According to the statistical report on internet development in China published in January 2018, as of December 2017 China had 772 million ‘netizens’ and growing. To put this into perspective, the UK population in 2016 was 65.6 million. With these numbers it is no surprise that companies are making it a priority to enter this huge market. So what do I need to consider when marketing in China?
1. The two Ws - WeChat and Weibo
WeChat recorded a billion monthly users in March, that’s right a billion. WeChat has the capability for a user to do pretty much any desired action they want to online: banking, call a cab, shop, transfer money to friends, the list goes on. It’s pretty much all of our everyday apps rolled into one. With this huge user base and the various capabilities to reach the consumer in all these ways it is now absolutely essential for companies entering the Chinese market to be on WeChat.
Weibo is the largest social network in China, consider it their equivalent to a Facebook and Twitter fusion, and so is a great tool for building brand awareness. The same rules apply for marketing on social media on Weibo, with the ability to target audiences with mass amounts of data about each consumer at your disposal. A differentiator for Weibo is that it allows payments, so you are able to sell online in the app and offline using QR codes, which is common online consumer behaviour in China. Brand trust is even more prominent in China, especially when it comes to ‘foreign’ companies entering the market; thus a solid profile, content, verification, and connecting with the right influencers is even more important.
2. Utilise the B.A.T mobile
Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are the 3 largest players who dominate the digital marketing space, especially on mobile. Baidu is the most used search engine in China, Alibaba dominates e-commerce, and Tencent is the most valuable company which owns WeChat. All three companies have different apps and sometimes different app stores, where their apps do not interact with each other. Despite this users commonly have apps from each company, so as consumers are on all 3 platforms, so should companies entering this market, with each managed independently.
3. KOLs – Key Opinion Leaders
China is more prone to influence than the western markets when it comes to KOLs. Thus it is now one of the most recommended ‘marketing tools’ where most agencies based in china are pushing companies to utilise. It is of course vital that the KOL you choose matches your brand and appeals to your target audience.
Michael Kors has done this particular well, bringing in Yang Mi as their brand ambassador who boasts a following of 90.9 million on Weibo at the time of this post. She has featured in Vogue, Grazia and Elle, matching perfectly in line with the Michael Kors brand. They have also recently released a full WeChat store featuring a bag collaborated with Yang Mi.
4. The great firewall
There are more than 60 internet restrictions in China, and the control of the internet is ever growing. Due to this China has not been accustomed to using Google, Facebook or Twitter and now have their own equivalents. So on top of understanding the platforms to utilise in China, it’s important to consider the laws too. As this can easily go wrong, for example Mercedes-Benz was forced to delete the below post for quoting the Dalai Lama:
This went against the law in china of “Advertisements shall not harm the dignity or interests of China”, and despite China not allowing access of Instagram, there was still enough outcry for this post to be deleted and an apology was made on Weibo. This shows when entering this market we need to fully understand what the laws and restrictions are, before it becomes a blocker to being successful in China.
5. Understand the culture and the language
Part of understanding the Chinese culture is the significant periods of the year: Lunar New Year, Qingming festival, national day the list goes on. This will inform companies on when to increase promotional activity and tailor accordingly. This leads on to Cyber Days, which in China are different to the west. The most notable one is Singles’ Day, where in 2017 on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms alone $25 billion was spent; a substantial amount more than in the US on black Friday.
Language is often overlooked when moving into new markets, this can lead into embarrassing and costly mistakes. Nike made a huge error:
Alone the two words mean great things… together however it translated to “getting fat”. This illustrates the importance of having a local person translate, when it comes to any promotion, Google translate is not sufficient enough.
Learn more at: oracle.com/marketingcloud