New Businesses Can Crack the Chinese Market

New brands are entering an increasingly competitive online market place in China with growing levels of online consumers the target for serious & savy brands. Here we’ll explore the best approaches for ‘cracking’ the Chinese market in the most cost effective way that deliver long term Return On Investment for brands looking to sell to Chinese consumers.

There is a lot to this complex market, we give you this article as a starting point but strategy needs to be;

– Tailored for every business
– Unique to your sector
– Adapted to suit the brands current positioning
– In-Line with current or previous marketing efforts in China

 

At GMA we’ve worked on over 500 projects, this has led to a team with a wealth of experience across a range of sectors.

Here’s our key take-homes from the Chinese market for businesses new to market; 

 

1) Face the fact – You are largely invisible in China

Even with a very strong reputation on Western, English platforms in China (except for the biggest global names) you need to start from scratch.

Chinese web searches and content browsing is in Mandarin Chinese, English language content is simply not picked up based on local search algorithms.

The Chinese web is also ring fenced by the ‘Great Firewall’ which omits the majority of content outside of the Chinese net unless your target audience are using VPNs. Currently only 3-5% of netziens use VPNs regularly so content, platforms, ads and media exposure has to be re-tailored to the Chinese market in Mandarin.

 

2) Embrace Chinese Platforms

You need to be where your audience are most active, local Chinese platforms.

As of 2016 the ‘Alexa Table’ of the largest platforms by user number & influence featured 5 Chinese platforms out of 15. Yes, a third of the largest platforms on a global scale are Chinese (Baidu, QQ/WeChat, Sina, Taobao, Weibo).

Chinese platforms (as most people are now aware) are no longer merely ‘copycats’ but industry leading lights in terms of;

– Innovation / Integration into daily life
– Targeted Advertising
– Engaged User Numbers
– Receptivity to brand presence
– Developments in ‘Socialized E-Commerce’

There are a host of players in China and options to suit a range of budgets, we most often work on the following platforms.

– WeChat
– Weibo
– Baidu
– Toutiao (Popular News App)
– Forums (Zhidao, Zhihu, Tianya)
– News Sources (Eg News 168, Ifeng)
– Nice (Akin to Instagram in China)
– Meipai (Video Platform)
– Youku Video’s/Ads

 

Weibo news feed, a user friendly platform for local users with accounts ‘verified’ with the blue V displayed. 

 

A sample WeChat Page from popular Chinese success story ‘Ronald Serry Australian Property’, Ronald & the team embraced Chinese platforms for their Mainland lead generation strategy in the Real Estate sector. 

Zhihu a popular Chinese forum in terms of Q&A + building your reputation through user to user conversation. 

 

3) Finding Your Focus – Consultation with an Expert

It’s important to speak with us to discuss your project in depth, where you focus your marketing depends on;

– Sector
– Product Type
– Audience Demographic
– Campaign Budget
– KPI/Expectations

Consultation is the answer, you’re entering a new, complex and different environment. The agency you work with need to deeply understand the brand and how intelligent strategy can be implemented.

4) Validation of the Concept First

Before launching into a full scale campaign it’s important to test the concept first with an initial budget designed to prove the most effective strategies. This needs to be enough to feedback with enough data and run on a number of different channels if there is the option to do so.

VALIDATION & PROOF OF STRATEGY IS STEP ONE, BE SAVY. 

GMA run test campaigns for brands with in-depth reporting, feedback & analytics.

Any new market strategy needs to be validated, enough has be invested to obtain necessary & accurate data.

5) In China EVERYHING is digital

Digital reigns supreme in China. The nation now boasts a whopping 60% internet penetration rate, that’s over 800 million online users and growing by 5% per year.

