Embark on a thrilling journey into the heart of China’s marketing landscape. This insightful article peels back the layers of one of the world’s most dynamic and challenging markets. Here, you’ll discover the secrets to captivating Chinese consumers, the intricacies of their digital world, and the nuances of navigating China’s unique regulatory framework.
Let’s dive in!
Top 8 Marketing Strategies for China
- Branding is everything in China: brand building and e-reputation
- Social media as a brand awareness tool
- Engagement will make a difference
- Key Opinion Leaders 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 make a difference. Here are the top marketing strategies to succeed in the Chinese market.
Branding and e-reputation are everything in China
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 enjoyed 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?
Social media marketing is of paramount importance to build e-reputation in China
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 media 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.
Social networks also 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.
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, they watch videos as well as discover trendy topics or hot social information.
Celebrities, famous bloggers, media outfits, government departments, and ordinary users all create and share content on Weibo, making it a very bustling and exciting social hub to hang out.
Xiaohongshu is often called “Chinese Instagram” because the core of the platform lies in user-generated content. The app was created mostly for women and they are the main audience, making it a perfect platform for beauty, lifestyle, and fashion content.
Xiaohongshu is very popular among Chinese influencers, it also offers e-commerce services etc.
Douyin is a fairly ‘new’ revelation in the Chinese social media landscape. This short-video app, known as TikTok outside of China, managed to climb to the place of the second most popular social media platform in the country.
Douyin is popular thanks to fast, funny content but it also offers many business features for brands wanting to target their Chinese audience with the use of short-videos.
Generate awareness through content marketing
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.
After registering an official account on social media platforms of your choice, brands can post content or push feeds to their subscribers.
Weibo, Douyin, and Xiaohongshu are open platforms where even non-followers can view your posts and the posting default setting is public. In addition, everyone can also see the reposts, comments, or likes.
Therefore, they are very suitable for viral campaigns or viral content, which aim to boost brand awareness extensively and help you grow your potential Chinese customers base.
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.
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.
Other platforms are dependent on the type of your brand. You can post videos on Douyin and Xiaohongshu, use influencers, sell products directly on the platform, and promote products through live streams, challenges, etc. They give more opportunities for promotion but are more dependent on the type of products or services you offer.
Influencer marketing helps you gain the trust of Chinese consumers
Key opinion leaders play an important role in your digital marketing strategy. The rise of KOL marketing 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, KOLs can be bloggers, celebrities, authorities, or professionals in a certain industry who 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 whom 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 KOLs 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.
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.
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.
Explore niche and specialized Chinese social networks to reach a super-targeted audience
A solid presence on WeChat, Weibo or Douyin 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 that 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:
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 market and create relevant sports marketing campaigns.
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 the Chinese consumer market.
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
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
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
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.
Chinese website coupled with Baidu SEO
You will need a website in China, and 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 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.
Need Top China Marketing Advice? Contact the #1 Agency for Marketing in China
In a market where online channels are constantly evolving, having people who know the place like their pocket can be a previous help.
Gentlemen Marketing Agency is your ideal ally in this journey. With our deep understanding of the Chinese market and cutting-edge strategies, we help brands make a significant impact.
Our Services: Designed for Your Success
- Market Insight and Analysis: Understanding the Chinese market is crucial. We provide comprehensive insights into consumer behavior and trends.
- Brand Localization: Your brand’s voice matters. We fine-tune your message to resonate with Chinese audiences while keeping your brand marketing and core values intact.
- Digital Marketing Excellence: Utilizing platforms like Weibo, Douyin, and WeChat, we create campaigns that engage and convert. We also check your Western marketing efforts for comparison, so that nothing goes to waste.
- E-commerce Strategy: Dominate online sales on Tmall, JD.com, and more, leveraging our e-commerce expertise to successfully market your brand.
- Social Media Mastery: From content creation to community management, we handle it all.
- Influencer Collaborations: Partnering with the right KOLs can elevate your brand. We make those connections happen.
Why Partner with Us?
- Proven Track Record: Our portfolio is a testament to our success in bringing brands to life in the Chinese market.
- Cultural Savvy: We’re not just marketing experts; we understand China’s unique cultural landscape.
- Innovative Approaches: Stay ahead of the curve with our forward-thinking strategies.
- Focus on Results: Our goal is to deliver measurable success and ROI.
Whether you’re new to the Chinese market or looking to expand your presence, we tailor our services to your needs. With Gentlemen Marketing Agency, your brand is in capable hands.
Interested in learning more? Explore our range of services and success stories on our website. Let’s connect and discuss how we can help your brand soar in China.