23 December 2020

What should western companies know about digital marketing in China?

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Only a few years ago, selling in China was like a distant dream: just unreachable. However, today it represents a growing economic market that is full of potential for foreign companies. Given its large market size and economic growth, it is no wonder that many western businesses want to operate in China. It has the largest population in the world where the majority of them are from the middle class. Almost every one of them has internet access and is willing to pay good money for quality products.

So, it’s easy to implement successful western digital marketing strategies in this country, right?

Well, not quite!

These circumstances are indeed very favorable for the business to attract Chinese consumers. However, if a brand wants to reach this large market, it will not happen if it uses the same tactics that work in other countries. If you wish to sell in China, you need a different approach to adapt to a completely different online ecosystem.

Here are some key differences you need to know:

  • Popular western apps are banned. For example, the Chinese cannot use apps like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Instead, they use WeChat, QQ, Weibo etc. WeChat, for instance, currently has over 1 billion daily active users. Regardless of age, almost every single person uses it in different aspects of life. So if you want to reach your audience, you have to know how these popular applications work.

  • Engines and SEO. Google has the best search engine marketing in the world, right? Well, yes, but not in China. Baidu dominates this country, taking over an approximate 69% of the market for all platforms and 86% for mobile. In 2020, the American tech company occupies only 4%. Different engines have a diverse spectrum of techniques and trends you can use. If you want to succeed, you have to know how the algorithm for SEM and SEO works, if there are restraining ad policies, etc.

  • Multi-purposes apps. Chinese use the same apps for several purposes. Even though they function primarily as free messaging apps, they have other features incorporated for the user's convenience. The user can connect with friends and family while getting informed, searching for the weather, or even for payments. More than 87% of smartphone users use mobile payments for online and offline shopping.

  • Original content marketing. Most companies make the mistake of translating their successful western campaigns. The Chinese market needs content created specifically for them. Since tradition and culture are paramount, it is better to refer to their customs. If you want to turn your content viral, you should combine storytelling with entertainment. Chinese is a tonal language, so you could easily turn your campaign into something humorous. Also, performance metrics must be specific for this audience. You will have to track calls and live chat sessions since they are the most preferred way.

  • Influencers are much more important in China. Chinese users tend to comment and share almost everything they see online. That's why Word of Mouth (WoM) marketing should be at the center of your digital strategy. WoM is very important in terms of consumer decision-making. But if you want to achieve that, you have to use KOL( Key Opinions Leaders), otherwise known as influencers. They can increase your brand's visibility and help your content go viral.

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