Most brands are quite successful in their country. But when they enter China, they need to understand they are starting from scratch.
You have to build awareness, get the trust of the consumers and create engagement before thinking about selling something.
Where should a new brand start in China?
The business environment in China is strongly dictated by the digital sphere. Having a digital presence is crucial to developing a brand image and the reputation of a company. Chinese consumers love new technology because they use it in their lives on a daily basis.
In the first half of 2017, the Chinese spent 40 billion hours on social platforms. This represents many opportunities for brands to innovate their digital strategies in the Middle Empire.
Enter digital marketing
In the past few years, digital has become THE trend in China. Chinese consumers have totally adopted the digital lifestyle. For brands, digital marketing has become an interesting way to reach consumers. Especially since it favors the customer.
Companies have understood the importance and potential of digital communication in the country. With a large population, digital facilitates the conversation with consumers and thus simplifies consumer targeting and brand engagement. Compared to Western countries, the Chinese quickly adapt to new technologies. These technophiles are hyper-connected in the environment that surrounds them.
There are many similarities in the application of digital strategies between Western countries and China. Such as the use of user data, online marketing videos and the development of e-commerce. However, China seems to grow faster in this area. Particular with the importance of mobile marketing, for example, QR codes and influencers.
Understanding this environment is important to the development of foreign brands in China. This article aims to provide you with some tips on how to use digital tools to market your brand in China.
Many companies entering the Chinese market want to do SEO on Baidu, promote their brand on WeChat and Weibo, and prospect on Chinese online media. This is the first step to get established in the market. However, it is necessary to define your goals. For example, if you want to generate leads, increase traffic to your site, create a community etc. your digital strategy and will flow from your goals. Depending on your goals, in China, you will find 5 ways to market digitally.
1. Ads + SEA( Search Engine Advertising) on Baidu
SEA is a paid marketing tool that boosts your ranking in the search engines. This tool shows your business on the search engines as an advertisement. (Similar to Google ads.) The advantage of SEA (or SEM) is the speed of its implementation. This tool allows you to choose the keywords you will be found for. SEM also gives better visibility on the web since it includes banner ads.
Example Keyword Sunglasses
In China, there are 3 main search engines. However, Baidu is the most used with 70% of the users. It is also the fifth most visited website in the world in terms of traffic. You can also position yourself on Qihoo 360 and Sogou to gain visibility.
SEM is a good way to develop traffic to your site. However, it remains a tool requiring a large marketing budget. A Pay Per Click strategy, although effective, requires a substantial budget and is sometimes doesn’t return the investment for small businesses. SEM is often used for companies looking for leads.
To optimize your site on Baidu you’ll also need a mobile version of your website. Baidu wishes to improve the user experience on a cell phone.
An optimized website is critical for the success of your SEM strategy. This means having a Mandarin site that provides quality content and information. The solution must be hosted in China with a .cn domain name to improve your ranking.
Websites with an abundance of information and excellent reputation are important to Chinese consumers. These factors enable them to trust the brand.
2. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on Baidu
It is a Strategic Investment. Why?
Because when a smart people have a need, they search and click on natural results, not ads.
Users usually search on the first or second page of search results. The number of individuals going further into the pages is very low. Moreover, the vast majority of Internet users, favor websites referenced in a natural way. Ensuring you have good SEO for your website is the key to good visibility and presence.
SEO differs from the Pay Per Click because it takes longer to implement. SEO is a long-term strategy since it is working on the keywords that define your site, the content, the internal and external backlinks on your website. Establishing an SEO strategy is a contemplative act as it represents a long-term strategy that requires a persistent action.
Baidu takes these SEO factors strongly into consideration.
- The title of the content you share
- The frequency of your keywords
- How much you repeat your keywords.
Two important points to consider are the meta keywords which define your website and the meta description that describes the content of your pages. These are crucial to the realization of your strategy.
Also improving visibility means improving your content backlinks. Redirection must be done with Chinese sites because Baidu will systematically block links coming from foreign sites or sites not translated into Mandarin. Note: where Google differs from Baidu is the fact that unlike Google, who is looking for quality backlinks to improve ranking, Baidu searches for quantity. In addition, unlike Google, Baidu indexes content slowly resulting in a continuous feed of your content. So you can hope to have results in a few months.
In your strategy, it is also important to position yourself on the content platforms that Baidu offers. They will give you a first-page search result. The main platforms are Baidu Maps, Baidu Wenku which is the equivalent of Google Docs or Baidu Zhidao which allows you to answer questions. This is based on Yahoo Answers.
