In this article, we would brief about Chinese outbound medical tourism market as well as discuss the marketing strategies for an international medical tourism agency to better target Chinese patients.
Chinese wealthy, especially in recent years, are leaving their homes looking for better medical treatment abroad. There has been a growing demand for ‘agents’ acting as middlemen who help connect these people to the right doctors/services/hospitals in foreign lands and manage the whole process from beginning to completion.
CHINA’S ILL AND WEALTHY LOOK ABROAD FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT
According to a Daxue Consulting study, at the end of 2016, around half a million Chinese citizens have left their country to seek a better medical experience overseas. This trend is set to continue with the projected figure to surpass 800,000 in 2020, growing at 31% annually since 2012.
The rapid rise is driven by medical and lifestyle problems associated with an ageing population, as well as a rising number of affluent Chinese who are willing to invest in the best medical services overseas. Meanwhile, the healthcare system in China is already being overburdened, certain medical services may not be available at all or a particular treatment is offered in limited hospitals found in highly developed countries only.
The size of this market is also worth mentioning. It comprises the treatments expenditures, around $6.3 billion, and travel plus accommodation expenditures, around $3.4 billion. Therefore, in 2015, the outbound Chinese medical tourism worth a $9.7 billion business, with an average expenditure per capita of 50,000 RMB ($7,200).
South China Morning Post listed the US and Europe as top countries favoured by the super-wealthy, while Singapore, Thailand and South Korea are preferred by middle-class Chinese.
Guo Shushi, a Chinese citizen who sought medical treatment in the United States for cancer, at an apartment in Boston, where he has been staying during his treatment.
THE MARKET STILL HAS HUGE GROWTH POTENTIALS
China is the second largest economy in the world, and it has experienced in the last 30 years an unprecedented fast economic growth. All the basic needs have been satisfied, such as owning a house and a car, having enough food every day, etc., and now they are shifting their interests to more advanced needs including healthcare and well-being improvement.
The Chinese medical tourism is already a big market, and it is growing fast but it has just represented less than the 1.8 percent of the total $551 billion spent globally on medical tourism in 2015.
There are three fundamental ongoing trends that will drive Chinese medical tourism in the coming years:
- the increase of high-net-worth individuals
- the ageing of the Chinese population
- the continuous increase in health and fitness awareness.
In 2015, 30,500 Chinese were classified as millionaires (worth 10 million RMB and more), that is a fourfold increase from 7,090 in 2005, and they are expected to grow to 53,380 by 2025.
Meanwhile, by 2020, China’s rapidly ageing population is projected to reach 240 million people.
People queue up at a public hospital in China
HOW TO MARKET YOUR MEDICAL TOURISM AGENCIES AND COMPETE WITH LOCAL COMPETITORS
First thing first, have a trustful-looking website
For any company looking to target Chinese customers, the first and perhaps the most important step is to build a useful website tailored to suit the needs of Chinese customers. Chinese consumers spend more than 40% of their daily life on Internet and these Internet users trust Chinese websites more than English websites
Building a website for Chinese customers is not about translating your English website into the Chinese language and then using a .cn domain to feature it. Since Chinese customers are quite different from those in other countries, your Chinese website needs to reflect unique differences in combination with your brand’s “international” identity if you want your brand to be outstanding from local competitors.
- Use a Local Domain Name Extension
- Host your Website on a Chinese Server
- Optimize for Chinese Search Engines (we’ll talk about it later)
- Match the Language to Your Target Market
- Localize Your Content and Style
- Digitalize Your Website to be Responsive and Mobile-Friendly
- Offer Payment Options Available in China
In an industry so plagued by scandals, a well-done, clean, and clear website is instrumental. More sophisticated websites can even offer online consultations or appointment scheduling through web-chat or WeChat.
Without Search Engine Optimization, your website is useless!
Search Engine Strategy is vital in China. With numerous service providers, Chinese customers turn to Baidu as the first step to learn about potential solutions.
30% OF THE TOTAL SEARCH ON BAIDU IS RELATED TO MEDICAL KEYWORDS
Therefore, your agencies need to be visible on Baidu search engine, meaning ranking top positions within the first 2-3 pages for relevant keywords.
SEO for medical tourism requires a unique approach. It’s a mixture of short, mid and long term keywords as well as non-competitive, fairly-competitive and very-competitive keywords, which would yield results in the short, mid and long term.
Important to know that Ads on Baidu are very limited for healthcare related keywords due to its several scandals promoting fake medical companies.
Baidu also offers a wide range of other services besides web searches such as image search, forums or Q&A service. Understand Baidu’s ecosystem of products and services as well as how to utilize them would give you a huge advantage in terms of traffic and trust.
