If you’re considering selling products and services in China, you may think that building a presence on social networks like WeChat and Weibo and opening an online store on JD.com will be enough to help you stand out from the crowd, but a professionally-designed site that is tailored to your Chinese audience is essential to build trust and credibility and drive sales.
Years ago, businesses managed to get away with translating their website when expanding into new markets, but today consumers demand more. Indeed, website translations result in poor user experience - content is typically tailored to a Western audience and doesn’t take into account the nuances of different cultures and languages. In fact, translations can even lead to your marketing messages getting lost in translation, or worse still, causing offence to the country you’re targeting, so putting in the effort to build a localised website makes sense.
However, without the expertise of the Chinese market, building a bespoke website tailored to the tastes and needs of your audience can be hard work. Below, we’ve put together some important considerations to make when designing a Chinese-language website for your firm, to help you make a splash (and deliver a return on investment) when tapping into the market.
Get to know your audience
97.5% of Chinese citizens access the internet via their smartphones, and the majority favour their phones over desktops or tablets. Therefore, building a mobile-first Chinese website is critical - not just a nice to have. Take the time to research into your target audience so that you can understand what they like and dislike, and model your new website on competitors operating in the same niche. If you’re targeting millennials, then you’ll likely want to use lots of images, video content, and even use key opinion leaders in your marketing materials, whereas if you’re targeting middle-aged consumers, you may opt for long-form content to sell the benefits of your products and services, using Baidu SEO to help you rank for key terms.
Remember to think about your name and branding, too. Whilst some UK businesses hold on to their name when expanding into China, others translate their branding into Chinese to add value, increase engagement and build a connection with their Chinese customer base. You may want to run focus groups with your target market to choose the most appropriate name.
Buy a Chinese domain name
Once you’ve got an idea for your Chinese website and a name, the next step is to register a Chinese top-level domain, either .cn or .com.cn. Unfortunately, registering a Chinese domain name isn’t as straightforward as logging on to GoDaddy and typing in your preferred TLD; it requires identification and a Chinese business number, but it is worth the effort to secure the right domain, as it will give your website more credibility in the country. Secure it as soon as you’ve decided you want to enter the market. If you wait too long, it could be snapped up.
Host your website in China
Once you’ve secured a Chinese business licence, you should set up a web hosting package for your Chinese-language website. If you host your website elsewhere, it might be blocked by a firewall, and you’ll struggle to compete with other businesses on Baidu search. Apply for a corporate ICP licence from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and wait up to 20 days for approval. Once you’ve got it, you can host your website in the country, provided you display your ICP licence in the footer of your website to comply with legislation.
Alternatively, you can host your website in Hong Kong, where regulations aren’t as strict, as you’ll be able to take advantage of the faster speeds and preferential treatment from Baidu, without having to jump through loopholes when applying for a corporate ICP licence.
Localise your website
Rather than cloning your UK website and getting a copywriter to translate and localise the text, we recommend building a website from the ground up, considering everything from your content, design, user journeys, and local tastes and trends to maximise engagement. The average Chinese consumer is very different from the average British consumer - your design should reflect this, taking into account Chinese web design trends and common practices.
See also: How to localise your marketing campaigns
The truth is that Chinese consumers interact with websites in a different way to consumers in Western markets - they appreciate long-form content and access to all of the most important information on a single page, whereas, in the West, we favour simplified designs with images and video over blocks of text. Understand what is required, and conform to local standards.
Your content should not only be properly formatted, but it should be easy to read and share online. You should also ensure you provide recommendations, case studies, testimonials and accreditations where possible, as Chinese consumers tend to carry out lots of research before buying into new brands; they’re risk-averse, so do everything you can to build trust and credibility, or you could lose out to a local competitor or a brand with more experience.
Test your website on your audience
Once you’ve built your website, you should test it on your audience before you press publish. Not only will testing allow you to iron out bugs, broken pages, and unoptimised code, but it can ensure your pages are functioning correctly - and pushing users through a sales funnel.
Work with a marketing firm or web design agency to test six key attributes; functionality (to ensure everything works), usability (ease of navigation, appearance), interface (how your website displays content to users), compatibility (browser compatibility, mobile browsing, printing, accessibility), performance (loading times, stress testing) and security (to test for vulnerabilities in your code that could lead to data breaches that could damage your brand).
Integrate social networks and payment platforms
Finally, make sure your website includes integrations with popular Chinese social networks and payment platforms. Include links to Weibo, WeChat, Douyin and other networks to boost your research and increase the shareability of your content, particularly if you’re writing blog posts, creating video content, and want to drive traffic to your website to build a brand. Don’t forget: you can get the most out of your content by repurposing content across channels, so whilst investing in a Chinese-language website may be expensive and time-consuming, it will provide content for hundreds of social media posts that can build brand awareness off-site.
Integrating payment platforms like WeChat Pay and AliPay is also advisable, as you’ll open up your business to hundreds of millions of potential customers. Recent data suggests more than 900 million Chinese users have added a credit card to WeChat Pay, making it the digital payment wallet of choice in China. AliPay also has 500 million active users. In comparison, Apple Pay has just 127 million users globally, despite being a popular feature on iPhones.
Integrating such payment methods typically results in the generation of a QR code, which users can scan and pay via their phones. Offering frictionless payment methods increases the likelihood of a consumer purchasing from your website, and lowers cart abandonment rates. What’s more, most middle-men charge a low percentage per transaction that’s on par with PayPal and Stripe, so you won’t be charged over the odds for accepting such payments.
Developing a new website for the Chinese arm of your business can seem an impossible task to begin with, but breaking down the steps and working with local experts is the key to your success. If you need help with Chinese web development and marketing, reach out to the experts at Zudu China on +44 (0)1382 690 080, or click here to send us a message.