In this guest piece, Sinorbis founder and CEO Nicolas Chu (picutred) shares his insights into how Australian marketers can unlock opportunities in what he considers the largest online market in the world.
With the Chinese economy thriving, conducting business in China is on the to-do list of many Western organisations. The country has 780 million internet users, a forecasted growth spend of $8.6 trillion by 2020 and is one of the world’s fastest-growing consumer markets. This all presents an enormous business opportunity.
A growing Chinese middle-class means an increasing demand for products, and the renowned quality of Australian goods puts them in high demand with Chinese consumers. Australian businesses such as Penfolds and Swisse are booming, as they’ve taken the time to think about the complexities of the Chinese marketing mix and how it’s different to Western countries. Not only is the internet regulated by what is known ominously as the ‘Great Firewall’, but Western organisations need a specific understanding of what drives Chinese punters. To tap into online demand, smart marketers need to do three things: understand, invest and adapt.
- Take the time to understand the unique features of their online ecosystem. Chinese social networks, e-commerce, search engines, video sites and forms of payment are just a few parts of the network and are vastly different from those in Western countries.
- The mobile phone is fast-becoming the main form of online access in China and consumers are already accustomed to (and receptive of) mobile-first campaigns. Mobile-first may be in its infancy in Australia, but this is an established, cost-effective way to reach target your target audience in China.
- Consider an investment in local expertise and infrastructure, such as a locally-hosted website that’s built for Chinese search engines. A locally-hosted website with its comprehensive web metrics will simultaneously allow you to bypass the ‘Great Firewall’, while consumers will be able to discover and engage with your brand more easily.
- The Chinese Millennial generation seek quality and trustworthiness in their brand experiences. Online reputation, good customer service and positive online reviews are an essential investment to build relationships with consumers.
- The difference in marketing between regions is as vast as China itself, so work out where your product fits and go after that market. Guidance from a trusted resource on the ground will go a long way to ensure your approach will work for the specific market. What works in Western markets most likely won’t work in China.
- Respect and comply with local regulations and information monitoring – I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you the control of information in China is very different from Western countries.
Swisse has wholeheartedly embraced these three principles to solidify its presence would successfully position itself as one of the leading natural health companies in the region. Not only did they take the time to understand the Chinese ecosystem, but in partnering with Biosteme, one of Hong Kong’s principal supplement brands, they associated themselves with a product that is already well known (and trusted) in the market. Swisse adapted their strategies to market their products in a more focused way through posters celebrating Chinese New Year and by use of Swisse celebrity ambassadors to appeal to the Chinese consumer.
Marketers must recognise and embrace the cultural, technological and regulatory differences between the Chinese and Western online landscapes. A targeted online presence and considered marketing approach, coupled with a realistic investment in local expertise and infrastructure, will allow Australian marketers to unlock opportunities in the largest online market in the world.