Are you a foreign business looking for ways to enter the China market? With more than 850 million internet users and over 100 different social media platforms, China presents an enormous opportunity for businesses to grow through digital marketing strategies.
While China’s $5 trillion market is huge and still growing, it also has the most sophisticated digital marketing opportunities in the world. However, with great opportunities come great challenges. In this post we’ll talk about top 15 strategies for foreign companies to navigate the challenges to find their customer base in China and grow their business.
1. Perform Keyword Research To Understand Chinese Customers
A lot of businesses willing to advertise and grow their business in China are unsure if they have a customer base for their products and services. One way to get some understanding about Chinese customers is to conduct keyword research.
Baidu is the most popular search engine in China. It offers services and features similar to Google. Just like you conduct keyword research for Google using tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush, you can analyze keywords on Baidu using AdChina’s Keyword Research tool for free.
Simply type a term relevant to your business and click on ‘Translate’ and ‘Search’. The tool will then give you search results showing Volume, CPC and other data for that keyword as well as other related keywords.
Through keyword research, you will be able to understand –
- The search volume of keywords related to your business will help you gauge the demand for your products.
- The CPC of the keywords will help you understand the cost of advertising for those keywords.
- The related keywords will help you understand interests of Chinese customers and you can use them to devise your content strategy for China.
- Understand the competition to rank for the keywords relevant to your brand and plan your search engine optimization strategy.
Source – Screenshot from AdChina.io’s platform
Expert Advice –
“One of the worst mistakes you can make while planning your digital marketing strategy is using Google Translate to translate your English keyword lists to Chinese and use them as your Chinese targeted keywords list. Do not do this as it could lead to inaccurate and incomplete results. AdChina.io’s Keyword Research tool has an inbuilt translator to help you with this.”
2. Build Your Search Engine Visibility
Once you know that there’s a demand for your products and services in China, and you’re ready to take the next step, you will need a landing page or a website about your business in Chinese language.
You might already have a website in English (and other languages), but to rank for it on Baidu and to get organic traffic, you would need a dedicated page with target keywords as well as relevant content.
Even if you only plan to run ads on social media platforms such as Weibo, Douyin and WeChat, it still helps to have a dedicated website/landing page in Chinese as the Chinese consumers prefer brands with strong online reputation.
What happens if you miss out on this important step of creating search engine visibility for your brand? Without a website, you can’t do SEO. And without SEO, you will be barely visible on the Chinese internet. When you’re not visible in the Chinese customer’s eyes, they assume that you are not reliable.
Expert Advice – “Baidu prefers 100% Chinese-written websites. Websites with several languages do not perform so well in Baidu. For best visibility, we recommend a Chinese homepage. Further, to improve overall trust rank, we recommend you to have a “.cn” website. AdChina.io can help you set up a well-optimized website/landing page”
3. Understand Chinese Social Media To Identify Best Channels
Unlike the rest of the world, where there are a few dominant social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter, China’s social media landscape is unique and constantly evolving. Every year, there are new social media apps in China.
Due to this, it’s important for digital marketers to stay at the top of their game. Any business attempting to be successful with digital marketing in China needs to keep a close eye on what’s happening with these platforms.
Every social media platform has its unique customer base, demographics and interest groups. Only with a proper understanding of these platforms, you can identify the best way to run digital marketing campaigns to reach your target audience.
Source – KAWO 2022 Report
Expert Advice – “While it is true that your digital marketing strategy in China should be based on digital behemoths BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent), do not forget that these are not the only platforms to reach your audience. The ‘B’ in BAT, now also stands for Bytedance’s Douyin.
Moreover, many smaller platforms such as Youku, Zhizhu, Xiaohongshu and Meituan Dianping present unique advertising and marketing opportunities. You can get in touch with AdChina.io’s sales team to understand the best social media platform for your business.”
4. Run Well Targeted Campaigns For Best Results
Have you tried advertising in China with a marketing agency and felt disappointed by the results? Do you worry about the high cost of advertising in China? If yes, there are chances that you’ve not yet identified the best way to run ad campaigns in China.
