The online education business is growing by 15% year-over-year in Mainland China. This is because of the huge emphasis on quality education in modern China. It is all part of the wider goal set by the government to shift from a manufacturing economy to a more service-based one. Education is a pillar in this nationwide shift. This makes it an important and prioritized market with sustained growth for investment opportunities.
Data from iiMedia Research estimates that the value of China’s online education market will reach more than 450-billion Yuan by the end of 2020, which is around $67 billion. Due to Covid-19, online education has obtained an unexpected opportunity to flourish while many industries have been affected. The downloads of online tutoring apps increased five to 30 times the numbers seen before the outbreak. Some online tutoring apps have leveraged this opportunity to attract students by offering free or low-cost classes, leading to a surge in online education user numbers and adoption rates. Chinese online training providers have all reported more than 20 million new users during the second half of February
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Overview of the Chinese Online education market
Let us take a look at the market. There are 883 million Chinese now online with a ‘middle class’ market of 400 million Chinese citizens. For that middle-class market, the top 10% can afford to send their children abroad for a highly prized international education. The rest still desire an international education from home.
With increasing internet connectivity rates, quality connections, and a tech-savvy population, online tutoring is poised to be a hugely profitable venture in Mainland China. This is especially true because the market barriers for entry are limiting the competition.
International education is highly valued by Chinese parents
Chinese firms may offer online services but quality International educational will always remain more highly valued. This is because in China there is a strong culture of fakery and copying. This is changing but some Chinese people still associate quality and prestige with international education services. This is the key factor to emphasize in your Chinese marketing, and you will have to explain how you can provide this quality service.
Better infrastructure to reach all the Chinese students
Online tutoring is popular as a ‘top-up’ for subjects. Native English Tutoring remains particularly sought after English has become compulsory in all schools nationwide.
A foreign teacher in the cosmopolitan cities of Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou often provides one-to-one or small group tutoring.
However, the majority of students are (of course) outside of these cities in the smaller second and third-tier cities. With the growing digital infrastructure across China, online tutoring companies can tap into this vast market of learners and reach even the more remote locations where foreign teachers are not available.
For Chinese Parents, Online tutoring means good service at better prices
The average rate in China for an hour class of private tutoring is between 400-600 RMB, so $60-$70 per hour. Online tutoring can charge significantly less than this whilst still being highly profitable and offering a quality service.
This is the USP (Unique Selling Proposition that is the essence of what makes your service better than competitors) in China for any Online Education business: international quality at a more competitive rate.
Market barriers limit the competition
The Chinese market is a separate entity, due to state regulation and to ‘the great firewall’; you effectively have the largest scale, closed ‘intranet’ in the world. This means companies need to start over again, regardless of their presence outside of China. If you are not on Chinese platforms, you are invisible to the Chinese learners/students.
This levels the playing field somewhat and dissuades many online educators from China. With a more limited range of competition, smaller players can establish themselves in this market by smartly acting.
Online Education Platforms have to be accessible easily: use Chinese platforms
The key is to be accessible to Chinese users. There is now an established platform for researching information and making payments. E-payment via third-party payment apps is very popular, with Alipay and WeChat Wallet being the most commonly used.
Chinese users want to pay in their home currency (RMB) via these established and trustworthy platforms. They will also tend to prefer websites for live video calls already hosted in China.
The message we want you to understand is that you need to use the established systems for providing services to Chinese users.
You have a quality service, which they need, and desire to focus on this rather than building your own platform from scratch initially.
Use Chinese platforms they are used to employ. Chinese search engines also prioritize sites hosted on domestic servers.
Yuanfudao, a Chinese online education unicorn
China’s online education platform Yuanfudao was founded in 2012. It offers many services, including artificial intelligence-enabled virtual classes, live tutoring, a database of exam problems, and a popular homework help app. The homework support app scans homework problems and solves them instantly with the snap of a camera.
Yuanfudao has over 400 million users on its platform and it has 11 teaching and curriculum development centers across the country.
It ranked first in China in-app purchases in the education category between January and mid-March 2020.
