China, with its Great Firewalled digital ecosphere, presents as a unique conundrum to Western marketers, holding both potential and risk By 2030, nearly 70% of China’s 1.5 billion population will be classified as ‘middle-class’, potentially eclipsing many nations in the West. This growing cohort of empowered consumers are highly e-commerce receptive - predominantly via mobile - and hungry to engage with brands, most often via social content, across a multitude of platforms.
With its huge population, emerging markets and growing middle-class hungry for consumer goods, a new breed of Chinese digital marketing agency has emerged to tap into this, engaging with consumers via methods, platforms and channels that diverge from traditional Western marketing by incorporating China’s culture and digital ecosphere.
So, do you need to hire a China marketing agency? There are some disadvantages. Hiring a China digital marketing agency can be costly. We advocate for businesses to maintain control of their China digital assets. Handing over responsibility for WeChat and website publishing to an agency can see you quickly rack up costs, incurring fees every time you want to make a small change or publish content. It’s also important to maintain clear ownership of your assets, and transparency of your data handling activity, especially since the introduction of stringent new personal information laws. Certain practices, like using a China agency to host a website because you don’t have an ICP license, can see you kicked out of the country. But there are some ways an agency can help.
Five China marketing agency advantages
Points of difference (POD) is a common marketing concept. The five key POD a China digital marketing agency bring are:
- ‘Localising’ the essentials: Language, culture and relationships
- Offering an authentic insider’s knowledge of the ‘players and platforms’
- Being mobile-first marketing natives in a market dominated by mobile users
- A focus on creating content
- Understanding the need for speed
1. ‘Localising’ the essentials: Language, culture and relationships
Having a firm grasp of language and culture is especially important in China because it allows for far greater engagement with potential customers and other important players - such as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) - who often underpin a successful China digital marketing strategy.
Using a marketing agency in China means the language barrier is gone, along with the need to invest resources in translation because you gain access to native language skills to manage this engagement.
Also, importantly, you are more easily able to analyse data from critical Chinese social media platforms, such as WeChat, Weibo and QQ.
Understanding cultural norms and symbolism further gives your China digital marketing strategy the edge because it leads to more nuanced insight into your target market/customer and the images, language, symbols and concepts that meet their needs.
2. Offering an authentic insider’s knowledge of the ‘players and platforms’
Can you imagine digital marketing without utilising traditional Western social and search channels such as Google, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter?
Courtesy of China’s Great Firewall, none of these channels or platforms are effectively available - or at least not in the endemic way they are in the West.
Instead, an array of players and platforms that are evolving far more rapidly than their Western counterparts exist within China’s digital walled ecosphere. The broader tech market is dominated by the ‘players’, known as ‘the BATs’ - Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. These control some of China’s most prominent platforms - search engines, social media channels, online retailers, financial services platforms and streamers - but what sets the BATs apart from Western tech giants is the interconnectedness they have within China’s digital ecosphere.
This interconnectedness offers a world of ‘closed-loop data’, leading to cross-platform integration, which in turn helps create more relevant and engaging consumer experiences.
3. Being mobile-first marketing natives in a market dominated by mobile users
The rapid twentieth-century modernisation of China has meant that the evolution of the media happened more rapidly, with many consumers bypassing traditional ways of accessing media and moving straight to mobile.
Daily time spent on mobile media in China, minutes, per cent
Source: McKinsey Digital: The Future of Digital Innovation in China
China digital marketing agencies employ professionals who, as digital mobile natives, readily embrace and understand China’s mobile-intense consumer culture, meaning marketing principles and methods used are rolled out with this front of mind.
4. A focus on creating content
China’s mobile-centric consumer audience has seen Chinese digital marketing agencies tailor their strategies towards content-based experiences best suited to the mobile experience: Shareable, viral content that tells a story and speaks directly to Chinese consumers, rather than overtly promotional content.
The Harvard Business Review offers a great example of this from 2017 when Chinese liquor brand Xi Jiu partnered directly with Tencent News to create a series of live-streamed shows. During these hour-long shows, renowned Chinese chefs taught viewers to cook local specialty dishes, paired with offerings from Xi Jiu. Notably, no mention of promotions or discounts was made because the campaign’s focus was on the content that could build consumer awareness and engagement rather than focus predominantly on sales.
The success of content-based marketing strategies is, as mentioned above, enhanced by the interconnectedness of the digital ecosphere, which allows data to be aggregated within a single, omnichannel-straddling company, typically the BATs.
5. Understanding the need for speed
China digital marketing agencies tend to make decisions faster than Western agencies because China’s ever-growing economy means great pressure is brought to bear on Chinese businesses to get ahead of the curve and find ways to maximise sales in shifting consumer markets.
This need for speed has led to a rethink of how to manage and assess marketing campaigns.
Fast-moving consumer sentiment is tapped into by increasing brand or product awareness (hence the content focus in campaigns) and increasing traffic, metrics that are now deemed as much the key to campaign success as the range of KPIs associated with more standard Western marketing campaigns.
From a China-optimised website to SEO strategy and management to setting up a verified WeChat account, Sinorbis has the know-how and China digital marketing tools to help run a successful campaign via our 4-phase approach.
Contact us today and discover how we can help you build and implement a successful China digital marketing strategy.