Opening a business in China is becoming less of a hassle in the recent years. But once you have your company up and running, where is the next step going? Online marketing is the key to a country where people use their computers for work and live their lives on mobile devices, but where Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are not available. So from where should you start?
China – A Business Incubator
More than 4,000 businesses are created every day in China, according to UHY, an international accounting and consulting network. The number has doubled since 2010 and made China the leader of entrepreneurial efforts in the world. With an economic growth of 6.9% in 2015 – reportedly the lowest percentage in the past 25 years – we cannot stop wondering, is China still a good market for developing a business, especially for foreigners?
While the growth rate is far from being spectacular, the increase in Chinese service industry of 2015 is catching everyone’s attention, where for the first time that it accounted for more than half of the GDP, at 50.5%. The sign is good for the future development, and foreign experts are welcome in consultancy and other service areas.
As a foreigner, you can create a Joint Venture with a Chinese counterpart, starting your own WFOE (Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise) or a FICE (Foreign Invested Commercial Enterprise). Any choice you make, your goal is to make your company visible online, since Chinese people are mostly doing everything on the internet. Do you think this statement is an overestimated metaphor?
The Chinese internet – a giant mall
In 2015, China was the largest retail e-commerce market with total sales of US$899 billion, which is 50% of global e-sales. According to McKinsey, in tier-1 cities, 81% of the population shop online, while Epsilon states that 72% of China online shoppers hardly buy anything offline. 12.7 billion orders are placed on Taobao or TMall every year. In 2015, Chinese users spent 14.34 billion US dollars on Tmall.com on the Single’s Day.
How to live online? You just need a smartphone!
More than 780 million smartphones have been put in use in China up to 2016 and 49% of the population (668 million) is connected to the Internet, according to official information from China’s Internet Network Information Center. On average, the time that per internet user spends on media per day was about 6 hours and 8 minutes, 2 of which on TV, 11 minutes on the radio, 10 minutes on newspaper, only 1 minute on magazines, while 3 hours on online media.
Here’s how to take your business online
Since your target customers live and spend online, the first step for you is to go online. In a multitude of social networks – most of them are not familiar to Western users, then which is the one you should start with?
No matter where to promote your business online, you need to send the users to your website. Keep in mind a couple of essential aspects and you can count on your website to be the best business card.
- Think about a domain name, hosting and features. We wrote a concise guide for you here.
- ICP license – before you put your website online get an ICP license. In China, it’s the equivalent of a driving license before you start driving that car you bought. You have here all the details.
Your WeChat account
We previously wrote about WeChat in a comprehensive way. WeChat has an unbelievably huge user base and not only you can access an incredible volume of users on that, but also these users spend plenty of time on it and use integrated third-party apps. The average amount of time an adult spends on WeChat is 40 minutes/day, with 55.2% users opening the app more than 10 times a day!
WeChat is also the answer to your newsletter-related plans. In China, the classic newsletter in China can be called dead. Companies use instead their official WeChat accounts to update and interact with their followers. Here‘s how to do it.
Video content is king in the global markets. It easily goes viral and it can bring more information to your customers than a well-crafted press release. In China, YouTube is not available, so alternative is Youku.
With more than 150 million daily active users, the platform is the most popular of its kind on the Chinese market, with an average of 900 million daily video views, out of which 400 million on mobile devices.
With 80% of market share, Baidu is the main search engine in China. With half of the traffic coming from mobile devices and the other half from computers, Baidu is a good entry point for some specific markets for your company.
A while ago we took some time to explain the basics of online marketing in China, both B2B and B2C. The main ideas are that you can use Baidu to give credibility to your business, using the Baidu Trust service and that you should invest in Baidu AdWords which is an efficient tested tool.
With more than 222 million monthly active users, Weibo is one social network which might remind you of Twitter. Celebrities and businesses have official accounts on Weibo and use the platform to share original content and to get direct feedback from their followers.
Talking about their followers, they are extremely important since more than 44% of them use every day an e-commerce app.
The conclusion? Go online!
The conclusion is simple. While you plan to start your business in China, also start getting used to the Chinese internet. Begin as a user on the biggest social media platforms and test for yourself the power of online marketing on the Mainland. Then apply what you learn, but always add something fresh and original, Chinese netizens will appreciate your effort!