One question we often get asked at Sinorbis is: “Why do I need a Chinese website if I’ve already got a WeChat account?” And it’s a fair question – with over 1 billion registered user accounts, 88% of whom are logging in on a daily basis, and with extensive capabilities that mean users hardly ever have to leave the WeChat platform, what more do you really need?
In the post-pandemic world, a China-optimised website is more important than ever. To help you on your journey, we've compiled 7 reasons why a Chinese website is indispensable if you’re serious about making inroads in the Chinese market, starting with:
1. It’s the only brand asset fully owned by you
One major issue with being on WeChat is that you’re at the mercy of the whims of Tencent – and that means if they decide to tinker with their algorithms or change how you interact with followers, then you are likely to take a hit in terms of followers and engagement.
This is akin to changes Facebook has made over the years, like in 2018 when Facebook’s algorithm began heavily prioritising content by friends and family in the News Feed, which drastically lowered the organic reach of Facebook content from businesses, forcing businesses to invest more in advertising in order to be seen.
A Chinese website, on the other hand, is fully owned by you. You are not subject to the impulses of a platform’s engineers; instead, you’re subject only to search algorithms, which can be responded to quickly and with minimal impact.
2. You have complete control over how you present your brand
The other advantage of fully owning this asset is you have complete control over how you present your brand. Everything on a website – the layout, design, hero image and brand statement on your homepage, the headings in your menu etc. – can be carefully optimised to appeal not just to Chinese readers, but to your particular demographic, whether that’s fashionable young women in their 20s, or professional affluent men with sophisticated taste in their 50s. Being able to flex your creative muscle on a website gives you more of an opportunity to show your audience your brand personality and the values you represent.
On WeChat, however, you are constrained by the parameters of your WeChat official account, giving you less freedom and flexibility in terms of how you present your brand and your information. It’s also worth remembering that the menu items available within WeChat are not actually WeChat pages, but rather a link to your mobile-friendly webpage, which opens within the app.
3. WeChat is a closed ecosystem
WeChat’s extensive capabilities can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s great that customers can complete the entire sales journey, from awareness to conversion, all without ever leaving WeChat. On the other hand, it ties your hands somewhat as you can’t link to external non-Tencent-owned websites and platforms, like Tmall, one of China’s biggest e-commerce sites, or Youku, the Chinese equivalent of YouTube. This is highly limiting, particularly if your audience shops and lives on non-Tencent platforms.
4. Without a website, you’re missing out on any leads generated through search marketing
If you don’t have a website, you will simply miss out on any leads that would have been generated via search marketing – and this could be a significant loss. Just as Western consumers have a high tendency to jump on Google when researching a product or brand, over 80% of Chinese internet users use local search engines Baidu, Sogou, and 360Haosou.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) has been proven to deliver high-quality, qualified traffic to your business at a relatively low cost – and the longer your SEO strategy is in place, the better the results, as the benefits tend to accumulate over time, steadily pushing you up the rankings. In the meantime, pay-per-click (PPC) tactics can be used to increase your visibility while you improve your organic ranking.
Having a high-performing Chinese website is especially crucial if you want to take advantage of search marketing, as Chinese search engines like Baidu prioritise sites that are fast-loading and entirely in Chinese language.
5. It gives you an online destination for running campaigns
Whether you want to run a competition, promote a free downloadable piece of content, register people for an event or drive subscriptions, you will need to create landing pages to collect your leads’ information. And where do your landing pages live? Yep, you guessed it – on your website.
Capturing leads’ information is an essential part of the buying journey, allowing you to continue the conversation with those qualified leads who have already expressed a keen interest in what you have to offer, and landing pages make it easy for you to do just that.
6. It makes you more trustworthy in the eyes of your audience
A professionally designed, locally minded website that clearly caters for the needs and preferences of its Chinese audience says a lot to a Chinese user. It signals you care about your audience being able to access reliable and accurate information about your brand, it shows your commitment to this market, and it communicates your authority and trustworthiness in your industry. After all, consider your own spending habits – would you be more likely to purchase from a brand with a professional website, or one with no website at all? It’s a no brainer.
A website also serves as an important touchpoint for the Chinese consumer. Bearing in mind the average Chinese consumer requires 8 touchpoints before making a purchase (twice as many as their Western counterparts), not having this touchpoint sends a highly negative message to a potential purchaser.
7. Your current website just isn’t visible in China
“But I have a website already!” you object. “Can’t I just host Chinese content on there?”
In short, no. The Great Firewall heavily impacts the loading speed of websites that are not optimised for China, which in turn has a detrimental effect on your search ranking. That means that, for all intents and purposes, your ‘global’ website is invisible to Chinese users.
As you can see, an optimised Chinese website is an essential part of your China marketing strategy, and an important asset that is wholly yours, highly customisable, and a great way to increase awareness and generate leads. If you’re serious about the Chinese market, you simply can’t afford not to have one!
Want to learn more about how to build a Chinese website that generates views? Our free Chinese website 101 guide will tell you everything you need to know about visibility, localisation and optimisation. Download it now!