The primary marketing objective of retailers is to outreach potential Chinese shoppers and close sales when they travel abroad. To many of them this hasn’t been an easy task, as conducting digital marketing to China feels like a “black box” to them – to which no easy access is available – and they all crave professional advice and actual help on their China-targeting digital strategies – from industry intelligence to marketing execution.
Common challenges faced by marketers
Below are some of the common challenges faced by retail marketers in the region in my experience:
- Grasping solid and up-to-date information of the Chinese digital landscape – it’s not easy for marketers to gain timely knowledge and insights of the market, plus many lack an acute understanding of the characteristics of different Chinese media and social media platforms.
- Communications with Chinese media owners – communicating with media owners in China and understanding their requirements effectively hasn’t been easy, and to set up campaigns on Chinese user interfaces can be tricky to many.
- A gap between the expected and actual marketing budget needed for an effective outreach – given the market size and complexity, an omni-channel approach is advised to reach China audiences effectively, and this usually requires a larger budget per digital campaign which can be out of marketers’ expectations.
- While many of the retail marketers I have worked with hope to achieve sales conversion right away when marketing to China, sometimes the issue lies in the fact the brands have remained unheard of in the market, that is, Chinese consumers have yet to learn about the brands.
Hence, the first thing to do would be building brand and product awareness and establishing a stronger brand presence in the market. It is also important to understand the purchase patterns and behaviours of Chinese shoppers.
Establishing a brand presence on WeChat is the first step
WeChat is the must-know platform for effective brand promotion in China. This world-famous all-in-one mobile app that provides users with a 360-degree digital experience is now an indispensable part of almost every Chinese consumer’s daily life. Not only does it provide access to an enormous pool of product and service information, it closes the loop by bringing about conversion from initial interest to actual purchases – with a seamless online payment solution in place as well.
According to Experian’s “The Digital Consumer View 2016” report released in August last year, instant messaging apps, primarily WeChat and QQ Messenger, are the biggest driver of O2O (online-to-offline) conversion among Chinese consumers. They also play a top role in product search and discovery, arousing interest, triggering purchase intent as well as promoting brand engagement. Chinese consumers are increasingly using WeChat to make impulse purchases as well, according to McKinsey’s iConsumer China 2016 survey.
So, we see why it is crucial to establish a presence on WeChat for your brand by building your brand’s official page thereon, supported by a local language-friendly official web page, on which Chinese shoppers can easily navigate and find the information they need.
When it comes to digital audience buying, as China is a mobile-first market, we advise marketers using the HTML5 format for ad landing pages to promote better engagement. Including mobile apps in your marketing mix would also be wise. Brands may also set up an official account on QQ Messenger via which they can answer enquiries raised by interested Chinese internet users.
When it comes to outbound travel, Chinese travellers are slowly evolving in their travelling tastes and needs. They are becoming more interested in consuming experiences, instead of simply going on a shopping craze. It is, hence, important to provide retail experiences that are unique and meaningful while attending to their needs.
The Chinese are tech-savvy spenders who are very used to a mobile-first convenient lifestyle. One effective way to raise awareness and influence purchase is to reach them on their mobile phone via targeted digital marketing when they start thinking about having a trip or when they start planning the itinerary, that is, prior to travel.
At iClick Interactive, our Travel+ solution is specifically designed for this purpose. Via our data-driven marketing platform, we help marketers precisely reach Chinese internet users who have shown interest in travelling to specific countries, for example, Singapore. We get this done via our platform’s algorithmic analysis and profiling of Chinese users’ online behaviours such as keywords searched, websites browsed or social media posts made or reacted to, and more.
This helps marketers significantly reach a precise and highly potential target audience group with whom they can actively engage via seasonal messaging and timely promotional offers specifically designed for Chinese travellers.
The Chinese-targeting marketing effort doesn’t just end there. When these travellers are in town, it is instrumental for retailers to provide a convenient shopping experience and make good use of mobile to communicate with them as well. For instance, at physical stores, retailers can consider offering mobile payment options such as WeChat Pay and Alipay for Chinese shoppers (on top of accepting Union Pay credit cards), and showcase the QR code of the brand’s WeChat official account via in-store displays, so Chinese shoppers can handily scan the code in-store and start receiving the latest updates and offers from the brand.
In the longer term, adopting augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies for the retail experience may be the way forward. Chinese shoppers are open-minded and forward-thinking when it comes to adopting technology in their daily life. According to Worldpay research, Chinese shoppers are leading VR and AR adoption in retail in Asia with nearly 100% of Chinese respondents saying they have tried AR or VR technology at least once, and more than half use these technologies at least once per week; whereas only 19% and 22% of the respondents have tried VR technology in Japan and Australia respectively.
According to a Worldpay spokesperson, many retailers in Asia are already looking at how VR or AR technology might create new omni-channel experiences, enhance mobile shopping and drive retail innovations. This may be the next thing retailers can look into if they would like to better appeal to the tech-savvy and increasingly discerning Chinese spenders.