Straightforward tips for your Chinese Digital Strategy

October 1, 2018

As the most populous country in the world with a growing middle class, sophisticated consumers and large volume of e-commerce transactions, China’s online environment is a great growth opportunity. To really take advantage of this vast market, it is important for businesses to first understand the various economic, societal and demographic shifts and patterns in China.


The background

In a similar way that South Korea, Japan and Taiwan went through major demographic changes, China is set to see similar patterns through the accelerated industrialisation, urban living, better education and rising disposable income. By 2020, China’s equivalent “middle class” is set to grow from only 6% to 51% of total the total population (McKinsey, 2012). It is this group of potential consumers comprising of over 167million, that will become the ideal target market capable to purchasing small luxury items (e.g. cars).

To give some context, e-commerce spending in Asia reached US$1 trillion in 2016, with affiliate marketing contributing between 5%-30% of brands online revenue (The Drum, 2017). The sheer size and growth potential therefore make China a unique but challenging new market to operate in.


First and foremost, there needs to be some review on whether your brand is suitable to the Chinese market, can you have people located locally, have a fully translated .CN website and accept modern Chinese payment methods. These are just some of the few key steps to take before venturing forward with a Digital strategy.

We’ve compiled a list of some  top tips on how brands can best take advantage of the massive e-commerce opportunity China provides:


Mobile first:

Whereas the rest of the Western world only just begun adopting mobile e-commerce, China started here. The variety of apps and how consumers interact with them makes the entire experience seamless and fun – which in turn makes buying a lot easier.

It’s predicted that by 2020 over 74% of total e-commerce in China will be made via mobile, this is compared to only 46% predicted for the US. Therefore, when planning any type of marketing campaign in China, catering to the mobile first consumer and what their user journey will look like will be a key factor for campaign success. Take Tiffany for example, an already established brand who embraced the modern marketing methods in China. They focused on refining their mobile marketing by developing their WeChat account and other platforms such as their “Engagement Ring Finder” app (LuxuryConversation, 2018).


Social media is key:

In China your usual Facebook, Youtube, Whatsapp, and Instagram are blocked. Instead, the population use platforms such as WeChat, Weibo and QQ to name a few. It’s important to understand that these platforms go beyond your usual social interactions and instead have replaced the traditional communication and shopping habits within the population.

Taking WeChat as a primary example, this app encompasses services such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and Skype and PayPal all in one. Chinese consumers use the app for anything from communication, browsing favourite brands and stores for new products, to making restaurant reservations and booking their flights. It’s the one-stop shop for the average Chinese consumer. With over 900M users spending over 70mins in the app a day, it’s paramount to have a presence in these apps.


Marketing Calendar:

Aligning marketing campaigns to regional celebrations/shopping periods are one of the pillars for ensuring success. Although some Western traditions and celebrations are observed in China, there are key dates and traditions that differ.

For example, in the west the New Year this is celebrated on Jan 1  and although it does hold some value to run campaign during this time, it’s mostly going to be applicable to millennials. The Chinese New Year however which falls in February is likely to yield better results.

Other key dates to bear in mind is Golden week which falls in October seeing many Chinese consumers travelling internationally – a key date for travel brands to promote offers.


Lastly, not forgetting to mention Black Friday and Cyber Monday, these shopping periods rein supreme in the west, and although it does well in China it’s nothing compared to the volume driven on Singles Day on 11th November or 11/11. Historically, this day was used as a celebration for single people in China. In 2009, the giant Alibaba turned this day into their own version of the traditional “Black Friday/CyberMonday” shopping period. Alibiba reported gross sale of $25.5 billion in 2017, comparatively Black Friday & Cyber Monday made $6.5 billion in 2016 and even Amazon couldn’t compete with an estimated $600 million to $1 billion in sales for their Prime Day 2017 (Practical Ecommerce, 2017).

Sales on China’s 2017 Singles’ Day Dwarf U.S. Black Friday, Cyber Monday

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