Elderly care is a giant market in China. The number of elderly residents is progressively growing and thus the demand for a nursing home is rising high in this country. This article is going to give you an overview of the opportunities and challenges faced by the industry as well as how digital marketing can sell your service to millions of Chinese who are looking for a trustful place to send off their retired parents.
An aging population
- China faces severe problems in terms of its growing aging population. By last year, China’s so-called baby-boomers – those older than 60 – had grown to 254 million or 18 percent of the population.
- In Beijing alone, one of the richest yet rapidly aging regions in the country, some 3.71 million people, or 17.2 percent of the population was over the age of 60 at the end of 2019.
- The number of Chinese over the age of 60 is expected to rise to one in three or more than 487m in 2050.
- The country also had 42,7 million disabled elderly people in 2019, a number set to double by 2050.
Huge potential for retirement facilities
China now has 28.000 registered nursing institutes for the elderly and more than seven million elderly home beds, reports Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.
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By September of 2017, there were more than 12.500 private nursing homes in China, up 7.8 percent from the same period in 2016, while the number of community service facilities for the elderly reached 38.000.
The ratio of nursing beds designed for those incapable of taking care of themselves rose from less than 30 percent in 2015 to 46.4 percent.
China’s Huge Market for Senior Care
Despite the opportunities offered by the rapidly aging population, the care sector is yet to take off. Entrenched Confucian culture has for centuries fostered the thinking that looking after your old parents was simply the responsibility of everyone, a rule much needed to pay back your parents, whereas sending them off to such facilities which specialize in looking after aged people was a violation of their dignity. For many years, this has prevented the growth of these types of facilities, which are commonplace in many western societies.
However, the modern and busy life doesn’t allow many families to take care of their parents in such a way, so the demand for institutional care is on the rise.
Some well-off pensioners are more than willing to pay a premium to live comfortably in residencies designed exclusively for them, rather than live with their children to avoid resentment and blaming them for not taking care of them.
The actual long waiting lists of some institutions show that the existing supply is far from enough to satisfy the needs of millions of seniors waiting to get into retirement homes.
Still largely untapped, the market has massive potential across China, and is quietly changing how this huge country is caring for its senior citizens.
- Newly trained nurses are in demand.
Business owners in the care industry face the challenge of finding qualified registered nurses and home health aides. As the number of home health care businesses increases, the demand for qualified employees is also high. Training of elderly caregivers and thus improving the quality of elderly care in China present a challenge for the nursing home market in China.
- What’s the best suitable model in China?
The different formats of elderly care are quite clear in Western countries: independent living assisted living and skilled nursing. As for China, the elderly care sector is still in pursuit of a profitable model for this market. According to a local Chinese nursing home report, two/third of elderly residents are handicapped and they need help. So, assisted living model in China might be applicable.
- Starting small or at a large scale?
Key players in the market are taking two approaches, either starting small with a potential expansion that only provides one type of service, or starting at a large scale with various services targeting different levels of need. Launching small allows the owner/operator to test out their operation in the beginning stage. Large-scale development has a very large upfront investment, but the remuneration is higher because of the economies of scale.
- The governmental subsidy is necessary
Despite the high occupancy, operators of many senior care facilities struggle with heavy upfront investment and rising labor costs. Meanwhile, pushing up the prices of the facilities is putting it beyond the reach of many ordinary pensioners. Therefore, the government should play a bigger role and could, at least, reduce or omit the land cost for senior care facilities.
DIGITAL MARKETING: THE KEY TO ESTABLISH YOUR NAME IN NURSING HOME MARKET IN CHINA
The incredibly high level of Internet penetration in China is influencing and governing every aspect of life. Especially, for this kind of service like nursing care, there is a high chance that the decision-makers are the elderly’s children – meaning millennials. Considering Chinese millennials’ super-connected lifestyle, digital marketing would be your focus to expand brand awareness and trust in their minds and hearts.
The senior generation is more and more interested in new technology too. So, a good digital marketing strategy must target both Millennials and baby boomers.
What are the most used digital platforms for elderly people?
Baby boomers prefer to use apps to communicate, instant messaging apps like WeChat and QQ. Also, they use technology to get information and, recently, demonstrate to be able to do shopping online. Taobao, JD, and Pinduoduo are their preferred eCommerce platforms.
1- YOU NEED A WEBSITE IN CHINESE/A MOBILE APP LOCALIZED FOR CHINA
The very first step for brands to be in China is to have a Chinese Website (In Simplified Chinese). Everyone checks Official Websites for information about products and services before any purchase. Information including prices from the brand website would be more trustworthy than from any other third-party sources.
A well-organized and professionally designed website is also very important for the first impression.
Regardless of B2C or B2B services, websites are the hub for quality content and thoughtful information. Especially when it comes to the health industry, content is an even more important factor in consumers’ decision to get in contact with you or not.
The Chinese language makes it easier for Chinese customers to understand your message. A website in the Chinese language also shows your investment and commitment to Chinese customers and is decisive in your ranking on Baidu’s SERPs.
Western brands can integrate some international touch on the website to enforce their global position and standards of their brands. However, the localization of the website in terms of structure, language, style, contents… is still needed to adapt to Chinese surfing and reading behaviors. At the end of the day, the main purpose of a website is to transfer brands’ messages to consumers.
