In this long article, you will find the top 7 marketing strategies for China in 2022, illustrated with case studies and concrete examples. There have been numerous articles and posts talking about China’s phenomenal economic growth. China is a massive market for every industry or its exciting technological development. It has transformed Chinese people into the most digitalized consumers in the world.
Marketing Advice China: What are the channels & media you have to use to promote your brand/company in the Chinese market in 2022?
- Engaging Content video
- Baidu Mobile SEO
- Chinese Short Video app: Douyin & Kuaishou
- RED -Xiaohongshu
- Forums such as Zhihu
Check out the video by our founder Olivier Vérot to learn more about the channels and media mentioned in the list above.
Now on to the 8 marketing strategies that will make your business stronger in China
Top 8 Marketing Strategy for China (2023)
- Branding is everything in China: Brand Building and EReputation First
- Social Media as a Brand Awareness Tool
- Engagement will make the difference
- KOL as sales channels
- e-Commerce is more powerful than retail
- Explore niche & specialized platforms
- PR, Chinese forums, and content marketing
- Chinese website couples with Baidu SEO
For the past decade, numerous global brands have entered China. And now they see it as their main arena for growth as well as new, smaller businesses looking for opportunities to make a fortune in this country. The most important question remains as to what digital marketing strategy works well in China.
Your overseas reputation or financial capabilities may grant you certain advantages. However, both international companies and start-ups face similar challenges when it comes to understanding Chinese consumers and their buying behaviors.
China’s unique, ever-changing digital ecosystem as well as the way people live and interact in it. Having worked with and helped numerous brands across different industries establish their brand names in China. Here are the top marketing strategies to succeed in China market in this article.
1. China Marketing Advice: Branding is everything
It is not exaggerated to say that Chinese consumers are scared of new and unknown brands.
China is huge and thus the Chinese market is a complicated one in the sense that there are countless producers. Yes, merchants are selling everything you need for life here. Meanwhile, the legal system to protect consumers from fake goods is not yet as fully developed as in the West.
Many consumers have been cheated with counterfeit products, fake reputable brands, and domestic brands that are expensive but of poor quality. Accordingly, they become paranoid and cautious toward less recognized or unbranded products.
Additionally, Chinese people buy brands not only for the functions they have but also to reflect their social status. Moreover, they improve how other people perceive them. Chinese consumers are willing to pay more if the brand can bring them prestige and respect in their social circle. That’s why luxury consumer products enjoy such phenomenal growth in China for the past 2 decades.
Brand awareness should be your priority of focus if you are new to China. So, how to increase your brand awareness?
2. Social media marketing is of paramount importance to build e-reputation in China
Unsurprisingly for a country with 1.4 billion people, China possesses a massive amount of citizens on social media. The country beats out Japan, the United States, and South Korea in the percentage of its population that uses them A huge chunk of users is digital natives (gen Z) or Millenials.
In a new McKinsey survey of nearly 6,000 Chinese Internet users. It was found that 95% of people who live in large Chinese cities have an account with at least one social network.
Not only that, but China’s social network users are far more active than in other countries. With 91% of them saying they had visited a social app site in the past six months.
The McKinsey survey also shows that social networks have a larger impact on the buying decisions of Chinese consumers than on those of any other country.
If a Chinese consumer sees a product being discussed positively on an SM, especially by a friend or acquaintance, they are far more likely to actually purchase the product than their counterpart in other countries. Peer recommendations have a huge influence on Chinese culture, as formal institutions are less likely to be trusted.
China’s social network landscape is fragmented and sophisticated. Today, we are taking a deeper look at WeChat and Weibo in comparison as well as other more niche and specialized. platforms so that brands have an overall picture. For a better deep dive into all major Chinese social networks, please, check our Top 10 Chinese Social media guide where we look at all the marketing features of these channels.
Weibo & Wechat: Marketing Advice for the Top Social Media Platform in China
Weibo and WeChat are the two largest social networking platforms in China. They both exert significant influence in Chinese society and play an indispensable role in modern life.
What is Wechat
Wechat is the most powerful APP in China. It is a personal messaging app, social media platform, online payment tool, online shopping place, and more; all included in just ONE app. WeChat’s ambition is to integrate itself into every aspect of the daily life of customers. It is helping them perform different activities without leaving the app.
