The Chinese market is undeniably lucrative for savvy businesses looking to expand their operations. However, It can be notoriously difficult to break into for market entrants, or even for a business that needs to re-adapt due to changing market & consumer demands. As one of China’s largest digital marketing companies, we have helped scores of businesses grow in China with intelligent strategy & flexibility at the forefront of their success.
Here are our 20 Best Tips for Cracking & Enter the Chinese Market:
1. Targeted Visibility & Reputation
You need to engage in establishing a positive reputation as well as increasing the visibility of your brand, business, or product/service. This needs to be in front of the most applicable, target demographic for your business proposition. The key is to be focused and develop your status on the platforms & sources where your target is most active.
2. Online Media & Mobile Marketing Dominates
In China online really dominates. Traditional media and offline marketing are dying the world over. China really embraced the digital revolution and now has the largest internet penetration rate for a developing nation globally, at a whopping 65%. There are also 550 million smartphones in China.
As China’s online infrastructure continually improves with better connectivity so does the role of a comprehensive digital mobile marketing strategy that really works.
3. Chinese Consumer Behaviour is Digital
Consumers engage typically through digital platforms. They spend on average 1.5 hours per day browsing the web research extensively online for information, this is not a nation of incredibly engaged consumers with a wealth of information at their fingertips, you need to be targeting this and putting positive content in front of them your prospects.
4. A Fast Paced market – Remain Flexible & Open-Minded
Business needs to have an open mind when it approaches the Chinese market. It’s incredibly fast-paced and ever-changing. New rules, policies & regulations are brought in or shifted on an almost weekly basis. It’s just the nature of the beast and should not dissuade companies from acting but you need to remain flexible, ideas and concepts may need to change to target local consumers and it is vital to tailor your offering.
5. Chinese local platforms dominate
The big western players we know (and debatably love) are blocked in China. No Facebook, rather WeChat. Youtube, forget it there’s Youku, No Google, Instead Baidu, and over Twitter there is Weibo. Amazon, no chance, in China Tmall & Taobao.
This whole new set of platforms has to be approached in a Chinese-specific way in terms of Mandarin communications, content, and engagement.
6. Leverage Local Platforms
These local platforms were developed to cater uniquely to the Chinese consumer, they do provide a powerful infrastructure for tapping into very active communities. It’s important to understand how relevant communities and consumers behave on Chinese platforms to influence your decision on market positioning.
7. The Chinese Consumers Buy Brands
The Chinese are obsessed with branding, they don’t buy products, they buy brands. This is a society fixated on the notion of ‘face’, that is how you are perceived by your peers. The most typical way of expressing ‘face’ is through what you purchase, in a consumer-led society you need to tap into this relatively newfound desire for individual expression when it comes to branding.
A big plus is that ‘international’ products are often a byword for quality in China, this is a market often associated with fakes so carving your niche as a quality foreign brand can certainly pay dividends in the long run.
8. Increase Your Visibility on Baidu (China’s Google)
Like Google, Baidu has a huge reach in China with 75% of all online research carried out here. It really is a portal to China. Businesses need to be visible with a quality site, landing page, content & third-party references appearing on the search based on Mandarin Character Keywords. A combination of Pay Per Click Ads & SEO to rank in the search engine results can deliver a lot of quality traffic.
Websites need to be built as ‘vehicles for visibility on Baidu (bank-end optimization) with the right keywords optimized in your content as well as titles & descriptions. Selecting the best keywords is about analyzing search data to ascertain the highest traffic for the best keyword price, a must when it comes to competitive keywords.
9. Chinese Forums are Important
It’s worth mentioning early the importance of Forums, whilst outdated in many parts of the world the Chinese are still highly active & engaged in community threads about many topics. They discuss, share information, leave reviews and offer recommendations. Developing a positive reputation on sites such as Tieba, Zhidao & Zhihu (Q&A Forums) is really important.
Baidu TIeba focuses on a ‘top-ranking system where content is upvoted (akin to Reddit) whilst Zhidao & Zhihu are more traditional Q & A forums.
The other important point about forum Visibility is that it helps your visibility on search engines such as Baidu, forums rank highly in search results so relevant content needs to be closely monitored and any potentially negative comments removed.
10. Focus on ROI (Return on Investment)
Return on Investment should always be a number one priority when entering China, it’s a large-scale market so test your concept first with a quality budget that can achieve results. Digital in China offers the best ROI, simply because you have the greatest exposure at the most cost-effective price. Validate your concept with proven results by following a stepping stone approach to building your business.
11. You Have to Act Fast in China
Competition in this lucrative market is growing, acting fast, and entering the market is key. The pace of change and implementation is typically far quicker than in the west, remember this is China in its boom period. Making an impression, monopolizing your presence on the best Chinese keywords, and notching sales on the board is the only way to set up the necessary feedback loop for business improvement. In short, just do it!
12. Forget About Your Previous Reputation
In China, you have to start from scratch. The vast majority of internet research (over 97.5%) is conducted in Mandarin Chinese Characters. English content, positive reviews, and most western media platforms will not be visible on the Chinese net.
Picture the Chinese web as a separate region of the net, cut off by the ‘Great Chinese Firewall’, it’s a unique ecosystem that requires a fresh approach for you to build your visibility & reputation on the right Chinese platforms to your target demographic.
