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China Market – 8 Strategies for Success

With an estimated 1.4 billion population which is equivalent to 17.72% of the total world population, most business are keen to enter into the China market. Hence, it is imperative for businesses that hope to enter China or grow existing operations there to understand the Chinese marketing mindset in order to achieve success.

1. Use not just Websites but Social Networks in the Consumer Online Shopping Process

China wins over countries such as Japan, the United States, and South Korea in the percentage of its population that uses social networks. A massive amount of these users tends to be the digital natives (Gen Z) or Millennials. They were also more likely to:

  • Live in large Chinese cities
  • Have an account with at least one social network
  • Visited a social app site in the past six months

Rather than as a form of social communication platform, these social networks have a significant impact on the buying decisions of Chinese consumers than on those of any other country. Online shopping on these Chinese social networks just makes the whole buying process faster, and more convenient, thus translating to higher conversion rate of social commerce for businesses. Beyond Weibo and Wechat, these also include Chinese social media such as Douyin, RED, Kuaishou, and Bilibil.

2. Gain the trust of the Chinese consumers with Influencer marketing with KOLs (key opinion leaders)

Plagued with issues of counterfeit products, overpriced goods, inferior products at higher prices, trust in a brand becomes vital for Chinese consumers.  KOLs, or key opinion leaders are influencers who review products within a specific niche. Unlike celebrities, these KOLs come from diverse backgrounds which may be more relatable to the mass consumers. They provide consumers with a more trustable brand marketing campaigns, demonstrating to consumers how end users engage with a product.

3. Include Livestream Sales in your E-commerce

In China, livestream sales has seen a remarkable success, with countries in the region adopting a similar approach. In 2022, livestream sales accounted for over 10% of e-commerce revenue in China. It offers consumers an immediate and interactive shopping experience along with discounts and flash sales. Popular platforms for livestream sales include Douyin, RED, WeChat live, Taobao live, and Kuaishou, all of which offer seamlessly integrated livestream ecommerce functionality such as one click purchases.

4. Incorporate Mobile payments into your businesses

China has the largest e commerce market in the world with a volume four times that of the United State. Ten years ago, 99% of people in China used cash. Today, unlike Western markets which  have switched from cash to credit cards and are now switching to mobile phones, China has skipped this step. Given the ease of use and convenience of mobile transactions, international brands looking to target Chinese consumers will do well to incorporate China payment systems into their business practices.

5. Acknowledge the Fragmented consumer groups and Lower tier cities in China

Consumer groups in China are extremely fragmented, beyond just by age and gender. City tiers, lifestyle, and even dialect also play a vital impact. In fact, nearly half of China’s luxury growth has been contributed by Tier 2 and 3 cities. Lower-tier cities in China are gaining increasing importance for brands as they hold the majority of the urban population and have distinct consumer needs. International and even domestic brands should recognize the potential to capture these growing markets.

Failing to localize means a lack of awareness about the country’s many different audiences, not to mention neglecting the threat of local rivals.  Driven by overseas success, many businesses may simply replicate their success abroad with the same products, strategies, and marketing. In comparison, Chinese marketers tend to be quick on their feet, exploring new avenues such as WeChat’s private traffic channels to countryside KOLs, tapping into each localized segment and staying on top of current cultural happenings to remain innovative and relevant.

6. Understand what Sustainability means in China

When sending messages about sustainability, the mistake some brands make is to focus only on the environmental pillar while forgetting about the social and economic aspects. Chinese audiences will often find overly factual sustainability messaging irrelevant and pressurizing. Hence, these companies find these messages being ignored when it comes to Chinese shoppers. Instead, Chinese consumers place more emphasis on their physical wellbeing and have a greater desire in seeking a healthy lifestyle. Businesses should tailor their sustainability messages to aspects like these, it’s a winning message. With the right message, a younger generation of consumers — riding the economic boom and educated about the environmental pollution costs of manufacturing will respond accordingly.

7. Get to Know and Follow the Chinese Calendar

In the West, brands often run special promotions for occasions such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day. But in China, the festival calendar includes plenty of festivals that aren’t celebrated or recognised in the West such as the Chinese New Year, Qixi Festival. It is important for businesses entering the China market to be mindful of following the Chinese Calendar. Singles’ Day (November 11) is the largest shopping day in the world, bigger than Amazon’s Prime Day and Black Friday combined. Given that E-commerce is still the fastest-growing sales channel in China, and China is still the largest retail market in the world, it may be still the best time to launch a new product or promotion. Brands can capitalize on these occasions to grow their sales by launching exclusive products, personalisation and collections that celebrate Chinese festivals.  For example, for Chinese New Year, many brands repackage their products in holiday red.

8. Recognise the impact of The One Child Policy on Spending

For 35 years, from 1980 to 2015, the Chinese government maintained a one-child policy. This has impacted the China’s household consumption habits and preferences. Single children are often lavished with attention, consumer goods and high-quality food. This has driven a strong demand not only for imported and ‘safe’ food items such as milk formula, but also high-status goods for children.

Hence, younger Chinese consumers are also more willing to spend than their parents and grandparents, driving the economic impact on the Chinese consumer market. While the Chinese government officially ended its one-child policy on January 1, 2016, to cope with an ageing population and shrinking workforce, response has been lukewarm. Concerns over rising living expenses, unaffordable housing prices and the lack of childcare services were some of the key barriers. The younger Chinese consumers remain the key target for brands given their higher propensity to spend.

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