Did you know that it’s possible to set-up ad campaigns for Chinese social media platforms just like you run Facebook ads? Most forgeign businesses rely on advertising agencies in China to run their ads for them. In such cases, they have almost no understanding of the ad targeting, no control on budget allocation and no analytics data to draw insights from.
However, the success of your digital marketing campaigns is determined by effective targeting strategies. Here are a few ways that you can use to run targeted campaigns.
- Device OS
- Consumption Index
- Marital Status
AdChina.io’s platform lets you run super targeted ads and take complete control of your campaigns and you have real-time access to the data regarding your campaigns. Of course, if you’d like to have our team run campaigns for you, we help you with that as well. But, you have access to our platform and analytics at all times.
Source – Screenshot from AdChina.io’s platform
Expert Advice – “If you’re wondering if China is the right market for your products and services, the best way to find out is to actually test the field. If you set up a landing page, run campaigns for a few months and see a positive ROI, you’d have identified one of the biggest and most lucrative markets for your business.”
5. Focus on Tier 2 and Tier 3 Cities
One of the key factors in ad targeting for your digital marketing campaigns is the geography. Did you know that you can select the exact cities in China that you want to target with AdChina’s digital marketing tool?
Today, China’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities offer a huge opportunity for international businesses. These lower-tier cities in China are home to more than 930 million people (over 50% of all Chinese digital consumers), almost three times the U.S. population. They remain relatively underserved by popular e-commerce sites and are therefore an untapped market.
Considering that tier-1 cities are reaching high-saturation levels in retail, international brands can benefit from focusing on virgin or dormant markets where competition is relatively lower.
Expert Advice – “It’s important to note that consumers in low-tier cities, whose income level is not highest in China, have less financial pressure and stress from work compared with their metropolitan peers. They have more time to enjoy life and more disposable income to buy products. Therefore, low-tier cities are an infinite pool of potential consumption power.”
6. Build A Story Around Your Brand
One of the most important elements of a successful digital marketing strategy is content. Good content tells the story of the brand in a way that connects with the consumers. When marketing in China, you need attractive, well-designed content with engaging storytelling to ensure that the customers remember you and buy from you.
With the rising costs of acquisition, it’s important to invest in building a brand and brand marketing for long-term growth in the Chinese market. To build a brand, it’s important to have strong brand values that can be communicated consistently through the brand content on social media.
For instance, beverage brand Genki Forest gained popularity in China through its brand message – “0 sugar, 0 calorie, 0 fat”. It also created content around its superior, healthier ingredients by collaborating with KOLs. Genki Forest quickly evolved as an ‘internet brand’ in China and launched a Tmall store. In November 2020, the soft drink brand ranked 1st in the soft drink category both in Tmall and JD.
7. Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) and Key Opinion Consumers (KOC) Marketing
Today, KOLs and KOCs are important to win consumer trust in China. Chinese people value peer-to-peer advice and consider those opinions more genuine and trustworthy. They are authentic and have a special connection with their followers.
Therefore, brands using social media influencers and cultural icons for digital marketing in China report much higher conversion rates than through traditional advertising models and celebrity endorsements.
It’s important to choose a trusted KOL or KOC relevant to your industry. Once you launch your products on Chinese E-Commerce platforms, you can use partner with KOLs and micro-influencers in several ways –
- Sponsor their posts
- Request a creative post about your products
- Request a review of your products
- Sponsor a giveaway to their followers
- Request a livestream about your brand and products
- Have a few KOLs compete with each other
Expert Advice – “It’s important to verify the identity of KOLs and KOCs before working with them. Research and analyze their presence on different platforms. Go forward with the influencers who are active on more than one platform as that will make your campaigns more powerful.“
8. Live Streaming and Video Marketing
Currently, two popular trends on Chinese social media platforms are livestreaming and short videos. Live streaming is a shopping mode where live streamers broadcast in real time with products they are selling. Viewers are able to purchase the featured products from an embedded link in the livestream. Short videos is a new video content format made popular by Douyin (Chinese version of TikTok).
