Though most UK businesses expanding into China will focus exclusively on e-commerce to build their brand, others may take their venture into the real world, selling their products in physical retail outlets. And with more Chinese tourists visiting the UK than ever because of a weak pound, some UK-based businesses are trying to tap into the growing Chinese tourism market, encouraging consumers to visit their museums, restaurants, and hotels in the UK.
Online to offline is the link between an online presence and offline sales, and it’s becoming more and more important for businesses in the UK and in China. With mobile commerce on the rise, entrepreneurs must work harder to persuade consumers to visit their businesses in real life rather than just follow them on WeChat, and the good news is there are lots of ways to do that, especially for UK brands trying to capture the attention of Chinese consumers.
Below, we’ve put together some O2O marketing tips to help you increase your offline sales…
Harness the power of WeChat
With more than one billion monthly active users, WeChat should form the cornerstone of any online-to-offline marketing campaign in China. Start by building a presence on the network and posting about your offline experiences, whether that’s friendly customer service in your retail store in Mainland China or one-of-a-kind guided tour around your museum in Glasgow.
Building an audience doesn’t happen overnight, so rely on Big Vs (also known as influencers or key opinion leaders) and invest in user-generated content to encourage visitors to share their experiences with your brand on their social media accounts, helping you to create a “destination experience” users cannot ignore. The more UGC you post, the more customers you’re going to attract, so offer participants an entry into a prize draw to incentivise them to post about you online, giving away a “star prize” like a gift hamper or an iPad as a thank you.
WeChat Mini Programs should also be considered to promote your business or to add value when consumers visit you in real life. For example, museums could build a Program to give guided tours of English-language exhibitions, hotels could offer their menus and tourist information in English, and retail stores could offer exclusive coupons or offers for customers who visit their store as an incentive over purchasing online. In the luxury sector, offline channels continue to dominate sales, so tapping into WeChat to fuel that makes sense.
What’s more, 92% of Chinese mobile users now use mobile payments like WeChat and AliPay, so make sure you offer these mobile payment methods in your stores to complete sales and keep everything locked into the WeChat ecosystem so you can collect user data.
Build brand awareness
The average consumer won’t purchase a product until they have been exposed to a brand message at least seven times, so if you want to drive offline sales and footfall, connecting with your audience is critical. Make sure you’re on every social networking site, like WeChat, Weibo, and Douyin, and create engaging, impactful content your audience will want to share.
Remember: we’re in a crowded and competitive world, so put everything you have into your marketing campaigns and rely on local marketing experts for help. You cannot simply copy and translate marketing materials from the UK and expect them to have the same impact in China - every market you enter requires a unique approach for maximum engagement.
Don’t assume or generalise when attempting to build your brand - invest in data analytics and personalise your campaigns to maximise engagement. Research shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that cater to their interests, so forge bonds with your audience and sell the benefits of your offline experiences to drive sales.
China now has more smartphones than people, with 1.56 billion active smartphones in the country as of 2019. Many consumers have one device for work and another for family, whilst some manufacturers including Apple have introduced Dual SIM options so consumers can manage calls, emails, and texts from multiple numbers on one device. Chinese consumers spend on average five hours on entertainment apps like games and social media every day, so if you want your offline brand to be heard, you need to be making lots of noise on phones.
Although the landscape is changing and consumers are spending more time on their phones than ever, it’s still possible to connect with them online and encourage them to meet you in the flesh. Build a mobile-first website, an app to promote your business, and make sure you’re easily found on social media. And think about mobile experiences in stores - you can use beacon technology to transmit messages to customer’s devices in stores, add QR codes to your products to elevate your offline experiences and so much more.
Embrace technology rather than run from it, and your offline business will thrive in today’s digital-first times.
Bring events to the real world
Whether on Weibo or WeChat, Chinese consumers build communities where users share common interests and passions with friends and strangers. Bringing those communities to the real world is another way to use online marketing to encourage offline sales, whether you’re promoting a beer brand or a luxury spa. Tapping into social networks like Little Red Book and relying on influencers to spread the word about your events can unlock some significant opportunities for sales, but you must be prepared to put in the effort and host an event that adds value to your brand and persuades potential customers to stick around.
When we worked with Brewmeister on their Chinese marketing strategy, for example, we hosted a tasting event and invited millennials who were interested in beer to come along and try it. The result? A successful event, increased brand awareness, and tonnes of buzz about the brand on Weibo and WeChat, which we used as “social proof” to sell the product to more people. Such events don’t need to be huge - they just need to be well thought out and memorable, so that you build favour with potential customers rather than waste their time.
Invest in Baidu SEO
Finally, make sure your business ranks highly on Baidu, China’s answer to Google.
Whether you’re promoting your cosmetics concession in a Chinese department store or your Chinese-friendly hotel in Scotland, it’s critical that potential customers can find your offline business through organic search. Not only does SEO help you stand out and increase your potential visitor numbers, but consumers can visit your establishment with confidence based on your good online presence and user reviews.
You’ll need to develop a Chinese-language website that’s mobile-friendly and hosted in China, and you should also open profiles on sites like Dazhong Dianping, Mafengwo, Qyer or Ctrip (China’s alternatives to TripAdvisor). Just make sure you’ve got some good reviews!
Rather than viewing the internet as the ‘enemy’ to your offline business, see it as an opportunity to promote your business to your ideal Chinese target market. If you need help, contact the Chinese marketing specialists at Zudu China on +44 (0)1382 690 080 today.