China Online Marketing Strategy: The Biggest Challenge

For the past few years, the world’s most famous travel destination has been getting more and more popular, especially now that more people can afford to travel abroad. Bali, Singapore and Thailand are a few of the most popular holiday destinations for 2018, as more and more people want to escape the long winter months and head for a sunnier climate.

But just because the majority of people are heading abroad for their holidays, it doesn’t mean that retailers and brands based in China ignore the country’s colossal population of internet users. In fact, many large companies have realised the enormous potential that the country’s online marketing community offers. So whether you’re planning on touring the country or are simply looking for a new place to shop, here’s what you need to know about China’s online marketing landscape.

Marketing To China’s Huge Audience

You might not think much about China when it comes to travelling or shopping, but the country’s population of internet users is a whopping 417 million (as of the end of 2017). With so many people online, it’s an excellent opportunity to market products and services to the audience. After all, a lot of these users are already your customers or potential customers. So instead of viewing the country as a whole, you can segment the market and focus on specific groups.

In terms of purchasing power, China is now the second largest online market in the world, after the United States. In 2017, retail e-commerce sales in the country were worth £114.9 billion, up from £93.3 billion in 2016. This makes China a lucrative market for online retailers.

But although the online retail market in China is growing, the biggest challenge for online marketers is still getting their products in front of the right audience. A lot of retail businesses in China’s biggest cities can offer a global range of products, but smaller towns and cities don’t always have the same variety of stores. So if your product is relatively unknown in the country, it can be difficult to find the right audience and encourage them to buy your product.

The Rise In Affinity Marketing

One way of getting around the above issue is employing what’s known as ‘affinity marketing’. For those unfamiliar, affinity marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on the individuals (known as ‘affinis’) who are most likely to purchase a product or service. In other words, rather than relying on general demographics or arbitrary interest groups, you can pinpoint a product’s ‘niche’ audience and target them with specific marketing messages.

For example, if you sell ice cream, you might decide that men aged between 28 and 34 are the ideal target audience for your product. You can then use this demographic insight to craft marketing material specifically for them. The results of which might be more conversions and revenue.

In the case of China’s hugely popular ‘unicorn’ product, the Mochidai Jujiu, the brand’s makers claim that as of January 2018, there are more than 100 million unofficial Snapchat users in China. As a result, they’ve seen a 126% rise in engagement rates on their platform compared to the end of 2017, with users posting on average 12.3 times per day.

So when you look at China’s huge digital population, you can see how targeting people on social media with similar interests to your own can result in great success. Especially if you have a clear idea of what ‘unicorn’ means in Mandarin.

Mobile Is The New Platform

It’s not just the internet that has seen a boom in the country, with 96.3% of Chinese adults now using a mobile phone. This makes it easier for companies to get their products in front of potential customers, as more and more people can access the internet on the move. According to Statista, there were 143.7 million mobile phone users in China as of December 2017.

With so many people using the internet on their phones, it’s an excellent opportunity to develop mobile apps. According to the Apptopia Global 2018 User Survey, 40% of smartphone users in China have downloaded a business app, and 25% have used a marketplace app. So if you’re looking to break into the Chinese market, developing an app is a must.

When it comes to using technology for marketing, many businesses have focused on the internet. However, with mobile usage soaring, brands should no longer see the internet as their only platform for marketing. Instead, with more and more people engaging with businesses via their smartphones, marketers should be developing mobile apps.

Cross-Border Shopping

You might not think much about China when it comes to travelling or shopping, but the country’s gigantic population of internet users offers incredible opportunities for those looking to do either. And with so many people online, it’s an excellent opportunity to sell products and services to those in China as well as the rest of the world. Online marketplaces and social media have made it much easier for businesses to connect with customers across borders, so if you’re looking to expand your reach, take advantage of the opportunity.

For example, if you’re a luxury goods brand, you might decide to set up a website in both Chinese and English to reach English-speaking customers in China, as well as the rest of the world. Not only will this result in more sales, but it means you can target potential customers in China with your globally recognised brand.

The Growth Of E-commerce In China

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you abandon all of your existing methods of marketing and go all-in on digital strategy. After all, the internet is the most effective way of reaching people, and for those based in China, mobile phones are the most popular devices. So if you’re already using the internet and social media to reach your audience, why not make the most of what they offer.

According to the China Market Research Institute, as of December 2017, there were 143.7 million mobile phone users in China. With 96% of people in the country using the internet, that’s an excellent opportunity to reach out to customers via mobile phones and the web. Plus, if you’re looking for a country to expand your business into, China is probably the best place to do so.