One word that looms large when talking about marketing your products in China is e-Commerce. China is the largest e-Commerce market in the world with 780 million active digital consumers in 2021. These consumers contribute to over half of the total digital sales globally.
As you will know, marketing in China is very different from marketing in the west with a whole ecosystem of e-Commerce platforms, media platforms and analytics. Furthermore, China within itself is also extremely diverse, so a campaign that works in one province or with one demographic may not perform as well across all segments. But fear not, we will do our best to give you a few key pointers to tap into this huge consumer market.
Characteristics of Chinese consumers
Although the following two qualities may seem contradicting to each other, Chinese consumers are both price sensitive and brand conscious. Price wars are a daily occurrence in China, and it’s usually the main factor that affects a buying decision. However, there is a reason why luxury brands are falling over each other to enter the Chinese market – China is the second-largest market for luxury brands after the US and the largest in APAC. Chinese customers are extremely brand conscious, especially the younger generation.
In general, the older “lost” generation that lived through political upheaval has learnt to be frugal and are extremely cost-conscious. The middle-aged population oscillates between being brand-conscious and subscribing to trends and maintaining sensitivity to price. The youngest generation or those born after 2000 are the most westernised and brand-conscious. They are the quickest to respond to trends and buy heavily through social media.
Group buying is also trending in China. Imitation between members of a group is common and if consumers from the same group trust a product, the Chinese are more likely to buy it. They do trust well-known brands so building brand awareness is integral to the success of a product before spending money on advertising campaigns. For more trends and research, you should look at a China marketing agency like Alarice International, they have over a decade of success marketing in China.
Reaching out to Chinese consumers
As mentioned before, e-Commerce is very popular in China. To add to this, most Chinese users connect to digital commerce using their smartphones. With 670 million people in China reported to be smartphone users in 2020, the number will continue to rise. For many, it is their only internet connected device.
Naturally, China has a massive mobile advertising market valued at 64.5 billion USD. To get your head around this figure, it is important to understand the different app ecosystems and e-Commerce platforms available to marketers in the country.
Firstly, a mobile friendly site in Chinese is SEO optimised for Baidu is extremely critical. Baidu is the preferred search engine in China as Google is blocked. The cornerstone of your social media strategy will be the app WeChat, known as Weixin in China. WeChat has 1.26 billion active users and covers all demographics. It is the primary source of communication for most of the Chinese population, but its power extends beyond simply a messaging platform. With powerful payments, e-Commerce, media and interactive options, WeChat offers a wide range of marketing opportunities.
That said, it is equally important to keep pace with other social media applications in the country when trying to reach out to particular niches or demographics. For example, Douyin, the original version of TikTok is heavily used by young people and Xiaohongshu or Little Red Book is a Pinterest-style app that has numerous female users.
There are also many opportunities to reach out to older and middle-aged consumers through traditional media like TV and print.
In conclusion, it is a mistake to treat Chinese marketing strategy in the same vein as marketing in the west. And it is also be a mistake to apply the same strategies across all regions and demographics in China when they differ in consumption behaviors. But with a bit of effort, campaigns can be designed for maximum returns as consumers in China have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to spend their money on good products and services.