Running is the thing to do in China right now. The trend can be seen all across the country, as a personal choice, an activity that brings the community together or even a workgroup building session. In China, the typical healthy lifestyle of eating food with benefits is being coupled with sports.
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This has seen a boom in the market for fitness gyms and sporting events, both friendly and competitive. Over the past few years, over 37 000 fitness clubs have popped up in China and in 2016, 2.8 million people participated in 328 marathons across the country. This figure is 14 times the level of participation of 5 years ago, according to the Chinese Athletic Association (CAA) and the 20162017 China Fitness Industry White Paper.
The primary force behind this growing phenomenon is the willingness to improve health and physical fitness coupled with the mind set of sharing or displaying athletic achievements. It goes hand in hand with fashion and beauty and the desire to be the best, in several areas. Sports brands that adapt and align themselves with the tastes and requirements of Chinese consumers are doing well. At the moment, Nike and Adidas hold the top two seats in the market. While in 2016 Adidas reported that sales in China had risen by 28%, Nike reported double digit year on year sales growth in China in its fiscal 4th quarter in 2017.
A fitness report by IBISWorld shows that from 202 to 2017, the annualised growth rate of the fitness and gym industry was 12% and that the industry was set to generate $6.31 billion in 2017. There are a variety of industry players including, high end luxury clubs, with annual membership ranging between 6000 RMB to 10 000 RMB and above. Mid-level chain gyms cost 2 000 RMB and above. There are also online-to-offline (O2O) companies that offer monthly subscriptions at various prices.
High end gyms focus on maintaining a good cash flow in order to stay profitable, with a focus on ‘gold collar’ workers that have limited time and require efficiency. Smaller gyms understand that location and convenience is important and they focus on universities and residential neighbourhoods.O2O gym platforms connect customers to local gyms and have mobile applications that users can use to check courses, reserve personal trainers and pay monthly subscriptions. However, their word of mouth promotion is lacking as the physical stores are separate from the online platform, making it difficult to ensure user experience and risks of gyms being crowded at peak times.
Fitness industry in China works up a sweat in the Ads age
Besides Nike and Adidas, brands like Anta follow close behind, with the rest of the market share divided between Li Ning, New Balance, Under Armour and others. This is an indication that foreign brands take priority but also that there is room for more. Under Armour only has a market share of 0.3% but on its Q3 earnings call in 2016, the company stated that they were on track to double their earnings of the previous year in China of $80 million.
The use of basketball star Steph Curry as a brand ambassador, to help promote training and basketball gear in China is hailed as the reason for their success. It focused largely on brand image, with Chinese consumers acknowledging their ‘premium quality and no discounts in price’, it has become a symbol of high end goods, consistency and a lack of desperation for sales. The company is considered an upper and sheer sportswear brand although it has not gained big portion in the sportswear market share, this is just an example of what could happen to other smaller brands if they came to China and used the correct marketing and branding strategy.
Specialised sports studios are doing well. Instead of getting fit, these experienced based studios teach professional techniques, such as yoga, Pilates or boxing. Participants also have a chance to interact with the community and are therefore less likely to give up on their training.
Fitness apps are also a big thing. They provide fee fitness training videos and shareable work out records. A well-known fitness app in China is ‘Keep’, which accumulated 60 million users by October 2016 and 100 million users by August 2017.
Most membership comes from impulse purchases. Members won’t go to the gym and most gyms only sell membership on a yearly basis, in short, selling more than their capacity. Personal trainers are promoted to increase profit however they are not competent and once customers do not see improvements, they stop coming.
Do you want to promote your Fitness center in China?
The fitness business is still new and full of potential and opportunity in China.
Let’s me tell you the secret:
- The mouth of word
- KOL or Influencers
In China, your e-reputation (online reputation) is what determines your failure, or your success. Chinese consumers want to comment on your product or services through their social media platforms. They pay special attention to KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), influencers that have the ability to bring revenue to your brand through a simple post.
The key is to make sure that your brand is known and in order to achieve this, as well as communicate with your target market, you need to use the same social media platforms that they are using, regularly uploading new content. High-quality videos and pictures that provide an insight of hospitality services and transportation options can help to convince travellers to visit or purchase or make use of goods and services. It’s a waste of time and resources to focus on Facebook and Google when these sites are blocked in China.
You need to familiarise yourself with Baidu, WeChat, and Weibo.
WeChat is one of the most popular platforms to engage and attract Chinese consumers, incomparable to any western social platform. Younger Chinese travellers are able to research, plan and purchase their trips abroad within the WeChat application alone. Increasingly, mobile payment apps such as WeChat Pay (similar to PayPal, but so much more) have become an indispensable part of their lifestyle and travel. This is another important means of connecting with Chinese tourists. Find brand ambassadors who will spread news of your brand on Chinese platforms, making sure you stay visible and relevant.
It is essential that your website in accordance with Chinese standards and easily available to them in Mandarin. The speed of your website should not be overlooked. The credibility of a website lies in one’s ability to access it. If it is slow to access, it gives the impression that your enterprise is behind in technology. In a country where everyone is super connected, this small detail is a handicap of note.