Wechat is a great app to generate private traffic through an official account and every other tool available to businesses on the app. The aim of private traffic in China is to build loyalty through traffic acquired on social media accounts.
What is Weibo
Meanwhile, Weibo is a more open platform where users come to socialize with friends and new people. To entertain themselves, watch videos as well as discover trendy topics or hot social information.
Celebrities, famous bloggers, media outfits, and government departments. And ordinary users all create and share content on Weibo, making it a very bustling and exciting social hub to hang out.
3. Generate awareness through content marketing: Weibo vs Wechat
No matter which platform you choose to do your branding on a Chinese social network, high-quality content that users repost or share is the most important element. Unique, informative, and interesting content will engage followers and attract new ones.
Understand the nature of Chinese online platforms to use them properly
After registering an official account on both Wechat and Weibo, brands can post content or push feeds to their subscribers.
- Weibo is an open platform where even non-followers can view your Weibo posts and the posting default setting is public. In addition, everyone can also see the reposts, comments, or likes.
Therefore, Weibo is very suitable for viral campaigns or viral content, which aim to boost brand awareness extensively and help you grow your potential Chinese customers base
- Unlike Weibo, WeChat is a closed community. Normally, WeChat users can only see posts pushed by official accounts to which they subscribe. So your followers on Wechat tend to be more condensed and targeted.
Content on Weibo vs Wechat
- In terms of content type, on Weibo, businesses can make use of the media-rich nature of Weibo to create multimedia content including things like videos, pictures, live streaming, and adding emojis to their posts. Besides, the “@tag” function enables users to tag relevant parties in the posts, while the “#hashtag” function leads users to a dedicated page that garners all posts with the same topic.
- On WeChat, the content that users like to repost is interactive with text and photos/audio/video. This makes it a good place for long, detailed articles to introduce a business but also mainly to share interesting tips. The language style is also more formal and professional. Remember to highlight the most essential parts so that it’ll be easy for readers to skim. Attractive visuals and a well-designed layout are also important to retain readers.
The two apps help you Engage with your Chinese customers… on different levels
Interactive campaigns are another important aspect of Wechat and Weibo marketing. Users like to take part in interesting and creative campaigns for a prize.
Interact with your Chinese audience on Weibo
Promotional campaigns on Weibo are very cost-effective as the platform helps you to reach a large population across different regions in China with a smaller budget. Brands can launch re-post campaigns in which fans would repost a certain message from brands on their walls, content creation campaigns where users are encouraged to contribute organic content related to the brand or products, or Lucky draw.
Lucky participants will receive valuable awards from the organizers. This is an effective way to generate traffic and gain popularity as well as engage followers.
Interact with your Chinese audience on WeChat
- On the other hand, WeChat Official Accounts are also capable of hosting unique and creative campaigns with HTML (H5) pages. Brands can launch H5 campaigns with a variety of creative features, such as voting, games, quizzes, and more!
- To motivate your audience and encourage participation, obviously attractive incentives should be offered such as discounts and gifts.
However, remember that since WeChat is a closed platform so to promote the campaign you’ll need to encourage sharing, work with KOLs, or invest in WeChat advertising to truly take advantage of the campaign.
Digital Advertising: Run advertisements to reach a wider audience
Rather than depending solely on organic traffic, brands can run advertisements on Wechat and Weibo to reach a larger audience.
Weibo has introduced several advertising packages which include display ads, search engine promotion, newsfeed ads, and video ads, which are popular with local and western companies in many industries.
WeChat provides fewer advertising options for verified accounts: Moments Ads and Account Ads. For more information on WeChat ads, you can check the official WeChat website here.
4. Influencer marketing with KOLs (key opinion leaders) Helps you to Gain the trust of Chinese Consumers
Key opinion leaders play an important role in your digital marketing strategy. The rise of Kol had an important impact on the Chinese culture of consumption as Chinese consumers are looking up to them for suggestions and confirmation.
On the Chinese market, KOL can be bloggers, celebrities, authorities, or professionals in a certain industry that have a huge number of followers/ subscribers.
The social influence of KOLs is enormous. Their posts not only reach a large and loyal audience but also influence significantly the purchase decisions of their fans.
