Are you a business owner trying to conquer the Chinese market and wondering if there is any marketing advice on China for Western companies?
In this week’s China Gravy article, we have all compiled everything you need to know for digital marketing success in China!
Is the Chinese Market Really Different?
With the fastest-growing consumer market worldwide, Chinese customers are becoming a significant audience for international brands. The buying power in the Middle Kingdom is one of the highest in the world – a growing trend.
To begin our marketing advice in China, Western companies that want to break into the Chinese social media landscape may face difficulties for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, language barriers and cultural differences make it a real challenge for businesses that are learning about Chinese consumers for the first time.
Secondly, as we introduced previously, Chinese social media platforms are used differently than in the West and, more often than not, have totally different functions.
Thirdly, China’s platforms are very dynamic and usage trends are changing all the time. This can make it seem like keeping up is an impossible task.
Finally, search engines and other online sites have Chinese equivalents. For example, Baidu is China’s answer to Google.
The Buying Power of Chinese Customers for Foreign Brands
To understand the buying power of the Chinese, the tourism industry is a great indicator and example. In 2019, the number of Chinese outbound tourism (166 million trips) surpassed the inbound tourism (143 million trips, creating revenue of 130 billion USD) in the Middle Kingdom. The number of Chinese outbound tourism trips increased by 43% compared to the previous year.
Industry experts estimate that spending among Chinese consumers will grow by 7.7% in the next ten years. Chinese tourists make up an enormous portion of the tourism economy of Australia, the US, and some European countries.
The demand for foreign brands in China is not slowing down anytime soon and is not limited to just luxury brands either. We can see this in the growing cross-border e commerce (CBEC) and Daigou market.
With this, we have prepared our successful marketing advice on China for anyone who is ready to start their journey to the East.
The 6 Top Marketing Recommendations to Target Chinese Customers
How to best target Chinese customers and capitalize on this vast consumer base? With China being the largest e-commerce market in the world and having millions of people with high purchasing power, foreign brands are looking to take advantage of this market. But many of them still find it challenging to target Chinese customers. Don’t worry, we are here for you with this exclusive marketing advice on China!
1. Marketing Advice for China: Build a Chinese-Friendly Website
Having a Chinese website is the key to reaching your Chinese target audience. You need:
- Quality content in Chinese language
- Local website hosting (or geographically near)
- A .cn domain
When you create your content for the Middle Kingdom, you should not just translate the English version of your website and marketing materials. Make sure to take into consideration the Chinese culture of your target audience, local particularities, and business etiquette. Discover the 7 most important tips for doing business in China here.
Mainland China and Singapore use Simplified Chinese, whereas other parts of Greater China, such as in Taiwan and Hong Kong, use Traditional Chinese. If you want to target a mainland Chinese audience, you should provide your content in Simplified Chinese characters.
Writing quality content that is useful to Chinese consumers drives traffic to your website and enhances the online users’ experiences with your company. Consumers are constantly receiving information digitally, but brands that provide something of value in their content have the winning advantage.
Hosting is an extensive topic. Basically, you can choose between
- hosting in mainland China (for speed and to surpass the “Great Firewall of China“)
- using a fast cloud service in China or geographically near, e.g. Hong Kong, Singapore, or South Korea
Of course, you can physically host your website anywhere in the world, but this won’t help you much with the Chinese market. Read all you need to know about hosting your website in China in this article. You should also register a “.cn” domain.
2. Marketing Advice for China: Understand How to Reach Chinese Consumers
Let’s start with online retail. For the most part, consumers in the West trust the websites they visit and generally consider them trustworthy which is not the same situation for Chinese internet users.
Besides, Chinese consumers are constantly on the lookout for fraudulent websites, scams, and products of poor quality. For this reason, they are more critical of brands online and will shop around much more than Western consumers, and approaches to marketing will also be different than Western marketing.
This practice of researching and shopping around is so common that companies must make a good impression very quickly before the Chinese consumer looks elsewhere. Make sure to emphasize what’s important for your Chinese audience. This can be a brand name, exclusiveness, high quality, and so on.
Additionally, Chinese consumers are much more demanding and expect more tailored services.
Customer care in the West exists mainly to deal with things that have gone wrong. However, customer care in China is all about communicating with the customer through the buying process to ensure the pedigree of the product and brand.
This is one of the reasons why social commerce around Wanghong, KOLs, and lately KOCs, is gaining popularity quickly. The most popular Chinese social commerce platforms are currently Xiao Hong Shu, Pinduoduo, and… surprise, surprise…WeChat.
3. Study Your Competition
To begin with, Chinese consumers are very brand savvy but they aren’t very loyal which is good news for a new company that wants to break into the market. Whatever product or service you want to sell, you need to carefully consider your prices and how they compare to your competitors (that means local ones, too).
You also need to consider whether your online presence offers a message or visual content that attracts the customer’s attention. Status is key in China and your product or service should aim to raise the status of the consumer who buys it.
Get to Know and Follow the Chinese Calendar
When you think of major holidays in the West, chances are you are probably thinking of Halloween, Easter, and Christmas. But following the Chinese Calendar – Chinese New Year, Qixi Festival, and Singles’ Day – are just a few of the holidays that Western companies need to learn about to participate in the Chinese consumer market.
Singles’ Day, for example, is a holiday celebrated on November 11th (11/11) that celebrates people who are… single. Singles’ Day, funny as it sounds.
Optimizing your content to target Chinese customers will help you to reach more people in the largest and fastest-growing consumer market in the world.
Keep in mind to also optimize your content for the Chinese social media platforms you are using. Social search optimization (SSO) is now emerging.