Expand your awareness and boost customer engagement through social media
In China, there are around 900 million Internet users and 91% of them have a social media account. Every day, Chinese netizens spend an average of 46 minutes on social media platforms. Chinese Internet users follow an average of eight brands and over 38% of them make purchases based on recommendations they read on social media platforms.
Social media in China is not mainly for entertainment like those in the West. Social media in China is a part of life, not even an option.
Wechat is the most popular social media in China with 1+ billion registered accounts. WeChat was originally a messaging app, but in a few years, the app has developed an ecosystem within itself. Users can use Wechat for messaging, sharing photos and content through a Facebook-style Timeline called Moments as well as other daily activities such as playing games, transferring funds, buying movie tickets, online shopping…
As of September 2017, there were 3.5 million active official accounts on WeChat. With so many accounts all competing for attention, WeChat marketers have to work harder to have more different and innovative marketing initiatives.
It’s not enough anymore just to have an official account and publish a few interesting articles. Brands, even for medical tourism agencies, can create interactive experiences and functions such as booking, payment and customer service all delivered through WeChat.
WeChat mini-programs are one of the most important WeChat’s tools, and they’re particularly well suited to medical travel brands, helping to further guide and support Chinese tourists while they are in a destination. They can be used to recommend local services, as well as provide helpful information with interactive maps, weather forecasts, event calendars and more.
It should be explained that Weibo, which means microblog in Chinese, is a mixture of Facebook and Twitter. As opposed to WeChat, Weibo is a more open and public platform. This openness makes the potential for exposure and outreach greater than on WeChat. Thus, marketing campaigns with the participation of influencers have the ability to go viral and increase brand awareness significantly.
In addition, Weibo is also a tool to gather information about Chinese customers’ opinions, concerns, questions, reviews… about medical tourism as well as spot the trends in the industry.
Weibo does not have as many users as WeChat does. However, there are 170 million users every day, which is a substantial figure. These users are accustomed to using comment sections as a tool for social interaction. Because of this, Weibo provides a grand platform for communication with customers.
Working With China’s leading platform for the healthcare sector – Ping An Good Doctor 平安好医生
Launched in 2015, the Good Doctor app provides free diagnosis, treatment and online appointment booking. It allows users to communicate with health care professionals through text, photos, and video. The app also has a microblog-style discussion forum on health-related topics. There is an online store that sells medications, health care products, cosmetics, and gift vouchers for medical services.
The company has 180 million registered users, the largest online medical service platform in China.
Simply being listed on this platform can convince Chinese patients that you are a well-established and trustworthy agency. They also provide in-app advertising, enabling service providers to reach a more targeted audience.
For businesses operating both inside and outside China, this is surely a platform you want to keep an eye on if you hope to target Chinese patients.
Reinforced your brand credibility through influencer marketing
Influencers in the medical field can be doctors, nutrition experts, fitness bloggers … Thanks to their expert knowledge and experiences, these people are able to produce in-depth advice, product review or comparison about different medical services. They have a huge following on social media and are greatly trusted by Chinese consumers.
Your agencies can work with these KOLs to provide followers with useful information about your brand and expertise or organize reward-oriented campaigns to increase engagement. Make medical tourism more interesting and accessible! Right now we can see that medical tourism agencies are still quite passive and rigid in their approaches towards digital marketing in China.
Here are some most influential KOLs for the health industry in China:
营养师顾中一 is a health KOL, owning over 2,740,000 followers. As a nutritionist, he focuses on providing information about food and nutrition.
With over 1,930,000 followers, 健康时报 is more like a mix and match. The information it provides covers a wide range of content. It aims to induce people to get to know more about the importance of a healthy body.
全球健身指南 has over 1,380,000 followers on Weibo. It constantly introduces the latest information relating to health and fitness.
OUR CASE STUDIES WITH MEDICAL CLIENTS
Case 1: ilayla
ilaya was founded in 2011 to help couples realize their dream of becoming parents. During these years, Ilaya has gained an excellent reputation, and their services have been highly valued by thousands of customers from all over the world. ilaya’s specialty is in innovative medical technologies, and the aim is to eradicate disease with minimal intervention within the body, which results in significant reductions in patient recovery time.
GMA was contacted by Ilaya, for helping them to get more visibility in China
- SEO on Baidu
INNOVATIVE MARKETING STRATEGY FOR YOUR AGENCIES
- We also provide innovative Solution or Top advance strategy to our clients.
- You are a Medical tourism Company that want to Enter the Chinese Market?
- You are already in China but want to boost your Business?
WE ARE AN EXPERIENCED AGENCY IN HEALTH, HEALTHCARE & PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS, AND MEDICAL SOLUTION
You can book a Meeting with our Consultants to have a better overview and how we can help you to Develop your Marketing in China.