Some statistics to explain the scale of digital in the hearts & minds of the Chinese;

– 35% of all retail purchases are now transacted online
– WeChat boasts 877 million monthly active users
– Weibo follows with 550 million MAU’s
– Digital payment methods have been used by over 70% of all consumers

Why has digital become such an essential element of the fabric of Chinese society? China, later to develop than other global powers made the leap economically at a time where technology was abundant. They skipped traditional media forms and leapt straight to digital tech, smartphones, e-commerce and social networking.

China is arguably the most digitally centric country in the world. It’s a unique case study and important for businesses to understand before any launch in China.

6) International Products sell with Long Term Commitment

Once a concept is proven to work it’s important to commit to the strategy. This is a big market and initial investment is required to make an impact, especially if you have to shift from being unknown to highly visible and reputable.

This requires time, no product or business is an overnight success in China but by working with trusted partner on intelligent strategy over a 6 month starting period products & services can make a mark.

International products remain especially popular in a market typically associated with local Chinese fakes.

 International = Quality in the mind of the Chinese consumers. 

 

Long term strategy and consistent branding have been behind the success of Blackmores in China, they embraced E-Commerce Strategy not only on large platforms such as a Tmall but also engaged closely with their community. 

 

7) Quality Mandarin Chinese Content

Quality content does not merely cover text/PR. That’s the tip of the iceberg, here are the key elements to focus on when creating quality local content;

– Bi-Lingual Copywriters
– Chinese platform specific formatting
– Image/aesthetic development
– Video Content
– Design & Formatting

The key to content is to understand what type of strategy is required on each platform for example..

  • On Weibo you have a micro blogging system, posts need to be kept short and snappy, you utilize the hashtag system but these need to be placed both before & after each post.
  • WeChat service posts require a strong call to action but also need to be highly personable, why? They are a push notification that appears in a followers personal feed, it is like they are receiving a message from a friend.
  • Baidu content needs to focus on your ranking on China’s number one search Engine, it therefore should include backlinks, be connected to the Chinese keyword sets that you are optimizing and be highly engaging in order to be featured.
  •  PR in China is typically shorter, more sensationalist and image based, lengthy technical pieces will not do it.

 

News item featured on Sohu.com about raising the profile of Intelligent Chinese Investment 

 

8) What are the main Platforms?

In this article we’ll select the three most important for the majority of clients, contact us for more information and a detailed consultation session but for now..

Baidu

Baidu is China’s Google & largest search engine with a 75% share of the search engine market, the other two players are 360 and Sogu but for obvious reasons Baidu should be a focus, indeed the platform holds a 16% global market share!

Many have speculated at the demise of Baidu as social media networks such as WeChat & Weibo grow in power / become more integrated. However with such a reach it’s unlikely Baidu will not monetise on the search market as they develop in further AR (Augmented Reality Innovation).

For us Baidu remains essential to any Chinese marketing campaign;

What are the keys to marketing on the Baidu platform?

– Mandarin Chinese Keyword Searches = Visibility
– PPC (Pay Per Click) Ad Links are very important and can deliver real ROI in terms of quality traffic (ad conversion rates in China are typically higher than in the more sceptical western markets).
– SEO (Natural Search Engine Results) is important when it comes to ranking your site in the organic results, the most serious prospects research extensively.
– Your site needs to be built as a vehicle for visibility on Baidu with Chinese keyword audits etc.

 

            Baidu’s Re-Branded Logo 

 

This image depicts the importance of being a top paid search result on Baidu, this position generated a 35% higher click through rate than the two positions below. 

 

WeChat

You can’t overlook WeChat but it requires a higher initial investment than Baidu. Why? You have to grow your following numbers in this closed network. It’s mainly a branding tool, it’s poor for lead generation but in terms of content sharing + e-commerce (with WeChat stores) it’s a strong opportunity for digital growth.

Only users connected to your account will see your content. You need to build followers.

What are the most important WeChat marketing elements?

– Building followers, including QR code links from external sites, pushing content and engaging + animating a following.
– As a WeChat service account you have 1 push notification to followers per week, this is effective as it appears as a private message in their chat feed, personalize content + really curate the most attractive and interesting messages!
– WeChat utilizes HTML5, content in this format will provide the smoothest and most quality user experience.

