A good marketing campaign is often considered the key to success in China. However the marketing tools used in China can be very different to the tools used elsewhere in the world.
In this 3 part series we'll be covering industry secrets and best practices in digital marketing to help your business make a name for itself in China.
Part 1 - WeChat Marketing and Website Marketing
Part 2 - Email Marketing and Live Stream Marketing
Part 3 - Influencer Marketing and Baidu Marketing
China has 574 million active mobile internet users and 668 million internet users. Chinese spend around 50% of their total time on digital devices such as mobile phones and laptops surfing the internet. Given these incredible figures, the potential for digital marketing is huge and digital advertisement investments in China are expected to reach $48.51 billion in 2017 and is predicted to reach a further $57.24 billion in 2018.
Companies in all industries are realising the uncapped potential for digital communication to reach out to the masses and engage with them in new ways. While a similar phenomenon is taking place globally, what makes China stand out is its massive internet and tech savvy population who form a huge chunk of the digital market share.
The global trend for digital marketing is inching towards use of big data, indepth content creation, marketing automation and mobile marketing. Commonalities between China and the West’s digital marketing campaigns include the use of video and data visualization marketing tools and analytics. However in China, mobile and influencer marketing is expected to expand quickly. One such example of mobile marketing can be seen in the use of QR codes which are used extensively for commercial purposes such as following social accounts, downloading content and for online payments.
For foreign companies looking to capture a stake in the massive Chinese market, all these stats and developments seem daunting. However, this article is a 3 part article and will provide a lowdown on the 6 most effective digital marketing techniques to attract Chinese audiences. Additionally, this article will provide tips on how to utilise up-and-coming tools like live-streaming and influencers to market your product.
1. WeChat Marketing:
WeChat which was launched as a messaging platform, transformed into a network of varied functions, for personal as well as professional uses. Amongst its basic social networking features such as a news feed and messaging system, WeChat also has a digital wallet, gaming center, and options for businesses to promote themselves among others.
Given WeChat’s long list of different functions and promotional uses, WeChat should be any foreign company’s first point of contact and main weapon in a digital marketing campaign aimed at Chinese audiences.
Several international companies have tried their hand at WeChat marketing and have achieved success in the form of high user responses on this social media app “super-app”.
2. Website Marketing
First things first: to host a website a Chinese Internet Content Provider (ICP) license is necessary. These are issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. ICPs are only given to companies with an established Chinese legal entity such as a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise (WFOE) or a Joint Venture (JV).
After this step, it’s important to register a “.cn” domain name with the Chinese Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) which is authorized by the Ministry of Information Industry. This domain name also gives an impression to your potential customers that you have a brand presence in China.
Lastly, register with Baidu, China’s online search engine for visibility; because you’re losing business if your customers can’t find you.
Mobile over desktop websites: Mobile and desktop websites have always been a different experience for users, and startups are often torn over which to pursue. But if you’re looking to maximise your chinese audience engagement, desktop websites are an optional platform. Most websites in China use a phone number instead of an email ID, and for users their phone number is linked to their e-commerce accounts, digital wallets, social network accounts among others; so it makes sense that a mobile website would be your first priority.
The next hurdle to cross in your efforts to reach the masses is to create a user friendly mandarin-based website aimed at Chinese consumers. For multinational companies, accurate translations are essential as Chinese audiences rely on websites for accurate information. Chinese audiences also prefer websites that are culturally approriated with localised visuals and animation.
In desgning your Chinese-language website it’s also important to consider the role of space. In most Chinese websites, the font size is large as there is no space between Chinese characters. If you browse through some Chinese websites you’ll also notice that the homepage is full of text links which is a design pattern that became commonplace in the dial-up days. The internet speed has increased a lot since then, but the users are used to this. However, the trend is gradually shifting towards a more spacious looking website.
Other important website design features involve choosing the right colours and symbols which appeal to Chinese audiences. A good example of this is Pizza Hut’s Chinese website. While Pizza Hut US does not have a red color background despite red being its brand color, the Chinese website uses red as the background colour as red symbolizes good luck and happiness. As part of their Chinese New Year promotions, Pizza Hut also used a rooster symbol in accordance to the Chinese calendar.
Although Chinese websites are not as fancy as their English-language counterparts, they have more text and updates on promotions and offers. The visuals are also different to keep it localised and these visuals play a large part in attracting Chinese consumers.
For example, Coca Cola US’s website homepage has visuals and videos but the visuals are nothing compared to its Chinese counterpart. The Chinese website It is also way more text heavy than Coke’s US website, giving information and news on Coke’s water plan, bottling business, its place in the 2016 Rio Olympics among other details. All in all, Chinese websites like to overload their audience with information.
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