4. Marketing Advice for China: Focus on Mobile Optimization
In the Middle Kingdom, 98% of Chinese use the internet via mobile devices. This compares to a global average of around 50%. Out of the 3.5 billion social media users worldwide, 750 million (that’s 21%) are from China. Therefore, to effectively target Chinese customers, you should optimize your website for mobile compatibility.
Your prospective market relies heavily on smartphones and tablets to find and purchase products or services. In fact, the total e-commerce volume in China reached 2 trillion USD in 2019 with two-thirds of all consumers in the Middle Kingdom saying their shopping choices are influenced by social media.
Delivering an exceptional mobile experience allows you to engage with your consumers wherever they are (mostly on the go) and stay ahead of your competitors.
5. Marketing Advice for China: Be Active on Local Social Media
The marketing strategies that are used in the West may not work with a Chinese customer base. Simply trying to replicate them sets your business up for marketing failure. That said, social media is a great way to engage locally with potential consumers.
Even though Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, are banned in China, there is a large number of social networks where you can target Chinese customers and engage with them. Read up in detail on the 9 Chinese social media platforms you absolutely must know.
Almost everyone in China uses WeChat, Sina Weibo, or Douyin/TikTok. Or all of them. Consequently, they offer amazing opportunities for businesses to digitally market to the Chinese audience.
With more than 1.1 billion monthly active users, Tencent’s WeChat is the most popular mobile app in the Middle Kingdom. The Chinese use it for virtually everything! So, smart China marketing strategies include this app. Share your content by utilizing modern methods like influencer marketing. With this, your content will spread exponentially, creating leads, and sales. Discover our favorite 3 social media trends in China in this article.
Set Up an Official WeChat Business Account
Remember how Chinese consumers are a bit skeptical when encountering a new brand? That’s precisely the reason that your first step has to be setting up an official verified business account on WeChat.
Although it used to be next to impossible for Western businesses to get an official verified WeChat account, it has become significantly easier. Since most of the process will be in Chinese, you need to have a Chinese speaker on your team that will deal with the process.
There are two types of official accounts: service accounts vs. subscription accounts.
- Service accounts give you access to advanced public platform features like push notifications, a 48-hour reply window, and extra monthly broadcasts.
- Subscription accounts, while they don’t support payments or offer push notifications, are a good fit for companies who are planning on publishing regular content.
Getting a fully verified WeChat account will require you to go through a few steps but doing so will bring your company more credibility in the eyes of the Chinese consumer. As always, China Gravy can help you to register your official WeChat business account.
Create a WeChat Mini-Program
One of the types of advertising that WeChat facilitates is a mini-program. Essentially, mini-programs are programs launched by businesses within their WeChat page. Imagine your business wants to build an app that offers some kind of service. After building, you have to entice people to download an extra app that takes up memory on their mobile devices, which they may or may not ever use again.
Instead, WeChat allows you to create a mini-app directly on your WeChat page that requires no extra downloading. Even better, it doesn’t require the user to exit WeChat to access your services.
WeChat mini-programs are a good idea for a business for a couple of reasons. For one, they improve user experience as users can do many different tasks all within one app. Imagine ordering food, checking out the latest deals for your favorite brands, shopping, and booking a last-minute weekend trip all in an app. This is precisely why mini-programs provide higher conversion rates than any of WeChat’s other marketing channels.
Find the Right Platform for Your Business
As WeChat is such a huge part of the daily lives of Chinese consumers, it should be the first and most important part of a business’s digital marketing plan. However, don’t underestimate the power of “smaller” social media platforms that are specific to your industry or niche.
Xueqiu, Mafengwo, and Kuaishou are three platforms that are growing in size:
- Xueqiu is THE social media network for equity and finance-related discussion and information.
- Mafengwo, a network with 130 million users, provides all travel-related reviews, deals, and information for independent travelers.
- Kuaishou is a short video sharing and live streaming app known for being popular among citizens in China’s second-tier cities.
Why is this relevant? An app like Kuaishou offers a different type of customer for businesses. This is important for companies that want to attack smaller Chinese markets. Make sure to address your audience on the relevant platforms for your business.
6. Marketing Advice for China: Improve Cultural Communication and Connect with KOLs
Finally, it is absolutely important that you know your consumers. Besides gender, the main parameters for classification are based on age group and socioeconomic class. For instance, Chinese millennial consumers have needs that differ from those of older generations or people in a higher income class or tier.
Understanding the landscapes of the various lifestyles and behaviors in the Middle Kingdom allows your brand to authentically engage with your audience. Social media is a great way to practice cultural communication by running efficient targeting campaigns.
KOLs, or Key Opinion Leaders, are influencers that are absolutely vital for any social media marketing campaign. Once again, remember how Chinese consumers are skeptical when it comes to new brands? KOLs are the key to endorsing your brand and raising your credibility.
These influencers have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers and are a regular part of social media users’ news feeds. Ordinary citizens value their endorsements and often make their purchases based on the KOLs they follow. As a result, KOLs go hand in hand with the spread of trends in China and are often utilized by businesses for marketing campaigns.
Also, don’t forget about optimizing your content for search engines (SEO) and ads like PPC to appear to potential new clients.
Marketing Advice on China – The Takeaway
Chinese consumers are becoming one of the most desired customer bases by brands all over the world. The Chinese market is a significant opportunity for Western businesses to satisfy the demands of Chinese customers who love foreign brands.
It is essential for international brands to adapt their China marketing strategies to target Chinese customers. If you need a helping hand with developing a website, creating a smart marketing strategy, social media presence, and more for the Chinese market, China Gravy is here to offer you custom marketing advice on China for your particular needs. Message us now to get started!