China takes the lead in retail e-commerce sales with nearly half of the globe’s total contributed by the Chinese. Its internet usage is also trumping the USA and Europe’s figures combined. Taking these two factors into account, China presents an opportunity for e-commerce businesses that cannot be ignored.
Whilst their economy may have slowed since the phenomenal growth of 2000-2010, the overall boom in China has positioned total household income at over $5 trillion a year, and consumption growing faster than nearly anywhere else in the world.
Entering the Chinese market, however, presents some unique challenges, especially in the realm of technological localization. However, if strategized well, this exposure will lead to a very successful entry into the most promising and dynamic market the world currently has to offer.
7 Things You Need to know For eCommerce Success in China
1. The Train is Already Leaving
Breaking into the Chinese market whilst millions of customers are exploring new brands is one reason to build a localization strategy for China straight away. Businesses that entered this market back in the boom years of 2000-2010 are reaping fantastic rewards for their efforts, especially in terms of brand loyalty among customers.
Another more urgent reason is that experts from Cornell University and Deutsche Bank fully expect the economy to slow over the next five or so years, after which time it is expected that growth will shrink and costs for entering the market rise.
2. Be Easy to find
Regardless of the nature of your business, you will need to be found by customers and this starts with ‘the Google of China’ – Baidu. This search engine behemoth processes around 70% of internet queries for China’s 720 million internet users.
SEO on Baidu naturally differ from that of Google. The first thing you will need is a fully translated website, along with localized content of the rest of your software. SEO experts recommend the use of Simplified Chinese to reach the largest audience, and localized content is a must. Content hosted on foreign servers with foreign domain names rank less well on Baidu, so the use of Chinese domain country codes such as .cn or .com.cn will help to attain higher rankings on searches.
3. Beware the Censors
Further challenges to be acutely aware of when creating your Chinese internet presence are those related to the overlording Chinese censor, known as ‘The Great Firewall’. An extensive list of blacklisted words will need to be avoided to prevent alerting Baidu and causing your account to be flagged. Step lightly in regards to anything political (even words similar to those on the blacklist can cause a flag). Additionally, when linking to other sites from yours be sure they are not censored, as you may earn a flag from Baidu and be taken offline.
4. Multilingual SEO Planning For eCommerce Success in China
Beginning with multilingual SEO for use in any market, including China, is crucial. It allows you to create and deliver content that is keyword-enriched and in line with your brand to appeal to a global audience. In addition to content, multilingual SEO encompasses technical elements of websites, such as domain names and meta tags.
In China, delivering multilingual SEO is essential for two reasons. First, to conform to Baidu’s guidelines, the copy needs to be crafted with a Chinese market in mind. Second, domain names have a huge impact. Choosing the right one at the outset is intrinsic to connecting with customers and creating a strong local brand presence.
5. China’s Social Media
Reaching the 300 million social media users in China has nothing to do with Facebook, Twitter or YouTube (these sites are all banned). Baidu is a starting point for building a brand presence in China, and has numerous social platforms which it sends traffic to. Baidu Tieba is at the forefront of these for any business wanting to increase interest in its products.
Sina Weibo is China’s answer to Twitter and home to 30% of Chinese internet users. With eight times more users than Twitter, Sina Weibo should be central to any successful Chinese social media strategy for establishing a brand. As with many international markets, success relies on thinking globally whilst acting and speaking locally.
In the realm straddling messaging, marketing, and social media, it cannot go without mentioning WeChat. It is by far China’s most popular mobile application, with features ranging from an e-wallet to an online marketplace for buying and selling goods. It has over 930 million monthly active users, and is an essential part of any eCommerce company’s marketing strategy in China.
6. Important Chinese Dates
Any business planning on entering the Chinese market should study the Chinese calendar as it is markedly different to Western time-keeping. Not only is it based on the phases of the moon, but also business dates such as Cyber Monday have no meaning. In order to localize effectively, becoming familiar with local holidays, school calendars, and even the Chinese zodiac is necessary.
7. Appropriate Translation and Localization
To effectively reach consumers in China’s emerging market, it is imperative that you speak their language (literally).
Website content, software, and all marketing materials need to be translated appropriately into Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese depending on the demographic you are targeting.
Literal translations can cause your message to be lost to international audiences. Instead, focusing on localizing content to ensure cultural relevance and messaging that will truly speak the consumer’s language is crucial for success. Translation and localization should be central to a strategic plan for entering the Chinese market. This will ensure the time and money invested is used most efficiently to fulfill your eCommerce brand’s goals.
Related: Top 10 High Paid Jobs in China
Contributed By Rachel Wheeler