China is today the market towards which companies look, but in order to exploit the opportunities it is necessary to know how and where to reach the chosen target with our digital marketing services.
When we talk about China we must start from a premise: it is the country with the highest number of web users in the world. Of a total population of around 1.4 billion, 56% of them are connected to the Internet on a daily basis. This means that more than one in two Chinese surf, chat, watch streaming videos, spend time on social networks and buy online. And to do this, they use a smartphone. In China, 92% of internet usage takes place from a mobile device, so much so that smartphones have almost completely replaced PCs and are used 360 ° to perform all those actions that traditionally were done in front of the desktop.
It’s obvious that Chinese is a digitally very advanced population, reaching Chinese users is not easy. The most popular western platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram can not be used because they are blocked by the Great Firewall. Beyond the Great Wall there are a number of social networks and e-commerce platforms and local search-engines, which make China an ecosystem in its own right. For any company that wants to reach potential Chinese-speaking customers, they must therefore study specific digital marketing strategies for the Chinese market.
A company website is the first step to be present on the web, in China we must pay attention to a number of factors. Firstly, the site must be translated completely into Chinese, since the knowledge of English is not good among most people. Secondly, to ensure adequate opening times, servers must be rested on site. Third, it must be optimized for Baidu and not Google.
As anticipated, even with regard to social networks, the scenario in China changes. In place of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Chinese users essentially use WeChat and Weibo.
With over 1 billion active users, WeChat is the number 1 social network in China. Owned by the giant Tencent, it was born as a messaging platform, but over time it has incorporated more and more aggregate functions to the point of becoming an “all inclusive” App. Users can chat, make reservations (restaurants, taxis, flights, etc.), shop online and follow pages of interest to them. An increasingly popular tool for companies to promote themselves (currently more than 1.5 million are active). WeChat, in fact, allows you to open your own verified official page, a sort of mini-site, and to share contents and information with your followers. In addition, it allows you to send a weekly newsletter to keep them updated. WeChat is an excellent way to increase business reach and brand awareness, exploiting a one-to-one communication dynamics strengthened by word of mouth. One last use of WeChat is the Wallet that allows users to pay for products and services through a digital wallet connected to the credit card, without leaving the App.
The other very important social network in China is Sina Weibo . A mix between Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Weibo is one of the most used micro-blogging platforms by celebrities, companies and organizations wishing to establish direct communication with end consumers, taking advantage of the one-to-many channel logic. It counts 431 million users, of which 190 million are active daily. Weibo offers various services, including traditional social activities (post sharing, videos, images, external links), but also the creation of micro-blogs, instant messaging and the ability to follow trends, brands and KOL (Key Opinion Leader, Influencer). Because of these characteristics, Weibo is also a platform used to search for real-time information on brands, products or people.
Hand in hand with social networks, even the world of marketplaces in China is radically different from the one we are used to. With 61% of market share, the leader in the sector is Tmall (belonging to the Alibaba group), followed by JD.com (26%). Two giants that, together, cover more than 80% of B2C sales in China. But Tmall and JD.com are not the only platforms. There are a number of marketplaces less known in the West, but extremely important for specific sectors: Suning, VipLux, Gome, Dangdang, Jumei, Secoo. Each of these platforms has its own characteristics that differentiate it and make it attractive to certain businesses.
For example, Tmall is optimal if you have a popular product and the target is made up of millennials. JD.com is very strong for electronics and cosmetics products. On the other hand, VipLux and Secoo are e-commerce dedicated to fashion, which are distinguished among themselves also based on the target. While VipLux relies heavily on fashion products at affordable prices, Secoo caters to high spending consumers, with an average order of $500.
To understand how widespread the use of e-commerce is in China, just consider that the commercial calendar is particularly rich and there are some recurrences during which you reach staggering figures. One of these is definitely the 11/11, a date that coincides with the Single’s Day and that the Alibaba group has transformed into the Global Shopping Festival. That is a day of unbridled shopping, in which you can enjoy heavy discounts. This year, over 30 billion dollars were billed in just 24 hours. Much more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday put together.
In addition to 11/11, there are also other occasions that offer the excuse to take advantage of important online discounts. 5/10 is the day of patriotic shopping, in which the Chinese are encouraged to buy Made in China brands. 8/03 is Queen’s Day; 9/09 is Global Wine Festival etc. Up to now, the impact of these days has been such as to bring China to become the world’s first online market.
In such a context, where the digital landscape is very different from the Western one, the approach to the channels themselves must also be rethought. The content and form of communication must necessarily be designed specifically for China. First of all, the texts must go far beyond simple translation, referring to the values underlying the culture itself, profoundly different from the west. A speech especially valid for the naming of the brand and products. In Chinese they may be difficult to pronounce or, even worse, have a negative meaning. The story-telling is also important: the Chinese user is interested in the company’s history and the ideals it embodies, rather than the specific characteristics of the products. Even the aesthetic aspect should not be underestimated: Chinese users have a different artistic sensibility and prefer greater graphic liveliness and greater content richness. Without forgetting that colors and numbers have a precise meaning, often different from what we might think.
Today, China is a fundamental market for all companies that are interested in internationalization. But accessing hundreds of millions of potential customers is practically impossible if you do not use the right local tools and in the right way. To rethink in depth our marketing strategies and carefully evaluate the positioning of brands and products on the local market is only the first step to be taken, we’ll also need to implement a communication strategy that can bring sales results in line with the expected objectives.