Brand awareness will expand and brand equity will be reinforced through the credibility of KOLs with who they cooperate.
The most common form of cooperation with KOLs involves sponsored content creation. Brands find a KOL who likes their products and is a good fit for their positioning. They then negotiate and arrange for them to write promotional articles and recommend their products or services.
KOLs can also share/ repost messages of brands or co-organize online campaigns.
The other benefit of Kol is market segmentation. You won’t hire the same Kol to reach Chinese customers in lower-tier cities as you would for shanghai or Beijing for instance.
Read as well: China Marketing Kols Guide
5. China Social eCommerce Craze
Social commerce is gaining traction in China. This is understandable when social media is already a place for Chinese consumers to discover new brands, and read reviews/ opinions/ experiences of other people with products and services before making purchases.
The online shopping function of Chinese social networks just makes the whole buying process faster, and more convenient, and thus the conversion rate of social commerce is very high. Today we are just looking at Weibo and Wechat but most major Chinese social media such as Douyin, RED, and so on have their own integration online shopping store for brands
Sell with Weibo
Weibo Window enables users to link their e-commerce shops to their Weibo accounts. It can promote direct sales as users can browse all product listings on a single page, or may purchase it right after reading product reviews on the platform.
Sell with Wechat
Different from Weibo, Wechat has its own online payment tool – WeChat Pay which is very powerful in driving sales on the platform.
Brands can open Wechat shops, which are linked to their official accounts to sell their products or services. These shops are very well-integrated with Wechat by using its interface, online payment, chat function for customer service, log-in, and sharing functions …
Buyers can easily access and browse shops smoothly as well as make purchases with one-click payment without leaving the app for an e-commerce platform.
You can build your own e-commerce website and integrate the WeChat API for some of the WeChat-specific functions. Or, you can use 3rd-party platforms to create WeChat shops fast and for cheap.
6. Explore niche and specialized Chinese social Networks to reach a super-targeted audience
A solid presence on Wechat and Weibo is a must. However, it is increasingly competitive to get your brands noticed by customers in the noise of millions of posts, tweets, and campaigns happening every second on those well-known sites.
Meanwhile, you can take a look into more specialized platforms which serve unique niches. These smaller, passion-based networks allow western companies to connect with conversations that really matter and drive authentic traffic to your business.
Here are some niche social media platforms that are growing in popularity:
XiaoHongShu (Little Red Book): females’ world of fashion and cosmetics
Xiaohongshu is both a social media and e-commerce platform focusing on cosmetics and fashion, if you are a business evolving in that realm and want to make it in China, invest!.
Brands or KOLs on this platform can directly influence sales through the useful content that they generate for users, making this a very attractive platform for cosmetics, fashion, and luxury brands.
Xueqiu (Snowball): Equity & Finance Social Network
Founded in 2010, Xueqiu is the one-stop platform to discuss and learn about a wide range of financial services. This could be the ideal platform for foreign companies in the financial or real estate industries that want to enter the Chinese market and reach out to target Chinese consumers.
Keep: The Hub of Health and Fitness Enthusiasts
Launched in February 2015, Keep is a platform dedicated to the health and fitness niche. This platform is a great choice for international companies and brands that want to take part in the rise of the fitness industry in China.
Mafengwo: Chinese people’s favorite tour guide
As Chinese travelers are increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable, they prefer to create their own unique travel experiences. Many navigate to Mafengwo to help them plan their trips.
For businesses in the tourism industry, this is the ideal place for marketing in China.
To conclude on the role of Chinese Social networks in your marketing effort
It will require a lot of investment for foreign brands that are determined to build a proper presence on all social networks.
WeChat and Weibo are absolutely necessary since brands would not be perceived as important and big if they are not available on these 2 most dominant platforms.
On the other hand, adding niche social media would help foreign brands reach audiences who are truly interested in related products and services. The competition is not as tough and marketing costs are lower.
7. PR, Chinese forums, and content marketing
Another powerful strategy is to tap into the large and active user groups on local forums. Forums in the West may be outdated but in China, it’s still significant. Large communities of similar interests gather on different forums to discuss their favorite topics.
