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Don't forget these tips when marketing to China

autoreBy Helen Gaoon 16 Feb 2017

China is a vastly different business culture to anywhere else in the world.

Well-known companies such as Amazon have struggled to transition into China - the unique blend of traditional business customs with a highly mobile, rising affluent class make it a country like no other for conducting business. 

So what can be learnt?

First fix your slow, unresponsive, unsocial website that no one visits.

Local language and social media

Consider building a separate website for the China market and have the site professionally translated into Mandarin (even consider a Cantonese option, too).  

Only include Chinese social media links (WeChat, Weibo) and consider hiring a native Mandarin speaking freelancer to produce content and post to it regularly.

Get the data

Have the same freelancer install Baidu Tongji instead of Google Analytics and use your Chrome auto-translate to read the stats.  Lastly, it's best to have your site hosted in China, so it loads fast (think 2 second load time, instead of 30 second load time inside China).

Host it inside the Great Firewall

Also, by hosting inside China you'll be rewarded with better rankings on the search engines.   Aliyun is the main hosting provider, although Amazon Web services is making in-roads as well and have Engish speaking account managers.  

Get seen on search

Look at hiring Chinese search engine specific SEO professionals, although make sure they stick to whitehat methods, as you don't want your English website to get punished from shady linking practices, as your English site will likely be associated with your Chinese site via links, emails, brand name, etc.

So many to reach

We’ve all heard the stats - China is a digital, social nation. In mid 2015 China boasted 700 million active social media users. The most popular sites being Weibo and WeChat. Social networks are key for users not only communicating but also sharing purchases and reviews - making the addition of links to your social accounts on your website key. 

By the end of 2016 there were more than 1.3 billion mobile subscriptions in China. And mobile devices are used for more than half of all internet browsing. And yet so many businesses who deal with Asian consumers daily still have unresponsive websites.

Don't forget the old

A lot of focus is given to the young, mobile Asian demographics. And certainly the young, mass affluent are rising are an unprecedented rate. However, as Dae Ryun Chang - Professor of Business at Yonsei School of Business - highlights, Asia is both very young and very old.

It may be young as a modern, global economy, however it also boasts some of the oldest cultures on earth. Therefore it is important to not only appeal to the young professional class, but also give recognition to the culture.

After all, China and Japan most notably, are countries heavily seeped in tradition and hold very complex business cultures and practices. Chang explains, ‘both forces operate and interact to influence consumer behavior.

For example, Starbucks became a hit not only for its new coffeehouse concept but perhaps more so because of Asians’ age-old need to socialize.’ Embracing both the old and the new is key. 

Some great resources on these topics can be found in Asia Content Marketing Association, Harvard Business Review and The New Asia by James and Merchant.

Top tier cities influence the rest

Soo-Se Chen, a professor of international business at the Ming Hsin University of Science and Technology in Taiwan, points out that China is very heterogenous. He cites this as a key reason a lot of companies failed in China in the mid 1990s.

Chen, who worked with QianJiang Motorcycle among many other companies, pointed out that of the five top-selling motorcycle brands in China in 1997, only two remained in the top five in 2002, just five years later. Try to tap the communal mindset.’ (Jette, HBS, 2003)

With this in mind it is important to embrace the communal culture and influence directly at the source of the trends - top tier cities. Witt and Redding (2014) explain that prosperity in cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai have made them distinct Asian leaders from both economic and cultural standpoints.

A sense of communal belonging is reflected in the way second tier cities - such as Shenzhen and Qingdao - are inspired by trends in Shanghai. 

To further your understanding of the China market, read our blog post: what do Chinese seafood buyers want.

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Gfresh team