Five Vital Strategies for Brands Targeting The Chinese Market

By Christian Schütte
May 13, 2020
As the balance of power and commerce continues to shift across the world, the decades-long predictions of the rise of Asia as a global market force have long since come true. China, especially, has become a force to be reckoned with when it comes to global spending and an empowered.

Chinese Buying Power in 2020 and Beyond

From 2018 to 2019, the number of outbound trips taken by Chinese tourists heading overseas was up by between 15-18% when compared to the previous year. That translates to a total number of almost 145 million trips… demonstrating just how dynamic Chinese nationals have become in spending their money on travel, and taking their money to the markets of neighbouring countries and elsewhere around the world. During the same period, domestic travel revenue from flights within China leapt up to new heights, too - CNY 5 trillion was spent in just the first half of the year, showing a 13% increase from the previous year. To add further evidence that Chinese people are looking to travel more across the globe, and take their hard-earned money overseas, over 164 million Chinese nationals applied for travel passports (for holidays and travel for private purchases alone) last year, bolstering a 21% growth from the previous year, which already yielded a surprising increase that demonstrated just how powerfully this trend was developing.

While travel for private purposes and tourism in general is only one aspect of how the Asian economy is growing, and how personal wealth is increasing, it’s a significant one. Overseas travel dynamizes the visibility of countless international brands which are becoming increasingly attractive to Chinese consumers, and the hunger for global goods is growing exponentially within the Chinese mainland. Other trends point to exactly the same upward trajectory - spending among Chinese consumers is fastest growing in the world today, with estimates that spending in China is likely to grow by almost 8% over the next ten years… a figure which no shortage of international brands are eyeing with great interest. As demand for foreign brands, especially those from the USA, the UK, and across Europe, continues to grow, there’s never been a more crucial time to look at expanding brand operations into Asia, and seeking out the great rewards this vast and expanding market has to offer.

5 Results-Driven Strategies for Targeting Chinese Consumers

While the aforementioned trends, and many others which paint the same picture, have attracted vast swathes of foreign brands seeking to find their way into the market, targeting Chinese customers requires some real thought and planning. Knowing and understanding the needs of a Chinese audience is vital to understanding how to actively engage with - and efficiently provide for - potential Chinese consumers. With the following five strategies, you’ll be able to get the ball rolling for tapping into the market with relative ease, and find ways for your brand to target the vast possibilities a Chinese audience can provide.

Chinese-Friendly Online Platforms

Make no mistake, one of the most important - and relatively simple - actions that cannot be overlooked when seeking to access the Chinese market is to adapt your site, app, or sales platform into Chinese. Many brand owners would recommend also developing a locally hosted website (by registering a .cn domain) in order to increase accessibility. This can be done by either hosting a website in Hong Kong (easier, certainly, but this wouldn’t provide a .cn domain, although it would assist in SEO), or by hosting a site in China by applying for an Internet Content Provider (ICP) license. Your international marketing consultancy should be able to assist with this decision.

Language, too, is of huge importance. While many international brands stick to keeping their sites in English, which is widely used and understood throughout the Chinese mainland, greater accessibility can be gained by creating Chinese language versions. However, it’s important to bear in mind that there are regional differences in Chinese Mandarin across the mainland and its territories; Mainland China and Singapore almost exclusively use Simplified Chinese, while Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of China use Traditional Chinese. It’s wise, if you’re looking to utilize just one of these languages, to stick with Simplified Chinese, which has a far wider reach.

Most importantly of all, naturally, is the content of your website, and the fact that you cannot rely on an ‘international’ presence to supersede the necessity for dedicated content targeted specifically at potential Chinese consumers. Producing content that puts quality first, and which is directly useful to Chinese customers will always drive greater levels of traffic to your site, and heighten the online customer’s experience of connecting with your brand. Chinese consumers are perhaps even more used to receiving digital information than their western counterparts… but it is those brands which focus on quality and providing material of real value that will make the greatest impact in this market.

Adapt to Chinese SEO

Making sure your site is Chinese-friendly is really only half the job, and the bare minimum you’ll need to look at undertaking for appealing to any new Asian audience. It’s also hugely important to bear in mind that your website will have to optimized for the search engines your Asian customer bases will be using on a day-to-day basis, in order to ensure visibility and to bring the right traffic to your brand. After all, without online accessibility or visibility, your brand may as well not have a presence in Asia at all.

As we’re all aware, Google takes the crown when it comes to the international business market (not in China, but elsewhere around Asia as much as in the West), but when looking to reach the Chinese public, 360 Search, Sogou, and Baidu are the ones you’ll need to pin your hopes upon in regards to SEO and content marketing. Brands looking to gain an edge should immediately begin putting aside time to research keywords for local Chinese consumer trends, as optimizing content in this way will assist in reaching out to the fastest-growing consumer market on Earth.

Mobile Optimization is King

Recent studies have shown, to no real surprise, that mobile phone internet use in China is rapidly on the rise, with Baidu (China’s key search engine) boasting almost 200 million active daily users. In order to effectively and efficiently target Chinese consumers, optimising your site for full mobile compatibility is of paramount importance… and this rings increasingly true across the rest of Asia, also.

A prospective Chinese consumer market relies enormously on smartphones and mobile devices when it comes to purchasing goods and services. The most recent figures from last year show 14 trillion CNY in sales from e-commerce transactions, and 2020’s figures are anticipated to be considerably higher still. Online shoppers in China are yielding considerable affluence in marketing trends, demonstrating powerful spending ability… something your business has no choice but to adapt to in order to compete with other brands launching in Asia.

Social Media Marketing, Chinese Style

Attempting to directly replicate your social media marketing efforts for a Chinese audience is a rapid way to set yourself up for failure, for a wide array of different reasons. As you have probably already heard, major ‘western’ social platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram are banned in China, as is Google. However, social media does have a strong presence in China, but only on state-approved platforms. Number one out of these is WeChat, which has around 800 million daily users, and allows businesses to spread word about their products and services with great ease.

Other popular Chinese platforms include Weibou and Douyin, which are used by the majority of the social media-savvy population, and which are superb channels for directing traffic to your website. LinkedIn, although often overlooked in the West, is also held in high regard by Chinese professionals.

Hone Your Cultural Communications

In Asia and China, perhaps more potently than in other markets, knowing your consumers is of the utmost importance. When it comes to your customer base, besides gender, the principal parameters for classification in China and elsewhere in Asia are on socioeconomic class and age group. For example, millennial consumers in China have needs which are notably distinct from those in older generations, or those in a higher class of income and wealth.

Recognizing the landscapes of varying lifestyles and behaviour found in and around the country gives your brand an edge in its ability to attract attention and funnel sales. Social media engagement will certainly assist in cultural communications, as well as provide targeting campaigns of increased efficiency. Taking the time and expenditure to invest in cultural training will yield greater knowledge of your targeted market in China, as well as develop trust between your brand and your growing customer base.