China is the world’s fastest-growing market for almost everything and the golden age for Interior Design Business.
You will learn in this article:
- The Chinese way of life
- the trends
- The Market
- The Business Strategy
- And Marketing Tips to get Clients
Now is the best time for interior design firms to work in China.
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Better City Better Life: the slogan that Changes the Chinese Way of Life
The dramatic growth of China’s economy transforms its society in both qualitative (lifestyle, thinking…) and quantitative aspects (rising income and demands…).
In that context, the interior design industry in China also expands “fast and furious” in the past 2 decades, opening numerous opportunities for foreign designers and firms.
China is currently looking for foreign talents who have experience abroad and who are creative and diligent.
The international growth opportunities in China appear endless making now the best time to work in China!
CHINA’S INTERIOR DESIGN IS BOOMING
183 200 companies in Interior Design Business in China
Interior design industry is large in China and the demand for interior design service is growing fast:
- In the past five years, the number of companies in the interior-decoration industry rose to 183,200.
- The business is projected to grow by 13% annually for the next five years, totalling roughly $800 billion in 2017.
Urbanization is a contributing factor to China’s strong growth in this industry. As Chinese people continue to move from the countryside to cities, they are influenced by the city life of which elegant living space is an important part.
Another growth driver is the changing lifestyle and increasing disposable income of the Chinese middle class.
- Chinese middle class is not only getting larger with nearly 400 millions of people in 2018 but also starts spending more on interior products as their income and lifestyle evolves drastically.
The increasing interest in trendy and modern interior design for living and working spaces is further encouraged by the local digital habits of younger, over-connected Chinese generations.
In the past, Chinese tended to keep their interiors as private spheres reserved only for family members, but now, pictures of interiors are shared on Chinese social networks like WeChat or Xiaohongshu as a new way to express aesthetic style & personality. These networks are also used to promote or discover new creative ideas or trends.
Taking on this opportunity, KOLs (Key Opinion leaders) who used to focus on fashion now pose in a creative interior setting and with stylish furniture items that further reflect their style and design culture. The influence from social media raises people’s knowledge and enhances their need in having a well-designed house.
One example is the famous fashion and lifestyle blogger Savislook, who has shared “how-to” videos of her home decoration on Weibo and YouTube. She explains her furniture choices, which mix international brands with more vintage looks, in a casual and friendly tone, while posting pictures of those pieces.
Savislook interior and Ligne Roset chair. Photo: Savislook Instagram
Magazines such as Elle Deco China, Domus, and Ideat China are also influencing this new generation, especially through their editors who are becoming specialized KOLs and experts on modern and contemporary design. The lifestyle editor of Elle Deco China, Sugar Lee (@DemonSugar), for instance, now has 20,000 followers on Weibo.
LOCAL DESIGNERS ARE FINDING THEIR OWN VOICE
The interior design service market is becoming more competitive — both clients and the public are now seeking truly innovation and uniqueness.
Chinese designers, in particular interior and product designers actually grow relatively fast and have surpassed the previous generation. There are a lot of young and middle-aged product designers and interior designers that have received many international awards. They do a good job and are well received.
Now more Chinese young and middle-aged designers are beginning to rise, and their abilities are as good as those of western designers. Chinese architects are starting to find their own voice and style.
We also see more and more Chinese designers handle big projects such as shopping centers and commercial buildings.
WeWork Weihai Road by WeWork and Linehouse (Shanghai)
MAJOR DESIGN TRENDS IN THE INDUSTRY
There are some significant trends helping to form what Chinese consumers want in their home décor consumption:
1. Neo-Chinese style
Neo-Chinese style is the most popular style in China, especially among high-class clients. Neo-Chinese style combines modern elements with tradition, the European luxury with Chinese furniture to create a sophisticated and contemporary look. Talented local designers are inspired by the historical craftsmanship of the old Song and Ming dynasties and Chinese philosophies like Taoism to create China-inspired design pieces that fit today’s needs. This style is everywhere in China: luxury hotels, houses, shopping malls or coffee chains…
2. Scandinavian-nordic style
An international contemporary designer style is booming with newer generations who favor minimalist aesthetic. This style suits small apartments and is very functional especially for small spaces with that sense of simplicity and natural materials. IKEA is a big name representing this style.
3. Scarce and fresh-released art pieces in demand
Young, urban Chinese have a strong desire for culture, sophistication, and knowledge — but they also want their home interiors to look sharp. Therefore, having exclusive or unique products that tell a story is a must for their home interior standards. In fact, looking for the latest art pieces or discovering new, upcoming artists to display in their home and share with friends is something many trendy Chinese are interested in. Purchasing and investing in art has become a real lifestyle (even a habit) for the wealthy Chinese, particularly the younger generations.
