Expanding into China can feel overwhelming as a small business owner, and knowing where and how to market your brand is equally confusing. Though you might be tempted to copy and paste your UK marketing strategy in China and translate it, the truth is that consumers and professionals use the internet very differently - so much so that you might decide to prioritise building a social media presence over developing a Chinese-language website…
Consumers don’t use email
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to choose social media for building relationships with clients over your own website is that a lot of Chinese consumers don’t have an email address. Because of this, sending out email newsletters or order confirmations via email is not recommended, with consumers preferring to hear from you on WeChat instead. Indeed, fewer than 250 million people use email in the country, less than 40% of those online, and those that do use freemail accounts provided by their mobile carrier that can be cut off when they switch networks. Compare that to WeChat, which had 1.17 billion users in the first quarter of 2020. According to Deloitte’s 2018 China Mobile Consumer Survey, Chinese people checked their email 22% less than users globally, so prioritising social makes sense.
Most businesses don’t have them
When you’re expanding into new territory, it pays to look at what the competition is doing and follow suit. In China, the vast majority of small businesses don’t have their own website, and instead, use their social networking profiles on Weibo and WeChat as their official company websites. That extends to offline marketing materials - brands commonly use QR codes to push users to WeChat pages ahead of a company website and utilise WeChat’s eCommerce tools to sell products directly to consumers on the platform. It removes the need to build an expensive eCommerce site and maximises sales, reducing friction in the customer journey.
Consumers spend most of their time inside apps
Understanding how consumers use their smartphones is also key in knowing where to push your business. According to 2020 data, consumers in the country spend an average of six hours a day on their smartphones (that’s two days a week!) and spend around 4.7 hours a day inside mobile apps like WeChat. Because of this, it often makes more sense to appear on the platforms your customers are, rather than building a Chinese website and then trying to convince them to visit it. Whilst there’s still value in building a website to offer in-depth information on products and services, keeping your core marketing messages and client interactions on social networking platforms should work in your favour and prove fruitful.
Businesses use social media, too
If you’re operating in the B2B sector, you may think that the above analytics are irrelevant to you and that you need a company website. Though there’s nothing wrong with building a simple landing page to promote your services and heritage, you’ll likely find that social media is still consumers’ go-to choice when searching for and interacting with brands. According to Deloitte, 88% of Chinese consumers use WeChat in their daily work communication and are comfortable messaging brands and individuals directly to form relationships. When it comes to handling sensitive information, WeChat is still the preferred choice, with professionals using the platform to send files, documents, and even e-Sign contracts inside of the app.
Need a hand developing a Chinese marketing strategy? Turn to Zudu China. Click here to find out more and give our UK team a call on +44 01382 690 080 to see how we can help.