In this opinion piece, Performics Australia CEO Grace Chu (pictured below) offers some words of wisdom for brands and marketers looking to crack the Chinese market.
If you haven’t started thinking about marketing your brand to Chinese customers, it’s time to start. China’s middle class is booming along with their incomes. Plus, the Chinese have their eyes on Australian products because Aussie produce is considered clean, green and authentic.
To put things in perspective, internet users in China reached more than half (53 per cent) of the Chinese population – a whopping 721.5 million internet users in November 2016! The total retail sales of consumer goods in China reached 3,095.9 billion yuan ($US448.36 billion) the same month – up 10.8 per cent year on year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China.
More and more Western companies are flocking to China in an attempt to capitalise on this substantial opportunity. However, many foreign companies have failed, largely due to a lack of understanding of the Chinese market and culture. With more than 600 cities and 22 provinces, China is the third largest country in the world, yet many foreign companies mistakenly see China as a whole, rather than focusing on specific regions or demographics.
Due to our close proximity, Aussie businesses have the advantage, with only a couple of hours’ time difference making communication easy.
So, what are the secrets to successfully targeting Chinese customers?
Search is key
The best way to start China offensive is search marketing where cost of entry is low, you can experiment, and results are instant. I am not talking about Google here – Google is not in China. I’m talking about Baidu, Sogou and 360 Search – the key search engines in China.
Search data can provide insights for you to make an informed decision about the overall opportunity.
To begin, focus your efforts on Baidu and its 400 million users. However, it’s imperative you consider the nuances and differences to Australian search marketing. Baidu and other Chinese search engines use a different and more complex algorithm to analyse the Chinese characters (keywords), which is of immense value in a highly context-dependent language. Cultural awareness must also play a significant role in planning and optimising the search campaigns on Chinese search engines. All of the digital platforms in China are specifically tailored to Chinese users from both cultural and technical aspects.
Facebook is not available in China unless you are using VPN. However, there are ‘made in China’ social media tools such as WeChat and Weibo to build a strong and powerful ecosystem.
Localise your presence and language
It sounds obvious, but many companies fail to invest in this area. Chinese customers prefer to communicate with brands that speak their language so leverage that multi-lingual contact within your organisation – it will make all the difference. Create content in the local language – don’t just translate your website content word for word. Instead, have your content written using local slang to better engage users.
Have a local website presence. Register a ‘cn’ domain for your website and consider using local web-hosting providers in China.
Design your Chinese website to match the Chinese user experience. For example, most Chinese website calls to action are calls to ‘share’ not ‘buy’ like Western websites.
China has 13 per cent more mobile internet users than desktop users. Of the 22 hours per week Chinese users spend online, 10 of those are on their mobile, and they’ not afraid to use their phone to buy products and services. China outranks the UK and US in M-commerce user rates, and Baidu itself attracts 130 million mobile searchers.
China’s mobile users also appear to have embraced m-commerce, with reports from China Internet Watch suggesting total transactions of the Chinese mobile shopping market reached 820.15 billion yuan ($US118.08 billion) – an increase of 56.1 per cent year on year.
You must provide an exceptional mobile experience in China. Full stop.
Don’t underestimate WeChat
WeChat is the most popular mobile app in China, with more than 768 million daily active users – 55 per cent of China’s total population! WeChat should not be left out of any digital strategy in China.
It’s interesting to note that Facebook, Google+ and Twitter all appear in this list too; they may be officially ‘blocked’ by the Great Firewall, but Global Web Index’s research suggests that a considerable number of China’s netizens are getting round these blocks to access non-Chinese social platforms.
Furthermore, 87 per cent of China’s social media users now access via mobile devices at some point each month, with platforms like WeChat helping to drive overall numbers up 77 million over the past 12 months – a year-on-year increase of 15 per cent that equates to more than 200,000 new users every day, or almost 2.5 new users every second.