5 Essential Tips for Marketing to Chinese Consumers

The current worldwide Chinese population is estimated be somewhere around 1.45 billion, with some 50 million – or 3.7% of the global population – residing outside of China’s mainland. To say that this demographic is a marketing gold mine would be an understatement. It’s important to point out, however, that reaching Chinese consumers and – more importantly – influencing their purchasing decisions requires a somewhat unique approach when compared to marketing to other cultures. Let’s take a look at five of those particular tactics below.

Tip #1: Understand and account for local differences

It’s of critical importance that marketers avoid viewing the Chinese culture on a grand, homogeneous scale. Just like other demographics and markets, there are distinct differences to account for based on location. For instance, consumers living in Beijing are likely to have markedly different needs, preferences and buying power than those residing in a smaller city, like Kunming.

Likewise, ethnic Chinese individuals who live in other countries, like Canada, will have different lifestyles and therefore deviating purchasing habits. The first step in effective Chinese marketing involves taking the time to truly get to know your target audience and then crafting a message that’s most likely to resonate with them.

Tip #2: Localize your products, services and marketing messages

As mentioned previously, marketing to different segments of the Chinese population involves understanding who your ideal customer is and how to position your products or services to best meet that ideal prospect’s needs. In order to accomplish this, it’s highly likely that you will need to localize your brand to better resonate with each group you are targeting. In other words, adapt your campaigns in a way that is sensitive to and addresses unique cultural differences.

This may not necessarily mean that you will have to drastically change the product or service you offer. In many instances, localizing can be accomplished by simply making simple changes or subtle tweaks to the packaging or messaging you’re currently using. Perhaps it might involve adding a new product or service in designated areas that will appeal to the demands of the Chinese consumers located there. For instance, popular chicken restaurant KFC localized their menu by including rice and noodle products.

Tip #3: Target the right generation

One reason why many companies fail to effectively reach and capitalize on the Chinese market is because they target the wrong age group. In reality, those with the greatest spending power (and not coincidentally who are more motivated to buy) are sometimes entire decades younger than those in other countries from varying cultures. For instance, in the US the average age of a person buying a new luxury vehicle, like a Mercedes, is somewhere between 55 and 64. A good number of Chinese consumers, on the other hand, are already in the market for such a purchase when they’re still in their 30s.

Again, this is where doing your homework and developing accurate buying personas that represent your ideal customer is key. Otherwise, you could be wasting time, money and other resources attempting to reach your target audience where they aren’t likely to be or through ways that aren’t likely to be effective.

Tip #4: Use technology to your fullest advantage

Chinese consumers lead the world in e-commerce, with China alone accounting for 13.5 percent of all retail spending, a higher share than that of all large economies except the United Kingdom. Research has also shown that Chinese digital consumers overwhelmingly favour mobile devices for their internet needs, although it’s worth mentioning that multi-device owners (those who own 2 or more connected devices, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops) tend to spend around 17 percent more than their mobile-only counterparts.

To take advantage of this, make sure you are leveraging every available vehicle to get your marketing messages out to the masses. Optimize your website to accommodate Chinese visitors and invest in mobile and/or multi-channel marketing to ensure that you’re not missing out on a good portion of your audience.

Tip #5: Target the right avenues

In addition to utilizing technology to your advantage, it’s equally important that you are leveraging the appropriate avenues for delivering your marketing messages. For instance, recent studies have shown that Chinese digital consumers not only use social media platforms, like Tencent QQ and WeChat, to research brands and get recommendations, but also to close the deal and purchase those products or services. On WeChat alone, the portion of users initiating purchases via the social platform has doubled over the past year.

Likewise, the very search engine you are optimizing for should reflect the demographics of your target audience. While Google may be the more popular search engine in a good portion of the world, it is heavily censored in China and, as such, has limited reach. Conversely, nearly 80 percent of online searches initiated in China occur on Baidu. It only stands to reason, then, that even those Chinese consumers who are living outside of the mainland are also using this digital platform for their online search needs. To accommodate for this, make sure your SEO efforts are adapted and apportioned accordingly.

With the fastest growing consumer market in the world, the Chinese population undoubtedly represents ample opportunity upon which businesses can capitalize. Doing so successfully, however, requires a certain degree of finesse and a unique approach that addresses the specific needs of this demographic. The tips above should provide you with a solid foundation upon which to build a Chinese marketing strategy that will get results.

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