How to market your online education service in China?
The equation in China is simple. Visibility+ Reputation = Lead generation
1. Visibility on Baidu with an effective Seo strategy
A presence on the largest search engines is vital. Baidu dominates the online searching market with 70% of queries. A presence on Baidu is the most important step to generate leads from students.
You need to be visible in the search results as one of the top results. This is possible through a good Baidu Seo strategy that includes backlinks, quality content on your Chinese website, effective keywords (those that Chinese students use when they look for an online course), and a host in China.
The highest quality leads to gain a high ranking on Baidu’s search results.
2. Search Engine Advertising and Search Engine Marketing
Advertising such as banners or PPC (pay per click), works well in conjunction with appearing in the natural search results. Baidu have now limited PPC adverts to four links per page so it is more expensive but it drives a lot of traffic. Baidu PPC is a great tool to use as the first step in your global marketing strategy. It gives you credibility: if you can make Baidu ads, it means you are a real brand. It also brings your first visitors to your website.
Baidu Sem includes:
- Baidu Display Network Advertising is an advertising banner service that allows you to invest in ads that appear on external sites and earn money based on the number of clicks on the ads.
- Baidu Tuiguang is the Chinese equivalent of Google Adwords, the platform dedicated to SEM activities. Consisting of a Search part, and a Display with many sites affiliated with the Baidu network.
- Baidu Brand Zone is a sort of mini-site that appears at the beginning of the SERP. Show information about the brand and its products.
3. Online schools should use Chinese Forums like Zhihu
Education is a big investment for a Chinese family. Before deciding, they will surely consult some forums or blogs. Forums remain popular because Chinese parents and students mainly research here for reviews and feedback on different tutoring services.
It is important to generate a positive reputation with conversions, comments, and sharing content.
A good platform that can help you in this is Zhihu, the Chinese Q&A platform. It has become China’s biggest knowledge-sharing platform. They claim to have 160 million registered users and more than 26 million daily users spending an hour on average on the site. A high-quality Zhihu post essentially lasts forever.
The power of community and word of mouth in China is very strong and that is the best platform to take advantage of this. Being present on Zhihu will allow you to answer questions about your field but also to educate your target audience about your services/products in an undercover way.
4. Use social media to promote your Online Education Program in China
WeChat is China’s largest social network with 1,08 billion active users every month. WeChat is very good for ‘branding’. Chinese people ultimately buy brands and your educational services need to be branded for this specific market.
The best way to communicate this is on platforms such as WeChat, where you can create a business account that acts as a ‘mini website’. This will provide learners with information and will allow you to chat with them. Customer services are often provided via WeChat. It is important to provide immediate answers to your Wechat followers that is why WeChat CRM is a great tool for you. It helps to communicate with your followers/customers and it is similar to a newsletter. A well-set Wechat CRM, answers automatically any questions your followers may have, welcomes new ones, and offers special discounts.
You have to be where the Chinese users are; the average amount of time that users spend on WeChat daily is 77 minutes, about 10-30 minutes out of this are spent browsing Official Accounts by more than half of them. The more time they spend on WeChat, the greater is the potential of exposure to your content.
5. Create Mandarin Content
Quality Mandarin content for your school is essential. You need to write and share articles that will raise awareness of your services.
A simple translation from your language into Chinese is not enough. You have to adapt your content to Chinese tastes, also in the use of colors and numbers. For example, in China, the number 4 symbolizes death so it is better if you do not use it.
Chinese people are very content-driven and Baidu (just like Google) prioritizes who creates original content, as it rewards users that use all the tools it offers.
Creating localized content is a vital part of growing your presence and building your reputation.
To conclude on how to promote your Online Education Program in China
The Online Education Industry is set to further grow in China due to increased internet penetration, connectivity rates, engagement with international education, and strong demand for English learning.
If you want to know more about online education businesses opportunities in China, contact Gma, a marketing agency based in China.
We are a digital marketing agency specializing in the Chinese market. For more information or advice, please contact us.