12 key facts to know about the China market

Western brands are often surprised to find out just how different the China market is – and how hard it can be to deliver a successful marketing campaign as a result! However, with the right planning and knowledge, it is perfectly possible to engage with your target Chinese audience and build your brand profitably in China. Here are 12 key facts to know about the China market:

1. The China market is huge

According to CNNIC The 43rd China Statistical Report on Internet Development in Feb 2019, there are now 829 million internet users in China by December 2018, and 817 million mobile internet users in China by December 2018, accounting for 98.6% of the total internet users population. To put this into context, compare the figure to the USA, where an estimated 300 million people are online.

829 million internet users in China by December 2018 | Market Me China®


817 million mobile internet users in China by December 2018 | Market Me China®


2. The market is growing incredibly fast

The market may already be huge, but it is experiencing rapid further growth thanks to China’s tier 3 and tier 4 cities now coming online. The urbanisation of rural areas means that incomes – and rural middle classes – are growing. With physical retail stores in limited supply, these customers are particularly motivated to shop online.

3. Chinese internet users are sophisticated

Chinese internet users are highly sophisticated. They prefer to use their mobiles to access digital content and to shop – and they expect omnichannel marketing from their preferred brands. They like to use trusted online payment systems to make instant online payments. They also love social media and are excited by digital innovation.

4. Chinese customers like Western brands

Western brands are seen as being desirable and of high quality. Bear in mind that China has long had a problem with counterfeiting, so authentic Western brands are seen as being trustworthy. Brands which can build up their presence in China can leverage this sense of quality to build profitable, long-term relationships with their customer base.

5. Digital marketing channels in China are different

In the West we may talk about Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat – but in China, native social and digital channels are different – and their volume dwarfs Western equivalents! Platforms to know include Baidu, WeChat, Weibo, YouKu, Douyin, Little Red Book.

6. Chinese customers like to research

Chinese customers are active on forums, social media, in their own networks and offline when it comes to discussing brands. This means that Western brands must work hard to build consistent, trusted and attractive brands that meet the needs of their target Chinese audience. Brand equity is extremely important in China.

7. KOLS are big news

We have influencers in the West – and China has Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), who can be extremely powerful. Followers actively value the opinions and recommendations of the KOLs that they follow. Some KOLs even receive gifts from appreciative fans who want to thank them for the services that they offer. Authentic, established and trusted KOLs are big business and can offer excellent partnership and sponsorship opportunities for Western brands.

8. Chinese customers appreciate online advertising

In the West, customers tend to view online advertising in a negative way; seeing it as intrusive and irritating. But Chinese customers often value well-placed and relevant advertising and see it as adding value to their online decision-making process. This links into the Chinese tendency to research potential product or service purchases in-depth beforehand.

9. Numbers, colours, dates and symbols matter in China

You’ll need to know your lucky numbers, colours and symbols in China (and, conversely, those unlucky ones!) in order to market successfully to Chinese customers. This requires local knowledge and insight, which can be provided by a Chinese marketing agency. Get it right and you’ll tap into native feelings of goodwill, luck and success. Get it wrong and you could accidentally cause offence and cause your entire campaign to fail!

10. Chinese has mega shopping festivals that dwarf Black Friday!

The Chinese shopping festival of Singles Day, held on 11 November, delivered sales of over $30 billion in 2019 and dwarfed Black Friday and Cyber Monday in comparison. Around 500 million users made a purchase on the day, spending an average of $181 each. The country has plenty of other big festivals for Western brands to take advantage of as well, including Double Seventh Day (Chinese Valentine’s Day), Chinese New Year, Women’s Day, Children’s Day… and now, increasingly, Christmas!

11. Content matters all the more in China

We’re used to hearing that ‘content is king’ in the West, but it’s even more important in China, where customers are often less price-sensitive, and more interested in the brand experience. In a country where brand loyalty is the holy grail, companies must work hard to deliver engaging, quirky, fun and compelling campaigns across a range of channels. Chinese customers love social campaigns (and integrated social commerce), online competitions, gamification, VR, AR and any kind of technological innovation. This fact also has implications for Western content translation. In most cases, it will be preferable to create targeted China market content for the best engagement and returns. Where existing content is to be translated, it should be done as part of broader content and channel localisation efforts, to ensure that the brand’s website and other digital assets all work as they should in China.

12. Brands must master Baidu

As China’s main search engine (with more than 80% of online search queries), Western brands must build their online rankings and presence through Baidu’s tools – from SEO to PPC, to Baidu Wiki (the equivalent of Wikipedia in China). The conversion rates of Baidu SEO and PPC can be excellent when the right campaigns are implemented and Baidu Brand Zone is also successfully used by many larger Western brands to unlock value. Again, the key lies in having access to a knowledgeable Chinese online marketer who can create, refine and manage Baidu campaigns for maximum ROI.

Get the help that you need

Whether you’re a new company looking to break into China with your e-commerce offer or an established brand looking to grow your Chinese market, our team of digital marketing professionals are here to help. We work on a flexible basis to provide access to the skillsets that you need – from Chinese online campaign planning through to delivery and post-campaign evaluation. We work with clients from across all sectors, but particularly e-commerce, education, travel and B2B. Please contact us to find out more.