In China, M-commerce is very well built into social apps. Therefore, brands are able to see direct sales and revenue from livestreams and short videos content on platforms such as XiaoHongShu, Taobao, Douyin, Bilibili, Kuaishou and more.
For instance, Viya, the top live streamer on Taobao livestreamed to over hundreds of millions of viewers during the annual two-day Singles’ Day shopping event in 2020. Her audience spent over 4.8 billion yuan ($719 million) on products promoted by her. Moreover, she was just one among 66,000 live streamers across different Chinese platforms that together attracted an audience of 709 million viewers.
Expert Advice – “One reason why livestreaming results in a lot of sales is that the consumers get exclusive deals during these sessions in the form of coupons or free gifts. Viewers are able to buy the products at a lower price than they buy in stores. So make sure that you offer exciting deals or exclusive products in the livestreams about your brand products. “
9. Maintain Cultural Sensitivity In Your Campaigns
To ensure that the Chinese consumers connect with your brand, it’s important to use powerful messaging that places paramount importance on the local culture of China. If you misunderstand their culture or fail to convey the important sentiments through your messaging, it could be detrimental to your brand image.
Some of the important cultural shifts to stay aware of are – the changing roles of women in the society and the rise of patriotism. At the same time, it’s important to stay clear of taboo topics and politically sensitive content.
10. Leverage M-Commerce with WeChat Mini Programs
The WeChat ecosystem should be an important part of any brand’s marketing strategy as it helps to enhance the overall brand experience. One way to do this is through WeChat Mini Programs.
A WeChat Mini Program is a small app within WeChat that can be anything from a game, a booking platform to an e-commerce store. The integration with WeChat Pay further simplifies online shopping as it allows the users to purchase products from their favorite brand directly from WeChat without having to download a native app.
WeChat Mini Programs provides the brands a way to offer discounts, cash rebates, group-buying incentives, virtual gift cards and live streaming services to WeChat users.
For instance, online travel agency Qunar’s WeChat Mini Program works as a centralized portal for users to browse and book travel tickets and hotel rooms. The brand uses the “Live Streaming” feature to introduce destinations and hot deals to audiences. Their Summer sale live stream drew more than 1.5 million viewers with hosts offering discounted deals on destinations across the world.
Expert Advice – “Mini programs can help your brand personal connection with your customers. For instance, Michael Kors’ mini program featured handwritten messages from the designer inviting the Chinese consumers to become a part of the Kors family. Louis Vuitton also establishes connections with different customer groups by creating specific WeChat Mini-Programs with unique tone and content.“
11. Xiachen Marketing
The next wave of consumption in China is estimated to be driven by lower tier cities. The term “xiachen”; literally meaning “to sink” refers to the marketing strategy of moving down to reach less developed urban and rural areas where 930 million people reside (2/3 of China’s population).
The consumption from these regions is estimated to rise from US $3.3T in 2017 to US $8.4T by 2030. With 250 million active internet users in rural areas of China, the rural e-commerce market has an immense potential.
Source – KAWO 2022 Report
Expert Advice – “One of the best ways to reach the rural and low-tier city market in China is to sell your products on PinDuoDuo. The platform has focussed on consumers in tier-3 and tier-4 cities from the very beginning. It leverages the ‘social fission’ strategy to reach more customers. When consumers share a product link on WeChat, they get a discount every time their friends click it.“
12. Plan Marketing Around Chinese Festivals
Calendars of Chinese people are packed to the brim with festivals and for most of them. Your business will miss out on plenty of opportunities if you don’t incorporate them in your marketing strategy to plan your sales around those events.
Chinese tech companies have also created popular shopping festivals such as Singles Day (11.11), 520 (Modern Valentine’s Day), 618 (JD’s Shopping Festival), 12.12 (Sequel to 11.11) and Qixi (Love Festival) .
AdChina is your partner of choice to enter China’s digital market
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