How to reach Chinese consumers online

Author: Nicolas Chu, CEO, Sinorbis

For years the internet in China has been highly regulated by the Great Firewall of China, blocking popular Western websites such as Facebook, Wikipedia and Google. This unique environment impacts businesses looking to reach and sell to Chinese consumers online in two ways:

  1. It’s extremely difficult for Chinese online users to have access to information from outside of China, unless your website is optimised for the Chinese digital ecosystem.
  2. This confined environment has fostered the emergence of an online ecosystem that is completely different and independent from anything we know in the West.

For marketers, this means you can’t connect to your target market in China via Google, WhatsApp, Facebook or eBay, because none of these tools are either used or accessible for people in China.

A different marketing approach for China’s unique digital ecosystem

In China, you need to rethink the way you do digital marketing. While you can’t bid for keywords on Google, you can use Baidu, which is one of the four major search engines in China. Instead of Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp you’d use WeChat, QQ Messenger and Weibo to reach and engage with your audience.

Comparison of Western versus Chinese digital channels

Yet, to be successful in China takes more than knowing that Baidu is the equivalent of Google. The Chinese search engine operates under its very own set of rules. Likewise, WeChat is quite different from WhatsApp, and Weibo is not the same as Twitter. China’s digital channels have unique features and this impacts directly what you can and can’t do as a marketer.

Invest time and resources to establish your web   presence

If you’re serious about selling your product or services to Chinese consumers (in China or Australia), you need to invest in getting the foundations right. This means either hiring an experienced inhouse Chinese digital marketer or partnering with people who can help you.

But first and foremost you need to invest in creating your web presence in China – preparing yourself for the fact that you will have to start completely from scratch. If you don’t have a Chinese website optimised for the local ecosystem, you have nowhere to send people to that you’re attracting through various on- and offline channels.

But not only do you need to have a Chinese language website, it also must be designed with the needs of Chinese users in mind and optimised for Chinese search engines.

Build awareness and trust for your brand in China

When Chinese consumers first encounter your product on Tmall, you will be one of 14,500 foreign brands they can purchase via the ecommerce site. And in a market where brand trust is key, they won’t click ‘buy’ until they know a bit more about the quality and reputation of your offering.  Chinese consumer will be checking information about your company on your official Chinese website and will proactively search for reviews and ask questions as part of their decision-making process. Trust is key and you need to spend time building your online reputation in China.

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