Besides, having a Mobile Application is a good strategy considering that more than 90 percent of China’s Internet users are accessing the Internet via mobile. Many Companies use apps with different functionalities to increase engagement with their clients.
2- VISIBILITY & AWARENESS ON SEARCH ENGINE OPENS DOOR TO REACH NEW, TARGETED CLIENTS
Search Engine is one of the most effective places to increase your presence to customers in need since people lookup online for medical services.
In China, as you may already know, Baidu is the no.1 search engine platform with more than 60 percent of the market share.
On Baidu, you can either focus on SEO or SEM or combine the two.
- SEO can generate quality traffic at a low cost; however, it requires a lot of time and a constantly optimized strategy requiring not only an understanding of the market, local searching behaviors, and mindset but also technical features of the platform itself.
- SEM is the Pay Per Click advertising. It is usually quite expensive and not allowed for Foreign Companies without a Chinese business License.
Additionally, Baidu of China has unique features and algorithms from Google which you are not familiar with. To save time, effort, and money, you should get help from professional services to achieve top ranking positions on Baidu search in the shortest time and at the lowest cost.
Read also Advanced Marketing Strategies in China
3- SOCIAL MEDIA IS THE PLACE FOR CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT AND SERVICE
Relationships are core to business development, you know that. In China, due to people’s addiction to social media and intensive mobile usage, social media is the place to reach out and establish as well as enhance customer relationships.
Wechat: the New Way to Connect for Seniors
It is the most used app in China for seniors. Wechat is a social media where networks of friends get to socialize and communicate. Besides, WeChat can also perform a variety of functions such as online payment, online shopping, booking movie tickets, other daily activities…
WeChat has about 1.2 billion monthly active users with the average user spending around 4.5 hours per day.
Senior are spending also a lot of time on WeChat.
Businesses evidently have to develop a strong presence on the Number one Chinese APP.
How to maximize your WeChat marketing?
- Create a WeChat Account
- Create good content, a mix between the company’s news and blogs which provide useful information but not directly about sales
- Create and manage WeChat Groups
- Promote this content via Wechat groups, influencers, or Wechat advertising.
- Conduct customer service via WeChat’s instant messaging function or mini-programs
- Develop creative campaigns to push engagement or deals by mini-programs
Weibo is the second most used social media platform in China. Similar to Twitter and Facebook, Weibo allows brand communication with short messages, pictures, videos, and live streaming. Weibo is a very open network that enables viral content and a massive reach of Chinese customers.
You have a few seniors on Weibo, but you can target them via Native Ads… like Facebook ads manager. You can also reach Seniors’ Kids… that are taking care of their parents;
How to maximize your Weibo marketing?
- Create a Weibo official channel
- Create quality posts (attractive and useful content)
- Distribute this content on Weibo via advertising or KOLs. Particularly, KOL marketing is a powerful channel to popularize your content on Weibo (more about KOL marketing later).
- Manage your community: reply to questions, interact with your followers, solve their complaints and manage your relationships with other Weibo accounts.
4- PUBLIC RELATIONS: REINFORCE YOUR CREDIBILITY
Old Generation in China read the news. It is a habit for most of them.
Corporate news from Chinese publishers brings trust and credibility to brands. Since information is tightly controlled and curated by the Chinese Government, Chinese people trust the quality of those institutions featured on prestigious Health News & e-Magazines.
Online PR can be used to raise awareness and attract potential clients, and then these clients will continue to be nurtured on social media. In another case, e-PR can help reassure customers on the credibility of brands one last time before they actually decide to purchase.
Here are the most popular news portals in China:
- Sohu health
- Health 360,
5- INFLUENCER MARKETING
In China, like everywhere in this world, Influencers (or KOL key opinion Leaders) can be a great help to expand the reach. KOLs in the hospital industry can be well-known experts, doctors, practitioners, or hospitals who regularly share industry updates, product reviews, and insight as well as product recommendations. As you may know about the “guanxi” concept in China, relationships and endorsement from these KOLs would help remove trust barriers and open the gateway for your brands in China.
Choose an influencer followed by Senior
Andy Lau: famous Hong Kong Actor.
Teresa Teng 邓丽君
How to create influencer campaigns?
- Identify the Top Influencers
- Identify ways to cooperate (can be long articles, promotion posts, or events…)
- Identify key platforms (can be Toutiao, Zhihu, or Weibo…)
- Execute, measurement and reports
- Reuse their testimonials in your Social Media strategy, PR, and on your Website.
6 – USE Q&A ON RELATED FORUMS
Chinese people turn to forums for answers to their concerns. They are also enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge and experience with others. Therefore, Q&A platforms are gaining traction in China and cover diverse topics and areas. There are several popular Q&A platforms such as Zhihu, Baidu Zhidao, and Baidu Tieba.
There are many ways in which brands can engage with customers on these platforms:
• answer questions related to their industry to gain potential clients
• raise questions and hear opinions from customers for new insights
• perform content marketing with KOLs on these platforms
• use display ads to raise awareness to targeted customers
Keep in mind that millions of people get on these platforms for information and knowledge first, not for purchases. These platforms also have strict regulations in terms of posting and engagement to ensure user experience. Therefore, brands need to be very strategic and sensible in order to maximize the opportunities without jeopardizing brand image.
OUR CASE STUDY RELATED TO HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY
In 2021, the second favorite category elderly people love to purchase on eCommerce platforms is the “health supplement”.
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