Entering the Chinese market is on the mind of every business that wants to expand its brand overseas. Over the last few years, the Chinese economy grew in leaps and bounds, becoming the second-largest in 2020. With a massive consumer market of 1.4 billion people, increased technological development, and geopolitical green-lights to foreign firms, the Chinese market is now highly sought after by brands.
Many brands fail miserably in the Chinese market because of little or no knowledge of the domestic market. One of the biggest misconceptions is that it is a single unvaried market. However, a market of 1.4 billion consumers cannot be a uniform or a homogeneous one. Before entering the Chinese market, every brand must carry out in-depth research to understand it thoroughly and ensure higher chances of success.
Brands cannot launch themselves in China using the same product model or service. They have to tailor it according to the preferences of their target audience. For instance, Oreo succeeded in China after it overhauled its recipe to align it with the local appetite. In addition to reshaping the products, brands have to repackage their content if they want to have higher visibility on Baidu, China’s Google.
Key opinion leaders (KOLs) and social media influencers in China have strong presence among the target audience. Due to their huge following on online platforms, brands can have a wide and easy reach to the buyers. Consumers deeply trust KOLs and often become the loyal followers of the brands they promote during live-streaming. This makes them the perfect brand representative for foreign firms wanting to establish themselves in China.
Oreo’s 2020 “Super Brand Day” campaign with singer Jay Chou.
When entering the Chinese market, brands cannot use the same e-commerce platforms to build online stores. China has its own set of platforms where buyers and sellers interact. Alibaba’s Taobao, Tmall, JD, Pinduoduo are popular online platforms brands should strive to enter to sell their products successfully.
As a frontier in technology and innovation, China has developed many of its own social media platforms. As Western social media are not accessible in China, brands must employ local social channels to boost their presence in the Chinese market. Famous social media platforms in China include Weibo, QQ, WeChat, Douyin, Youku, Bilibili, and Zhihu.
The Chinese culture differs vastly from other cultures around the world. Chinese customers are often characterized as collectivists — where they think, act, and communicate collectively as opposed to the west’s individualist mindset.
They have great brand loyalty and attach significant importance to brands as a form of self-expression. With 939.8 million internet users in China in January 2021, brands can have an extensive reach to their target audience with the right digital marketing techniques.
With nearly 1 billion monthly active users, WeChat is the most used social media application by Chinese consumers. It has become of regular use in their everyday digital lives. Users can communicate, book a cab, shop, pay bills, and more, through the WeChat app. Brands wanting to enter the Chinese market can leverage this all-in-one app to reach, know, and understand their potential customers.
They can also use the business-friendly feature of creating a zero-cost official account, which serves as the mini-website within the WeChat app. Brands can post daily updates in blog posts, videos, and photographs to the subscribed users.
Hermes’ “Start the Movement” campaign available in WeChat.
The Chinese Market, while boasting a plethora of business opportunities, also presents potential challenges to brands. It is difficult to penetrate, which is made even worse by factors like language and cultural barriers, local social media usage, new regulations, and local competition.
According to Harvard Business Review, even giants like Uber failed in China due to interference from the state.
But with a deeper understanding of the market, customizing the products and services according to the preferences and tastes of Chinese consumers, and flawless digital marketing strategies in hand, brands can prosper exponentially.
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