China’s rapid digitalization has greatly impacted people’s lives in various ways. It has not only changed how people communicate, do shopping, make transactions, or even date – it has also changed how they learn. University students, housewives, retirees, employees of small and large companies, freelancers…- millions of people nowadays turn to online courses to increase or refine their skills. On the other side, there are teachers, professors, freelancers or simply experts on particular topics and sectors who decide to make their knowledge available by putting them at the service of potentially interested buyers. The increasing popularity of online classes is bringing about major changes in China’s education system and great opportunities for online education businesses. This article provides brief information about the booming business of e-learning in China and suggests marketing strategies for interested brands in this prolific yet increasingly competitive sector.
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E-LEARNING AND ONLINE EDUCATION MARKET EXPLODING IN CHINA
Online education is one of the fastest expanding industries in China. The country could become one of the world’s most vibrant online education markets in the future thanks to growing household spending power, an undersupply of education resources and the introduction of the two-child policy. The market is likely to grow 20 percent annually, reaching 313.4 bn Yuan in 2019, up from 156 billion Yuan in 2016 and 122.5 bn Yuan in 2015 – statistics from iResearch and Decebo showed. This trend is expected to continue into the future, expecting to exceed 543.4 bn Yuan by 2022.
GROWING INTEREST AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR ONLINE EDUCATION COMPANIES
Chinese culture very much stresses the importance of education in building economic opportunity. With increasing levels of income, a growing number of Chinese consumers are willing to invest in education in general. As a cost-effective, convenient way to connect with knowledge, it’s easy to see why online education has become so popular. From a macro perspective, the Chinese Ministry of Education has increased financial investment in educational technology on all levels including MOOCs, AI, and multimedia educational technologies. Still, despite the rapid development of major Chinese cities, there is still a gap between tier-1 cities and their tier-2 and tier-3 counterparts. For parents and students who are not able to access high-quality educational resources in-person, online platforms help them overcome these distance barriers.
Despite all the buzz and heat, the popularity of online education in China is nowhere near its peak yet. Less than 30% of Chinese netizens currently use online education, and 42% of them are allegedly planning to pay for online education now or in the future. Moreover, Chinese parents currently pay for fewer extra classes than their neighbors in Asia, leaving also a huge room for growth. The UBS report pointed out that about 37 percent of Chinese parents paid for tuition compared with 70 percent in places such as Japan and South Korea. All of these pose attractive opportunities for online education companies who attempt to conquer this huge market. Even if your companies focus on traditional offline courses, it’s no less important to set up and maintain a prominent presence in the digital world where customers “live”, interact, search and buy services or products.
HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR ONLINE EDUCATION BUSINESS?
1. Establish quality and beautiful website
A quality mandarin version of your website is necessary. Have a mandarin website allows you to optimize your SEO for search engines. For a better SEO and a faster loading, your website also needs to be hosted on a local server in China (.cn). The site also needs to be optimized for mandarin character searches and should include QR links to your WeChat page. All sites in China need to be optimized for mobile as the vast majority of online users browse on their smartphones, there are now 550 million smartphones in China. Mobile content can also be optimized for WeChat China’s largest social network. Most importantly, the content of the web page in Mandarin is necessary for the viewers are approximately Chinese who are accustomed to reading Mandarin.
2. Students care about reputation
China now boasts a 65% online penetration rate with some 900 million netizens online. Chinese society has embraced digital and the web with a fervor rarely found anywhere else. Users are spending on average 3 hours per day browsing online and will research extensively for abroad education opportunities. Thus the e-reputation online of your education business is one of the initial factors to contemplate. The good e-reputation will bring the clients in a row without too much effort.
3. Work on SEO ranking
As mentioned above, e-reputation is the key to success for your business at this age of the Internet. SEO will help you with better reputation because almost everyone in China will search for some related information on the search engine first. Working on SEO is quite effective. China’s Google is Baidu, a giant that presides over 75% of the search engine market. It is thus vital to increase the ranking of your school on this platform. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that works to rank a school’s official website in the natural search results over time. This is where the highest quality student prospects are found. Parents (often the decision makers) will extensively browse through Baidu results based on keyword searches.