13. WeChat is a Great Tool
WeChat is a great tool for Chinese market entry, it’s a strong Launchpad for quality content with its 877 million active daily users. It’s China’s number one social platform so having a presence here and engaging with your target is very important. You can create an official account for communications, build a following and push notifications to followers. It also allows for ease of payment via their Wallet service as well as a host of other functions from gaming, to e-commerce stores, location services, dating & even taxi-hailing. WeChat packs a punch for any new business in China.
The best piece of advice for WeChat is simply, to keep it social. This is a conversational platform and the Chinese expect (more so than we do in the west) to have personal interactions with brands on platforms such as WeChat, businesses are seen more as individuals so ensure you closely engage with users.
14. WeChat Stores are a Game Changer for Sales
WeChat stores are a brilliant tool for sales, they are ‘static’ stores that can be linked to your account for promotions. Built into the WeChat app they utilize the e-wallet service (akin to Apple Pay) for ease of payment and are also highly customizable.
It is a part of the growing phenomenon of ‘social commerce’ in China, that is linking e-retail with social communications in new, interesting & innovative ways.
High profile ‘flash sales’ by re-sellers such as ‘Mr. Bags’ (over 100 000 USD of Givenchy Bags sold in 10 minutes) have brought the WeChat store fame. It’s an effective tool and does not require a huge initial investment to set up & start driving qualified traffic which converts to sales.
- See also Guide to sell on Wechat
15. Utilize Weibo (China’s Twitter)
Weibo is China’s most open social network with users able to see posts from anyone. It is a microblogging service like Twitter. It was thought that it was on the edge of failure a number of years ago but with Alibaba’s backing, this nifty platform looks set to be a big player in ‘social commerce’ when it comes to supporting online sales via social media marketing efforts. A big trend to watch.
Many online influencers and celebrities are active on Weibo with its open news feed and active, engaged communities. Quality content is the bedrock of any social media campaign, with external links, images, and text ‘call to action’ a priority if you want to heighten Chinese consumer engagement.
16. Key Opinion Leaders & Influencers are Powerful
Key opinion leaders (KOLs) are established online figures that have gathered large followings around themselves. They are highly influential and can be recruited to represent a business or brand. Different KOLs allow you to tap into specific communities and demographics, providing quality targeted exposure.
The best approach for KOL is to use a number simultaneously on different platforms to post about the brand, this has an ‘echo chamber effect and supports the legitimacy of the brand if numerous figures are posting.
Ensure posts and comments by KOLs are closely monitored, merely posting is not enough, you need to fuel conversation and respond to queries. KOLs do not act as customer service representatives, you a simply using their service to reach their community and influence them via their reputation.
17. Conduct Quality Market Research
When entering a different business environment, it is important to research your competitor’s & rivals’ actions, what are they doing effectively, and in what areas do they lack. It also helps with finding your own positioning. Comparisons can be made to other international competition, local firms, success stories as well as examples of failure.
Conducting a market survey is a great way to understand your marketplace and how you can more effectively advertise your proposition.
18. It’s Not Just About the Biggest Players
There are a wealth of different platforms to market your business on depending on your product/service type & sector. It’s not just about gaining exposure on the largest platforms to drive sales, there are much smaller, niche sources that have highly engaged followings, remember with over 850 million Chinese now online there are always alternative corners of the net.
In terms of E-commerce Tmall & JD are the biggest names but are far more costly, other niche platforms to consider for e-retail include Little Red Book, Taobao Global, Hupu, or Mad Hatter.
For social media QQ also offers messenger services & emerging apps such as Nice or Meipai have become highly influential in terms of image and content-rich sharing.
19. The strategy should be Focused on Chinese Keywords
The best method is not to attract an audience to you, rather you go to them. There is a wealth of information available about Chinese consumers; from searching information, social media profiles, and data listings.
The way to generate the most qualified traffic is to focus on keywords, prospects are already seeking relevant information to your offering, you simply need to ensure you are highly visible to them, the more qualified the traffic is the better the conversion.
20. Finding a Trust Worthy Local Specialist
Navigating the Chinese market requires a quality guide. We at GMA are an international team of 25 marketers, copywriters, publishers, and ad experts. We work in a host of fields from branding, and ad strategy to lead generation. We seek to be our clients’ team on the ground in China and build long-term, serious relationships based on results and the achievement of clear KPIs.
A Marketing Agency to Enter the Chinese Market
Please contact our expert team at GMA for more information on Chinese marketing strategy and how it can help your business. We look forward to discussing your project.
a super good article. I really love it.
Any update for 2022?
any change ?
Why Western fashion brands fail in China?
It makes sense why it’s best to forget about your previous reputation. It’ll probably help to get advice from someone with experience working the in the Chinses market. That way, you might have better chances of avoiding making mistakes when you first enter the market.
Yes, it is always better to work first in China, to understand the market, and make your first Mistakes
hi benji, im lydia from malaysia.
We would like to seek an advice, that how can we market our brand in shenzhen / shanghai as we are part of a listed company that our product is more related to investment in equity.
Thank you and looking forward for your advice.
We will contact you Lydia, and provide your the information about The Chinese Market that you need to launch your Brand. 🙂