WeChat can be integrated with a WeChat store to feature, 10-25 Product Pages (SKU’s), the benefit of driving traffic from an account to a store is you make use of WeChat’s inbuilt wallet/payment system, a very convenient tool.

 

The increasingly iconic WeChat Logo

 

The three different types of WeChat account Subscription, Service & Enterprise. Service is the most effective for must businesses because it allows for push notifications to reach followers.

Subscription is more suited if you are regularly producing content (e.g. an e-mag/news service). Most sales businesses opt for service accounts in China. 

 

Weibo

Weibo now boasts over 500 million monthly active users it’s a very targeted platform in terms of ad opportunities + boasts the majority of China’s influencers.

The name literally means micro blog, so think China’s Twitter.. but in-fact far more advanced.

What’s the main points of Weibo marketing strategy?

– Weibo offers DSP/Fan Tunnel Posts/Search Result advertising
– Content needs to be short & snappy with a limit of 150 character posts.
– External links can be restricted but Alibaba e-commerce platforms are given free reign in terms of promotion, why? Alibaba own over a third of the platform.

Weibo is an open network so users can see posts from anyone, this lends itself to virality + user sharing.

 

The popular Weibo page for L’oreal in China with 567 000 followers. A powerful launch pad for promotions. 

 

9) Targeted Advertising

China has a unique ad sector, in some ways it is very developed and in others more backward than the advanced ad words/targeted banner technology Google offers.

Regardless, this is China and this is the ad services you have to work with!

Some general facts about ad strategy;

– Baidu ads revolve around PPC with a more limited scope in terms of DSP
– Weibo ads are a targeted series of solutions, perhaps the most advanced in China
– WeChat ads offer banner/moments posts, it’s a more expensive solution but very high reach can be achieved through investment into moments.
– Banner, Display & Media Buying is also an option on E-Commerce platforms

It goes without saying that ads needs to be curated & formatted to each specific platform.

 

Targeted DSP / Banner ads (to the right of page) from Mama’s Milk, they also feature a pop up, the animated style of branding is a popular choice with Chinese consumers. 

 

10) Acting Fast & Understanding new trends is Important

Speed is one of the defining features of this fascinating market. The speed local, Chinese competitors take products to market is astounding. Western business needs to understand this, it’s a fast-paced market with a high demand for quality international products but with trends ever-changing you need to capitalize on such current demand.

You need a local partner on the pulse in China. New trends are always developing.

Toutiao; A New & Serious Player

Toutiao for example are a burgeoning news application. By the end of 2016, Toutiao had 80 million daily active users, who spent an average of 76 minutes reading news and watching videos through the app, according to company sources. They offer targeted ad services in the news feeds of readers (alongside news content), this makes your business newsworthy alongside trending content in China.

Another hot new trend is the re-emergence of smaller platforms such as Meipai, Nice or Little Red Book as social platforms with sharing functionality of Videos, Images or even purchase information.

 

Toutiao, China’s Number One News Application. Literal translation is ‘Today’s News’ 

 

To Conclude

A long-term commitment is absolutely essential for success in this market, if you have a serious project let’s discuss your needs with our first consultation session.

It’s important to seek out a trusted partner, compare not just pricing (as many agents engage in a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of offering low cost services), but rather the quality of your potential partners work.

Who are GMA?

We are an international team of 42 based in Shanghai. We have worked on over 500 projects and are a purely digital & Chinese focused marketing & advertising agency.

Contact one of our experts for a chat or come into our office for quality coffee 😉

 

 

Further Reading;

20 Best Strategies for the China Market

TV Show in China (China’s Got Talent) Goes Viral Across Social Media

Definitive Guide to Selling on WeChat for International Brands

E-Commerce in China: Best Practices & Trends in 2017