The Chinese market is arguably the largest in the world with 350 million middle class consumers and the country’s overall GDP growing by 7% year on year. However, it should also be acknowledged that it is a very difficult market to break in to if you do not understand how your competition, and also how Chinese consumers operate.
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A highly competitive environment
It is a highly competitive market with many local competitors who already understand the shopping habits of the Chinese, which are very different to those of consumers in the Western world. Chinese platforms such as Taobao and Tmall dominate the shopping world in China, so it is crucial to understand exactly how these platforms run in order to successfully market your own brand.
One of the biggest problems that you will initially face when entering the Chinese market is that, as a business entering from the outside, you are essentially invisible to the Chinese market. You have no existing reputation within China, and any existing reputation you have is not guaranteed to help you.
As China is cut off from the rest of the world by the ‘great firewall’ (no access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, etc), there is no way in which Chinese consumers will be able to research your company on it’s existing platforms and therefore gain an idea of any previous reputation your business may have.
So what is the solution? Start by building your reputation and visibility on Chinese platforms in order to ultimately drive leads and sales. Below are some essential tips on how to start doing this successfully.
Baidu Dominates Online
Currently, there are an estimated 900 million internet users across China, with most users spending 1.5 hours a day just browsing. Baidu is the most popular search engine across China. Think of it as ‘the Google of China’.
This site is where 70% of all online research is carried out, so it is important to become visible in the search results through SEO (search engine optimisation), you need to build backlinks, produce quality content and audit the site for Chinese keyword searches to rank highly in the results over time. Baidu also brings the opportunity of paid advert links and banner ads, both very effective ways of reaching a wider audience.
Social media is a necessity of life
As the most popular social media app across China, it is imperative that your company becomes familiar with the inner workings of Wechat. Wechat is fundamentally a social media app, which allows the user to chat to friends, post photos and make free calls, however, it allows so much more than that. Booking cinema tickets, taxis, flights, topping up mobile phone credit, paying bills and even paying in store through Wechat pay are all possible.
Many local and foreign companies already successful in China have official accounts on Wechat. An official account acts like a mini site, or an E store. You can personalise it to reflect the vibe of your brand, so an eye catching, professional looking account is key.
An official account also allows the user to shop. Shopping in this way is becoming increasingly popular with the Chinese, as it is so quick and straightforward with payment being taken straight from your Wechat wallet. Many companies now also offer customer service through Wechat. Again, this is highly advisable as this is a service many Chinese consumers will now look for as it is quick and direct.
Weibo is another popular social media app used across China. Think of Weibo as ‘the Twitter of China’. Weibo is an open network site so users can see posts from anyone without being their friend or following them. Similar to Twitter, Weibo can be an excellent way to market your company by sharing the latest updates, offers, promotions etc. Your followers can also start to share your content helping your company’s reputation spread by word of mouth.
Key Opinion Leaders
Weibo is also very popular for influencers, or key opinion leaders. These are users who have built a large following and who have essentially become ‘cyber celebrities’. They can be very influential to their fans. Many companies will enlist their help by having them help promote or represent their brand to their followers. They can allow you tap into their large and impressionable followings, for the right price..
Brand yourself as ‘international’
One of the perks of being an international company is that many Chinese citizens will instantly think positively of international companies as they tend to associate foreign brands with high quality. This helps you stand out from the crowd in a market place often linked with low quality fakes. If you can understand the Chinese market and how it works, the rewards of bringing your brand to China could be huge.
The key ‘steps to success’
Growing your visibility and reputation is key.
- A quality Chinese website hosted on a Chinese server that is optimized for Baidu searches with quality content in Mandarin Chinese.
- Search Engine Optimization on Baidu, increasing the ranking of the site in the natural search results is key.. The highest quality traffic comes from the organic results.
- Paid ad links/banners can also compliment SEO activity. Ad links will place your site at the top of the search results, important for market entry.
- Social Media is key, consider WeChat and Weibo marketing strategies to share content and grow your following online, this can directly lead to sales.
- Your E-reputation in forums is very important, users turn to these platforms for advice and recommendations, you need to be visible and create positive conversations.
Form Connections with a Reputable Chinese Marketing Agency
China’s marketing and shopping platforms are ever growing and ever changing. In order to stay up to date with these changes it is advisable to seek out a specialist marketing agency who can really help you understand these platforms, the market, and the developing shopping habits of Chinese consumers as they are so different to those of the Western world.
They can help you by writing high quality Mandarin content which can then be shared on various Chinese blog sites, creating a Chinese friendly website, E store, Wechat account etc.
It is important to understand your consumers and in doing so realising that what works for a Western audience, may not be so appealing to a Chinese audience.
An expert who knows how to adapt your brand so it stays true to itself, whilst appealing more to the Chinese market and shoppers tastes could really be invaluable in helping you achieve success.
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