China is the second largest economy in the world – and the fastest growing. If you want to succeed in the Chinese market, then you need to be aware of the differences when it comes to the localization process. Marketing localization is one of, if not the, key component for making a business successful in China. When you digitally enter the Chinese market it’s important to fully grasp the unique dynamics of the localization process.
It can be tempting to simply hire a translator to create a word-for-word version of your message to reach the market, but this isn’t enough when it comes to resonating with Chinese consumers. The Chinese market is very attractive for many companies looking to go global. But while this massive market presents huge business opportunities, entering China poses its own set of unique localization challenges. These challenges can only be overcome through a carefully strategized plan. Here are some best practices and tips for getting started with marketing localization in China.
Understand the Complex Digital Ecosystem
By now, everyone has some form of understanding that China is one of the world’s most exciting markets, and it’s no secret that the opportunity for new brands can be exponential. However, China is also a complex market, and Chinese consumers are among the world’s most brand-conscious buyers. They are even willing to pay more money for brand name products compared to cost-efficient peer alternatives in the local market.
This trend can also be seen in Chinese search behavior. In the United States, consumers are more likely to search for discounted or non-branded products, and compare prices amongst different brands. On the other hand, Chinese consumers are more likely to research and validate the credibility of a brand, which usually results in purchasing a higher-priced product. It’s an extremely important concept to grasp because China is the world’s largest mobile market, its rising middle class is extremely comfortable purchasing high quality products across digital devices, not to mention, nearly 90% of Chinese consumers use Baidu for search.
Build a Localized Website
Building a Chinese version of your company’s website should be one of the first steps of your localization strategy. A website that is tailored specifically for the Chinese consumer will bring credibility to your brand as consumers search for products on Baidu or e-commerce platforms. Below are some practices that you should consider when launching a website in China.
Targeting your Audience
It requires much more effort to launch a Chinese website than just making a clone of your original site. It’s more than just translation, so it’s important to start with a clear marketing strategy. Chinese consumers are very different to western counterparts and your website needs to show that in order to succeed in the market.
Language & Translation
The language of your website may differ depending on your brand’s target audience, but it should be in simplified Chinese for mainland China. Many brands tend to get a local team of language experts to translate their website for the best results. If you want to ensure that your brand massage stays intact and prevent unnecessary brand damage, invest in a team with marketing and localization knowledge that can effectively convey your brand message to the local audience.
Design & Content
A Chinese website has a much different feel and tone as compared to western websites. Chinese consumers are looking for a site with a lot of information, as opposed to the simple design layout of western websites. The design and content should be kept current and consistent. This is one of the most effective ways to appeal to your target audience and build brand loyalty.
Tracking Your Website
To get a better understanding of how your product or marketing campaigns are going, it is essential to keep track of your website and consumer entry points. Google Analytics still works in China, but businesses tend to use Chinese alternatives because they have more relevant data to compare and track. Baidu Tongji and Baidu Zhanzhang are Chinese alternatives and offer similar free web analysis and reporting tools. They work together to generate web performance, ROI metrics, traffic sources, and conversion benchmarks for Chinese websites.
Choose a Social Media Platform
Many Chinese social media platforms are very similar to platforms in the West, but they are not quite the same in terms of functionality and how they are used. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the major social media platforms in China and understand how brands use them to market their business. Key opinion leaders (KOLs) also play an important role in social media marketing for brand promotion. Here are some of the top platforms that you’ll want to take advantage of for your marketing localization.
WeChat has grown to become the most popular social and mobile app in China where it has over 1.1 billion registered accounts. This social media platform allows users to send text and voice messages to each other as well as play video games, watch videos, shop and pay via mobile payments. WeChat also has mini programs that essentially operate like a separate mobile app, except that they function within WeChat. WeChat offers a completely seamless, mobile-first consumer experience where brands can increase awareness and loyalty.
Weibo is often explained as the Chinese equivalent to Twitter. It is a microblogging site that allows 140 characters per post and users can add links, photos and videos. It also incorporates a lot of the popular features found on other social media platforms, such as instant messaging, e-commerce features, and third party app integrations. Information on Weibo changes frequently and spreads exponentially. It’s great for brands that want to increase their corporate exposure and launch marketing campaigns.
Meipai is one of the most popular video messaging apps in China. It allows users to make 60-second videos, import photos and add effects. Users can also share their videos directly to Weibo and WeChat. Meipai is favored by many celebrities and it would be a good idea to team up with KOLs while using this platform. It is a great platform for brands that want to rely on visual marketing to promote their product.
Bilibili is a video sharing website that is themed around live streaming, video hosting, and mobile gaming. It focuses on anime-related content and video game culture. 90% of its users are under 25, who post, view, and comment on videos in real-time. The real-time feature is known as “bullet chatting” and it facilitates an active community by inducing viewers to participate through the chat and stay engaged. Brands can have a creative opportunity to connect and gain popularity among China’s young generation at a rapid rate using this platform.
Use Quality Content Marketing
As obvious as it may seem, you need to define your target market and make sure to use quality content. Content marketing is at the heart of most successful digital marketing campaigns. Behind every successful brand is a mountain of valuable and relevant content that really connects with the target audience. With China’s distinct ecosystem and the reinforcement of the Great Firewall, all content needs to be tailored to fit Chinese platforms and searching algorithms.
Content marketing in China does not need to rely on your brands’ existing marketing material and it’s important to be careful in utilizing a platform with outright advertising because it can lead to bans from website moderators. New visuals, banners, and keywords can be created that are tailored to the local demographic. You should make sure to choose the right channel for content distribution and the most appropriate and effective social media platform to establish a stable and effective relationship with your target audience.
Campaign Ideas to get you started
Rioja Wine had zero digital presence in China and were looking to expand their business to the Chinese market. They started expanding by developing a local branding strategy, revamping their marketing materials, and building a Chinese website. Rioja worked on their local SEO strategy and launched a mobile campaign including a Rioja map contest via WeChat and an O2O wine tasting campaign. The results generated a lot of interest and engagement on Chinese social media platforms to strengthen the brands’ reputation in China.
ISRP is a psychomotricity training institute that had no prior exposure to the Chinese market. The concept of psychomotricity was also initially unknown in China, meaning that it had to be introduced in a way that Chinese consumers would understand while adapting the ISRP brand at the same time. ISRP adapted a branding strategy for the local market and generated exposure through social media marketing, offsite event coverage and the creation of a brand new Chinese website.
Leffe is a premium Belgian beer company that wanted to boost their brand awareness to the Chinese market. Premium beer has gained a lot of traction in China, but Leffe was still relatively new to the market. Leffe took advantage of the Shanghai Oktoberfest, which has become a very popular event amongst the young Chinese generation and expats in Shanghai. Leffe created a social media campaign that improved their presence on WeChat by crafting bilingual WeChat content to appeal to both Chinese and English speakers. They also offered gift prizes for fans that shared and reposted content on WeChat. The results allowed Leffe to gain a significant amount of new fans and official WeChat account followers.