The recipes for online B2C marketing in the US and Europe seem to share common ingredients, which enabled you to be familiar with viral content on Facebook and Twitter, investment on Google AdWords campaigns and some specific tools to take your customers for an integrated online experience.
But going online in China is different. What changes? Everything.
As I explained in my previous article, 5 Essential Things For B2B Marketing in China, your customers here do not have access to Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Snapchat. Thus, in China, you must develop a specific online marketing strategy.
Those marketers who are unfamiliar with China ask me – Is it worth it? My affirmative answer is based on below breathtaking figures.
- China has more than 700 million internet users. Which means 22% of the population that has access to the internet worldwide. Or more than the United States, India, and Japan combined.
- Out of these, 88% are also mobile internet users. Worldwide, the average barely reaches 53%.
- China is the biggest e-commerce market in the world, with 380 million online shoppers.
- The Internet penetration rate in China just surpassed 50%. This means that the potential growth of internet users is off the charts.
So, here we go, let’s go through my points of 6 essential things for B2C marketing in China.
Choose a Hosting Service in China
First, I am going to state the obvious – your website MUST be hosted in Chinese. If your target is to reach as many Chinese consumers as possible, language is essential. Do not use an automatic translation service, instead, adapting your content to the Chinese audience. Having a website which loads fast is good to enhance users browsing experience, and a Chinese server can respond in less than 2 seconds. When you choose a local hosting service you must keep in mind two aspects.
- You need a special license from the Chinese authorities, known as ICP Beian. To apply for that you would need to have a local entity in China. So make sure that you will contract a local services agency which can assist you with the process;
- Your hosting provider should have servers all over China. Since physical distance matters – and China is the size of a continent, a provider should be able to provide you with hosting services on several servers, i.e. located in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu.
In China, the gateway to your website is WeChat. Its mobile text and voice messaging communication service have more than 570 million daily active users. The QR code scanning feature is so easy to use that it became the channel to use when following brands.
Now that you need a WeChat account, here comes two options to choose from, Service Account or a Subscription Account. Understanding the two options is key to identifying the perfect fit for your business. By the way, we have also prepared you a comprehensive guide to WeChat, hope you will enjoy as well!
A daily message can be transformed into a mini-newsletter which will reach all your subscribers. Brands sometimes use it for last minute special offers info.
Please remember to set up your WeChat account in China because users registered within China cannot get access to Official Accounts registered overseas.
Chat with Your Customers
Online live chat should account for an important aspect of your customer service strategy. You have several options which allow you to answer your client’s questions.
- Install a chatting tool on your website! You can use Shangqiao, from Baidu, or Business QQ, from Tencent, to answer questions about your products and services.
- Use WeChat! Once you have your WeChat account, put it in use to offer customer service. Ask your followers for feedback or give out customed offers.
- Use Weibo! More than 50% of Weibo users expect brands to handle complaints online. Use this opportunity to answer requests.
While it is easy to think of Weibo as China’s Twitter, it has, of course, its particularities. With more than 222 million monthly active users, Weibo is the only social network which is able to compete with WeChat. Almost 500,000 advertisers use Weibo and more than 400,000 of them have official accounts. Recent data shows that more than 44% of the members use every day an e-commerce app.
The Chinese consumers have more faith in “mouth to mouth” marketing than any other regions, which means, family and friends’ recommendations weigh more than hard commercials when it comes to products marketing. But now, online influencers are gaining ground. More than 700,000 celebrities have an account on Weibo. Building campaigns with influencers can help you reach the first batch of followers. You can also use paid ads on Weibo– similar to those on Facebook – or promoted posts, same idea as what’s on Twitter.
Switch to Alipay and Tenpay
PayPal is a king when it comes to online payment methods in Western countries. But this is not the case in China. Alipay and Tenpay are the tools you need to use in China. Both are originated from Chinese internet giants – Alibaba and Tencent – and halved the Chinese third-party online payment market.
When launching an e-commerce campaign do not forget to integrate China UnionPay (CUP) payment services. CUP is the only domestic bank card organization and the only inter-bank network in China.
While having your own online store might seem attractive back home, in China opening one on Taobao or Taobao Mall can be a smarter choice.
Google is surely mentioned every time when discussing about international online marketing strategy. In China, you need to focus on Baidu instead. Chinese search-engine can be your biggest ally when looking for distributors or re-sellers. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) services can be easily tailored-made for your special needs, including specific keywords and geographical segmentation to reach your target audience.
The fact that your company might not have a Chinese entity is not an issue for Baidu. Creating an official account might take as long as one week, depending on the thorough audit. Keywords are also analyzed in depth, thus you need to plan your campaign a couple of days before you actually want it to go online. Baidu’s analysis tool, Baidu Tongji, is similar to Google Analytics, but some features vary.
Use Baidu Trust if your website is not indexed as you expect it to be. Due to multiple factors, this might take time. This service certifies that a company, a website or a trademark used online are authentic. Once verified, an “original” tag will be shown by the title, when listed in the search results.