wilde

Harper Wilde makes a wide-range of everyday intimates committed to "not only to lifting up your ladies, but also to lifting up the future generation of leading ladies.

Harper Wilde Home Page

Overall Speed Analysis

Page Load

Home Page Load Time (California, US): 3.4s

Home Page Load Time (China Range): 34s-41.5s*

O*Missing Resources

Note: Our test stops running at 1 minute, at which point we deem the site 'timed-out'

Deliverability

# of Resources Delivered (California): 115

# of Resources Delivered (China): Beijing (89), Shanghai (97), Guangzhou (84)

# of Third-Party Domains on the Home Page: 46


Speed & Deliverability Summary Table

Full Visual Performance Test here


Blocked & Slow Resources

Third Party Domains & Resources

Incomplete Screenshot of Home Page Resources by Domain

Video? Map?


Takeaways & Recommendation

General Site Comments

blog.harperwilde.com

Absolutely love the bratastic content!  Instagram Embed seems to be added improperly, but besides that - this dedicated blog page is a great way to spread the brand and its values to women, everywhere.

Suggestions:

1. Bring back the blog to the primary domain (www.harperwilde.com) to drive traffic to the main site for more direct engagement and conversions.

2. Multi-language content can help the brand reach people globally.

Performance Recommendations

Optimise both the primary domain www.harperwilde.com and blog subdomain by 

Optimising & smart-caching image files 

Remove all blocked resources using Chinafy resource detection & automation (tackling all those flagged resources above, across the site!)

Cache all non-dynamic items with our China CDN, adding smart compression to each colourful product listing to be delivered on the fly to visitors from China.


Expected Results


Home Page: Pre & Post Chinafy Comparison


Estimated KPIs based on Industry Statistics


9. Allbirds

Super comfortable shoes that's 

Allbirds Home Page

Overall Speed Analysis

allbirds.com

Page Load

Home Page Load Time (California, US): 3.6s

Home Page Load Time (China Range): 34s-41.5s*

*Missing Resources

Deliverability

# of Resources Delivered (California): 124

# of Resources Delivered (China): Beijing (89), Shanghai (97), Guangzhou (84)

# of Third-Party Domains on the Home Page: 52


Speed & Deliverability Summary Table


Full Visual Performance Test here


allbirds.cn

Allbirds is unique to the other Shopify stores listed above, because they both have a physical and digital presence in China. Because the company has 8 locations across China, it made sense to for them to invest in a more traditional, and investment-heavy route of building an entirely new site for China, in China. 

This website is managed entirely separate of the global one.

Website

Built on Magento, hosted on Alibaba, with onshore servers and an ICP license.

alibaba.cn performance

Social Media

Dedicated Marketing channels for the Chinese market including WeChat & Weibo.


alibaba.cn & WeChat Account


Resource Analysis

allbirds.cn

There are noticeably fewer blocked resources on this site than the original 'global' site (see below). Note the fewer number of Western-based platforms in this tech stack. Great job!


allbirds.cn Home Page Resources

Full visual speed test for allbirds.cn here 

allbirds.com

Full visual speed test for allbirds.com here


Takeaways & Recommendations

Good job to the Allbirds team for identifying key issues related to site performance in China! 

From a performative angle, we would've suggested allbirds.com add Chinese to their site and use Chinafy to make their Global Shopify Site, China-compatible.

Speed savings would be similar to their current onshore performance, and doing so would allow the team to simply manage one site, instead of two. 

They could still continue to build their social media reach with WeChat and Weibo as they currently do and put resources on increasing traffic and engagement to their e-commerce properties.

allbirds.com pre & post Chinafy 

By reducing the site load time from its current 53.1 to 6.3, Allbirds.com can decrease their bounce rates by 79.69% in China, at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to build and manage a fully onshore presence.



10.  Staples

Canadian office supply retail chain with a wide selection of office supplies, laptops, printers, computer desks and more.


Speed Analysis

The Staples development team care about speed, and invest in it. While the site is built with Shopify and hosts with Shopify, the company has invested in enhanced performance by using both Cloudflare and Akamai in what appears to be both a CDN and cyber security capacity. 

This 273,000 page site is massive.


https://itm.cloud.com/country-reports/?report=cdn_response_time&country=CN&date=2019-12-04

While the primary audience for Staples may not be in China, potential site visitors or potential business partners in China will not get the full site experience as intended without using means that bypass the Great Firewall.

Resource Analysis

It's common to enhance a site with third-party platforms, which generally contribute to a richer user experience and more consumer insights. However, third-party platforms are all built uniquely and as a result, may contain components incompatible with the Chinese internet. This is once again the case for technology-rich website Staples.ca.


Snapshot of Home Page Resources


Google Maps

Map powered by the the default Google Map API (blocked in China).


Staples Store Locator


Takeaways & Recommendations

Speed

We'd recommend complimenting their multi-cloud tech stack, with one that extends the same performance values in China.

As you can see here, while CDN providers Akamai, Azure, and Cloudfront may lead the pack in terms of speed outside of China, there remains a notable gap between them and Chinese CDN providers including ChinaCache, Alibaba Cloud (Aliyun), and CDNetworks.

Citrix Report

Compatibility

On the compatibility front, we'd recommend replacing the maps delivered to China-users to Baidu.

The site is massive. However, since the pages are mostly template-based, once Chinafy and its rules have been configured for the site - changes can be applied to all pages in parallel, and in a future-proof way as the site continues to grow.  


Summary

Why do Shopify websites load the way that they do in China?

There are two factors that contribute to a slow, and broken website in China - Infrastructural and Resource-Based Issues. 

1. Infrastructural: Technical Factors related to Hosting & Delivery

Shopify uses a CDN Fastly and servers further from Chinese users.The same goes for a lot of most third-party services supporting the site.

Like most third-party domains, cdn.shopify.com and its images are not blocked from China, but are using technologies optimised for outside China.

While Fastly is an industry leader - and well, super Fast, in delivering resources globally to users - like other CDN providers, they still deliver files slower than Chinese CDNs which have dedicated network connections into China and more PoPs (Points of Presence) onshore.

Read more on why Chinese CDNs load faster than Western CDNs here


2. Resources: The HTML, CSS, JS, and Assets on a Page

Because of the way the two internets have diverged, technologies and resources simply don't work the same way outside vs. inside China. This is at no fault of developers or platforms themselves.

As you can see in the websites above - most websites consist of both primary and third-party resources (resources served from third-party platforms like Shopify). Some of these resources are outright blocked in China, while others are incredibly slow and inconsistent in delivery. 

Because the China internet landscape is constantly evolving and every website uses slightly different technologies, it's an even more complex challenge to keep up with developments that impact a website and its marketing flow.

That's why developers and companies elect to use platforms like Chinafy as a means to increase transparency on what to fix, and how to fix these issues specific to China.

For a more high-level article on Shopify in China, read here.

Want us to analyse another platform? Any questions we can help to answer? Send us an email at info@chinafy.com with ideas on what we can write next! 

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