4. Chinese’s spiritual decor objects to consider
Sculptural lighting, paper lanterns, paintings are very important for Chinese. Additionally, what is still present in almost all Chinese houses is the “tea ceremony” space. Even a small corner can be used to put a Chinese traditional tea table with all related stuff for tea. Foreign designers should also consider, for their projects in China, the typical Chinese arch door which is known as “moon gate” and usually used in gardens. It normally functions as a pedestrian passageway but is also used for interiors. “Moon gate” has strong spiritual meanings for Chinese. Besides, Chinese ink wash painting and calligraphy are favorite elements and they suite well with almost every interior style.
Foreign design companies should adapt their design to better serve the taste of Chinese clients.
MARKETING STRATEGY FOR NEW INTERIOR DESIGN BRANDS
Chinese people spend hours browsing the Internet, interacting with stores, asking questions on social media and looking for reviews about products and services they are interested in. Therefore, foreign architects, designers, brands and manufacturers should implement an aggressive advertising, marketing and branding strategy with the focus on digital channels to compete in this market.
1. Be visible on search engine
In China, the number one search engine is not Google but Baidu with more than 80% of market share.
Baidu became one of the most important frontiers you need to include in your marketing strategy for the Chinese market. Considering that over 60% of Chinese consumers do extensive research before purchasing a product or service, you can imagine how competitive it is to rank for top positions on this search engine. Mandarin content is a must since the Chinese People use the local language to conduct searches.
Besides, Baidu has a different set of rules for ranking from Google, thus requiring different techniques. You can read more about Baidu vs Google here
Baidu is very important for people in China because it helps everyone meet what they are looking for (products, services, brands, clients, suppliers…). Baidu also owns a set of other useful tools which connect and influence people’s daily life to a significant extent:
- Baidu Tieba is China’s largest online community with over 300 million Monthly Active Users in 2015 and the number of total registered users 1.5 billion. Baidu Tieba uses “bars”, or forums, as a place for users to socially interact.
- Baidu Baike which is a web based encyclopedia which is very similar to Wikipedia.
- Baidu Zhidao which allows the community to ask Questions and Answers. Think Quora.
Be prominent on Baidu and its various networks can ensure you a huge traffic eventhough it may seem overwhelming and challenging at first to navigate through Baidu system.
2. E-reputation is what people talk about you online
In China, it’s mandatory to invest in an e-reputation strategy. In China, reputation is everything. Many brands never sell because they don’t have enough “online mentions” from Chinese people. Due to all the scandals, Chinese consumers need to be reassured. They no longer trust brands which don’t have good reviews on the Internet. In addition, Chinese consumers buy into recommendations of their peers.
Being active online on social media, forums, publishers… as well as regularly posting contents and encouraging consumers to make positive comments about your products/ services will help you develop strong brand awareness and credibility. It is also crucial to managing negative feedback or scandals (if any) since bad news spread faster than light in China.
3. Engage with customers at their favourite place – Social media
WeChat is the most popular social media with more than 80 million daily users. It’s the perfect place to communicate with your consumers and publish contents valuable for them. You can regularly share design ideas or decoration inspirations to motivate your fans and engage with them as well as learn more about their taste and wishes.
Chinese consumers are also used to sharing personal thoughts and product reviews on their WeChat Moment.
If they are inspired by you and thus mention you on their Wechat, your brand can significantly improve the awareness and gain WOM effect. Wechat has various features such as Moments Ads, mini-programs, push notifications, geolocation capabilities, e-commerce, and customer service capabilities, etc, perfectly to boost customer engagement and brand loyalty.
Weibo is another efficient way to promote your brand awareness. It’s a microblogging platform which is more “open” than Wechat, helping your brand and its messages reach out to a larger base of audience.
It allows you to :
- Interact with your consumers.
- Increase your brand recognition
- Publish contents to increase your visibility (pictures, ads, videos…).
- Convert followers to customers.
Weibo needs to be included in any marketing strategy in China because it’s the most powerful social media platform here.
4. Enhance your credibility through KOLs‘ endorsement
Influencers or KOLs are really powerful in China. They are considered experts in certain fields thanks to regularly sharing interesting thoughts, news, guides, advice… and thus attracting huge numbers of followers who trust them and their opinions. Chinese people especially put huge trust in their favourite KOLs due to a long history of being scammed and cheated by brands as well as an overwhelming diversity of products available on the market. KOLs can direct their attention and influence their buying decisions.
It is crucial to employ a KOL in your communication strategy. He or she will be the ambassador of your brand and help you to expand your awareness towards Chinese consumers. Chinese consumers trust KOLs more than brands. A Chinese KOL also brings your brand closer to Chinese consumers even though you may represent a foreign concept or style.
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