For international brands, forums can be a source of valuable insights into your targeted customers as well as a place to seed your content strategy to increase brand awareness, expertise, and image.
In addition, peer reviews are highly influential in a collectivist society. Consumers really care about feedback from other consumers. Positive discussions about brands online can greatly lead to more trust and sales, but negative ones spread fast like cancer and damage the brand image.
Therefore, it is critical for brands to involve, monitor, and promote a positive reputation across forums.
Another advantage of being active on forums is that posts on forums rank highly on Baidu, thus contributing to your visibility on the most popular search engine.
Here are some of the most popular forums in China:
- Baidu Tieba 百度贴吧 – 43 Million MAU
It is known for allowing users to create their own “吧” (sub-forums), about any topic under the sun, such as your favorite idol, your favorite game, your city, or even your high school.
- Zhihu 知乎 – 94 Million MAU
Zhihu provides good information and analysis on a wide range of topics, and there are lots of famous people actively participating in discussions.
If you want to know the opinions of “intellectual elites”, Zhihu is the best place to go.
- Douban Group 豆瓣小组 – 300 Million MAU
Douban has a reputation for being a community of young intellectuals. Anything from literature to minimalism to travel is being discussed here within communities of like-minded people.
Besides, we have Tianya.cn – China’s most active forum-based website for public issue awareness while Sina and 163 are two of the biggest portal websites in China with sections devoted to real estate, education, economy, and fashion.
8. Chinese website couples with Baidu SEO
You will need a website in china: you should see it not as a separate hub of information but as a part of the digital ecosystem that consumers would pass till they reach the buying stage.
What to keep in mind before launching your website in China
- Well-integrated with social media
When you create a website, you need to look at all the points at which social media popular in china can be utilized. For example, WeChat or QQ should be used for logins to a website built for China.
While virtually every Chinese netizen has an email address, it is used far less than you might expect. Inputting a mobile phone number and receiving a unique SMS confirmation, is much more widespread.
Youku or QQ video should be built into a Chinese website for embedding videos, and WeChat pay and/or Alibaba’s Alipay should be the payment method integrated.
- Design and UX
UX or design requires thoughtful and methodical consideration of factors such as environment, attention span, and screen space. As with anywhere, it is highly important that the purpose and audience are clearly defined when creating a website for China.
China is a mobile-first country, so your website must be adapted for mobile device usage. Additionally, integrating the website that you create for China with WeChat or building a Chinese WeChat minisite will create a more seamless user experience.
Besides, when looking to build Chinese websites, the content architecture, image choice, and user flow must be evaluated for Chinese audiences.
- To succeed in China, a Business Localized content instead of translated content
The Chinese language is full of high-contextual meaning and your website will have to be using the Chinese language (Chinese characters). International businesses can not afford to be cheap! You should hire professionals for your china content.
When creating a website for China, it is important to keep in mind that the content should speak directly to your target market: the Chinese consumer.
Rather than hire a translator, hire a copywriter with knowledge in your specific industry that can adapt and polish your content for a Chinese audience.
- Domain and Hosting
If you want your website to rank on Chinese search engines, your website must be hosted in China.
To host your website in China, your Chinese website domain name must be managed by a Chinese registrar, your organization must be registered in China, and you must apply for an ICP license.
An ICP license is a permit issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology that is mandatory for China-based websites to operate in China.
Applying for an ICP license can take some time, so it is important to plan this in advance when you build a Chinese website.
A website is pointless if not seen on Baidu
Similar to the West, search engine optimization is one important pillar of your digital marketing plan. And in the Chinese market, Baidu is the king
Considering that +80% of Chinese consumers conduct intensive searches online (either on search engines, social media, or e-commerce platforms) to learn about products or services, being visible on Baidu is very critical to capturing targeted traffic to your website and ultimately generating sales.
In China, Baidu holds the most market share. A myriad of smaller and vertical search engines like Google CN, Sogou, Soso, eTao, and Qihoo 360 exist – each caters to a specific target group.
Knowing which China Search Engine to invest in and the right budget allocation makes all the difference in your search ROI.
In addition, an integrated search engine strategy that combines both China Search Engine Marketing (SEM PPC) and China Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is also important to your overall China Search Marketing ROI.
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