You invested in quality printed materials for the Chinese market, you came up with a catchy and culturally apt Chinese name for your brand, you found someone who “knows” China to head your Chinese operations. But why wouldn’t you want to make sure your website is culturally-fit for the Chinese market as well? No two countries are alike, but in China the difference of scale is at another whole new level.
Creating a proper Chinese website requires a lot of forethought and planning. Here are my tips & tricks on making your Chinese website fully-optimized for the local Internet landscape.
Chinese Content Must Be Localized
Chinese must be the default language for your website. Is this too obvious to mention? Add English as a second language for possible foreign partners and customers.
Let’s talk about the content. Ask yourself these two questions:
- What is my focus in China? Is it selling a certain product/service, or finding partners and distributors;
- How relevant are other international divisions/products to my Chinese target? Should I include them on the website?
After you set your priorities straight, these are some general points you should focus on:
- Your brand. Focus on your reputation, history, R&D, awards or cultural heritage. Your pedigree and global achievements are important, while quality and innovations are equally appreciated. Chinese netizens are generally distrustful towards new brands, so they love a good story that could convince them. Take the example of Avène. Their company page includes more than 15 sub-pages which cover information on the Avène Fountain, quality assurance, sterile production workshop, Avène awards;
- The general content. Adapt it for the Chinese readers and stay away from literal translation, make sure you find a native speaker who can be of help on that. Chinese language does not have tenses or conjugations. This means that, for example, the structure of the sentence is different from that of other languages. You are selling to Chinese customers so try to appeal to their aesthetics, history and customs. Brands who made it big in China all have something in common – they adapted their products and services for the Chinese customer, one way or the other.
- Your products. Include good quality images and videos. “A picture is worth a thousand words” is a cliché, but also reality.
Chinese Websites Are Different
Chinese beauty standards are different. This applies to every everything, including the design of your website. Chinese websites are cute. Not a word you were expecting in this context? Well, this sums up all the emojis and stickers which can be found even on corporate and news websites.
Websites are also more crowded in China. Or at least this is the first impression. The first reason is the language. Characters are denser than letters, there is no space between characters and there is no capital letter in Chinese. Chinese are used to cluttered websites since the advent of the Internet in China. Most of the portals have tons of text and links. The trend is now shifting to a simpler design, converging with the Western idea, but they are still crowded compared to Western standards.
Let’s take the example of KFC’s. Below you have the US and the Chinese official websites. The design for the Mainland contains more colors, texts and is, generally, more vibrant.
The global KFC website
The Chinese KFC website
Include Chinese-related Features
Online behavior in China differs from what you have already known. You should incorporate features to your website which are rarely used for the Western marketing, such as online chatting on your website and QR code, and adapt your social media communications on Chinese platforms.
China is Mobile-Centric
More than 632 million people use their smartphones to access the internet in China, which means that your website design must be responsive to a mobile device’s screen.
Real-time Online Assistance
As we mentioned before (B2C and B2B), Chinese users expect to find on your website an online assistance service. Apps like Zopim and Meiqia allow you to offer real-time customer support directly from your website.
For the same purpose, you can use your company’s WeChat or Weibo account, in a similar way you would use Facebook or Twitter. Real-time online assistance can help you answer inquiries about products, promotions, and even complaints.
Chinese users are big fans of online shopping. More than 380 million netizens are purchasing online, with an annual growth rate of 53%. By 2020, more than half of the Chinese population will shop online.
If you need to accept payments from you Chinese visitors you will need to implement Chinese payment services. The three biggest online payment processing platforms in China are Alipay, Tenpay, and UnionPay. See the image below where Nike China advertises the payments processing platform which they support.
Social Media in China
Social media channels are also different in China. Weibo and WeChat took replacements for Facebook and Twitter as an efficient means of communication. Let’s take a look at Coca Cola’s homepage where no reference to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at all. Instead, the icons presented in the Follow Us section are WeChat, Weibo, and Q-Zone.
Chinese are not as good at remembering domain names in English or other languages as foreigners. A domain name like amazon.com is very easy to remember for anyone who’s from an Anglo-Saxon country, which might not be successfully applied to the average Chinese user. This is exactly why Amazon China decided to switch from amazon.cn to z.cn in 2011.
While non-Latin characters in your domain name(e.g. 亚马逊.cn) is possible, they are still not getting popular in China these type of domains are not widespread since not all Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) are only supported by web browsers. Most of the Chinese websites are still employing Latin characters and numbers in their domain name.
We advise you to consider the following options when you are picking a domain name for your Chinese website:
- Pinyn – some of the most famous websites in China have a pinyin domain
- Numbers – They are easy to remember and how they are interpreted in Chinese means something special. For example, 58.com, a Craiglist equivalent website in China is one of the examples that use an all-numbers domain. 8 is the luckiest number since the sound of it resembles “fortune” in Chinese, while 6 gives a positive meaning of “going smoothly”. On the other hand, 4 should be avoided at all costs, as it phonetically resembles “death”.
- Initials – some famous brands use their well-known initials when choosing the domain-name
- www.vw.com.cn – Volkswagen’s official website in China
WeChat QR Code as an Entry Point
If for some reasons you are determined to use a long-and-hard-to-remember domain name, such as mondragon-corporation.com, we would advise you to create another entry to your website other than the domain name on its own, that is QR Codes which can be scanned by WeChat, the super app that is installed on almost every Chinese smartphone.
The Chinese consumers have developed the behavior of scanning QR codes with WeChat and you can use this to your advantage by directing your audience to your website. Instead of asking them to type in the domain name into their browsers, users can access your website by simply scanning a QR Code from your printed materials.
As some companies literally adapt the recipe of their products for the Chinese market (see Oreo’s story), you must also make an effort and launch a website which will attract customers without infringing the identity of your brand. Since the website is your online business card, it is all worth the effort!