GMA worked with Wellington International College Shanghai to establish a strong SEO Campaign.
In Fact, Founded in 1853, the college represents a living memorial to the Duke of Wellington, sought to deliver an inspirational education for all of its pupils. Actually, Wellington is on the 1st page with some keywords.
4. Grow followers and trust in social media
It is important to know, Chinese students and young people are addicted to social media, so it is easier to promote your school via sorts of social media platforms such as WeChat, Weibo. There are over 850 million users on WeChat and over 300 million on Weibo.
Here is a list of the most used apps by the Chinese population, followed by their functions when it comes to business.
WeChat is increasingly used for work purposes. Over 57.2% of WeChat users (who were interviewed by Penguin Intelligence) said most of their new WeChat contacts are work-related. Over 80% of them have used WeChat for work-related matters, including meetings, transferring money, receiving/sending documents and liaising with colleagues.
WeChat for business
- WeChat Official Accounts
Set up a WeChat official account to connect with your target customers with engaging content and information to build customer loyalty.
You can set up an e-commerce store and integrate it with your WeChat official account to display your products or services and process payments.
- Instant Messaging
Some small businesses don’t have an official WeChat account. For small businesses, like for who run online courses, it’s essential to use instant messaging to communicate with their Chinese clients.
Businesses can place adverts in WeChat moments or at the bottom of WeChat articles.
Weibo is a microblogging platform founded in 2009 by Sina. Weibo is well-known outside of China because of its similarity with Twitter. As of June 2017, Weibo actually has more monthly active users than Twitter. However, the road for Weibo was not all smooth and successful because of fierce competition from other platforms. In Dec 2013, Weibo only had 129 million monthly active users. In an attempt to regain its relevance, it integrated short video and live streaming functions to boost user numbers. It also formed a strategic partnership with Alibaba to explore social commerce and marketing solutions, and to facilitate interaction between merchants on Alibaba’s platforms and Weibo users.
Weibo for business
- Set up a Weibo enterprise account to connect with your followers with engaging and interactive contents.
- Download Page apps on Weibo’s platform to carry out marketing and promotion activities, payment processing and ad campaigns.
- Use banners on top of your Weibo page to redirect users to your official website or e-commerce partners.
- Advertising: Social Display Ads to redirect users to an advertiser’s Weibo page, Promoted Feeds, Promoted Accounts, and Promoted Trends.
QQ is like WeChat’s elder brother. It has been widely used in China since 1999, 12 years before WeChat was founded. QQ is very popular among young users aged 21 years or below. To avoid using the same social media tool, i.e. WeChat, as their parents. Some young users have both WeChat and QQ, but they usually choose to share their updates, photos, and videos on QQ only.
QQ for business
- Compared to WeChat, QQ is not as well-known outside of China. However, it’s important not to ignore the potential of QQ’s huge user base
- Since QQ is more popular among students and young users who might not have very strong purchasing power, it’s a more suitable marketing channel for businesses that target students, such as an online course in education market or even the makeup sector.
- QQ can be used to keep track of the public opinion towards your business. Posts by users, chat rooms and forums are all useful places to look for feedback.
5. Forums can be useful
Like all kinds of social media, forums are the perfect place to promote your business and communicate with others further. Educational forums are popular in China, people will visit research education options and discuss with others, the Chinese still have this more collective mindset, they need to validate their choices with other like-minded prospects. In addition, they trust more the advice of their peers than the schools. The best forums for education are Baidu Tieba, Zhozhui, and QQ.
6. Education influencers will give you a hand
Normally, Chinese people will trust a popular or famous influencer more than anyone else and it is a good way to convert an education influencer to the client. Recruiting an influencer to represent your institution from a prestigious academic background in China is expensive but allows you to tap into a large base of followers. Key Opinion Leaders are more effective in China because users tend to be more impressionable, they highly value the status of such individuals.
Gentlemen Marketing Agency is specialized in digital marketing in the Chinese market. Do not hesitate to contact us if you want to discuss any projects in China.