3. E-commerce platforms = Tmall, Wechat Store, JD etc
China is considered one of the most developed countries in the adoption and development of digital. The country has already faced the emergence of several digital solutions for online businesses like online to offline commerce, social commerce and M-commerce (mobile). Cross-border trade is also becoming more and more popular with consumers, who see these new platforms as a means of purchasing international products.
E-commerce in China is made up of 3 leading companies. Dominating the market are Taobao, Tmall, and JD. You can also find smaller online platforms that specialize in different sectors.
The popularity of cross-border e-commerce platforms rests on the perception of quality and the confidence that the Chinese have in them. In an environment facing a lot of counterfeit and poor-quality products, trading platforms are a determining factor for a consumer’s purchase. Cross-border trading platforms are known to examine the quality of the products they market and have become a safe bet for consumers who tend to buy via this channel.
The market share of foreign products sales on the E-commerce channels currently accounts for 8% of total sales. It should be noted, however, that cross-border platforms were created less than 5 years ago and this segment represents a real opportunity for brands to establish themselves. Since eCommerce is increasing each year by 50%.
The intensity of competition in the cross-border e-commerce market is intense and fragmented. However, the market is dominated by two giants, Tmall Global and JD Worldwide.
Some tips for successful implementation on these E-commerce platforms:
- Having a good reputation and brand image will automatically ensure you a place on these merchant sites. Reputation is a determining factor in your professional or commercial relationships. Being known is a great way to facilitate your business and sales in the country. Your branding remains a very important point. For this, you need to communicate your company history, its products, and services. Use the social networks to communicate and create a relationship with your current and potential customers.
- Moreover, E-commerce platforms in China such as JD Worldwide or Tmall Global are very strict in terms of procedures and registrations on their sites. By just setting up a store your brand is considered reputable and is a real asset.
- On the Chinese platforms, the content is important to develop. The Chinese consumer is suspicious by nature. Searching for information is part of the purchasing process. Frequently publishing content reassures the consumer. For this, a good product description, photos, video, reviews, chat box including the tools that ensure consumer confidence and purchase.
4. The Craze for Social Media and Social Commerce
We are faced with consumer doubt of viral marketing on social networks. Platforms try to reduce marketing on their platforms to improve the user experience. Authentic links between brands and customers are increasingly valued and determine the desire and the selection of a brand.
One of the best platforms to use for your digital communication in China is Wechat. Of the 960 million users, more than 60% of them are active on a daily basis.
WeChat in figures is:
- 938 million monthly users
- 768 million daily users
- 12 million corporate account
- 70 million users outside China
- 10 average application apertures per day
- 128 friends on average per account
- 200 million users own WeChat Pay
- 300,000 stores offer WeChat Pay
The application aims to develop its business areas and services by offering innovative new features to compete with other key players in China such as Alibaba, Apple Services and Baidu.
Through the creation of an official account, brands position themselves on the platform. You will need to develop your Chinese followers by offering them value for their commitment.
The importance of the user base of the application is relevant to developing CRM branding strategies. In fact, it will enrich their customer management thanks to the demographics of the WeChat users. It also allows brands to develop their relationship and to give more importance to the relations with customers and community instantly. In addition, integrating a CRM into social media strategies enables brands to enhance their reputation and presence on digital channels.
Advantages of CRM Integration:
- Collect a good customer database for customizing content
- Engage your current and potential customers via quality content on your official account
- Improve the customer experience and journey within the application
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5. Key Opinion Leaders (KOL), a way to promote and love your brand
The community spirit in China strongly contributed to the emergence of influencers in the digital sphere. The brands are increasingly using KOL to promote their offers. Influence marketing allows brands to develop a more authentic link with their customers and offer them relevant content based on their expectations.
The KOL will contribute and strongly support your credibility with your target audience. These public figures are generally present on social media, in particular, WeChat and Weibo. The advantage of the KOL is to be able to benefit from their expertise in various fields and their communities of followers. Which can be more or less important depending on the reputation of the influencer. Further information in this article.
“Reputation is your most valuable asset in China”
There are many ways to develop your brand in China. As far as I know digital is the most effective way. However, you need to stay consistent with your goals.
Moreover, the development of your presence in China will require you to redouble efforts to create quality content, manage your community on Chinese social media and be innovative and creative to become viral and engaging.