How to develop the right marketing strategy in China for luxury brands

With the right marketing strategy in China, luxury brands in the West can access a vast, lucrative audience of sophisticated Chinese buyers who love luxury goods. Even better, Chinese buyers value Western luxury brands and see them as epitomising quality, luxury and status; all attributes that they are prepared to pay for.

Preparing your Chinese marketing strategy

Luxury brands seeking to build a successful marketing strategy in China must really get to grips with the intricacies of their target Chinese market and the unique features that differentiate it from equivalent Western audiences. For example:

1. Chinese customers value trust – so luxury brands must seek to persuade new customers of their brand credentials by showcasing awards and certificates etc, or peer-to-peer recommendations.
2. China is a collectivist society where the power of the group, networks and the maintenance of harmony for all are key features – superseding individual wants and needs. To meet this, luxury brands must demonstrate their global presence and find ways to engage with groups on social media.
3. Chinese people prefer to avoid situations which are ambiguous. They prefer security over risk, competition and adventure. Luxury brands can respond by playing on the quality and trust of their product offer, providing free trials, free returns, generous guarantees and after sales service, along with the ability to leave unbiased reviews.
4. Guanxi, or the creation of relationships, is essential for Chinese business success. Luxury brands can leverage this by using social media and live chat features to create a sense of membership and to share rich, compelling and valuable content which resonates with the audience. This creates a sense of belonging and personalises the global shopping experience.

A Chinese marketing agency can help Western luxury brands to master these complexities in order to create a successful marketing strategy in China. Remember, without local expertise, you can inadvertently damage your brand, fail to engage your target audience and see your budget fritter away without that vital ROI.

Choosing your platforms

Chinese consumers prefer to research and buy online and most are keen to use their mobiles to do this. From brand engagement to peer-to-peer reviewing and research and the actual point of purchase, it is highly recommended Western luxury brands develop a multi-channel, integrated digital strategy to launch their brand and products successfully in China, using messaging and content that is designed specifically to appeal to the target Chinese audience. This multi-channel strategy is likely to include:

Website and app optimisation

Western luxury brands who are serious about building their brand in China will create a localised Chinese website. They will provide landing pages for Chinese buyers, mobile optimised purchasing and Chinese friendly payment platforms. Other elements such as categorisation of products is also important. For example, Western luxury beauty brands should know that Chinese women are keen to attain bright, light and clear skin. Large players such as Creme de La Mer use this knowledge and group their products under a specific ‘whitening’ category for this audience.

Chinse online PR

To build your reputation and brand awareness in China, the right online PR strategy is key. Branded releases, peer to peer comments and editorials should be published on relevant vertical media websites, news portals, forums, as well as Baidu Q&A. This content can also be repurposed across social platforms and your website. This should be carried out from the start of your Chinese marketing strategy.

Chinese consumers are keen to research their product purchasing decisions, using referrals and word of mouth, as well as social networking to gather their information. They are keen to use well-known brands with prestige credentials, and they value Western brands and see them as being luxurious. Western luxury brands should be active on forums (& Baidu Q&A) where their potential customers are known to be active – engaging and sharing information which helps them to make a positive purchase decision.

Chinese social media

WeChat and Weibo are obvious top two Chinese social media platforms, but other more niche platforms may be right for your brand, for example, Little Red Book which is a content generation platform for product reviews. With over 100 million users, aimed at young Chinese women – 90% of its users are 18-35 year old females – allowing them to share information about fashion, beauty, and health products from overseas that are hard to access in China. Your Chinese marketing agency can help you to identify the right social networks for your brand and product offer. Once you have created your platform, you must fill it with rich, engaging and beautifully curated Chinese-language content which inspires sharing, gives a sense of aspiration and encourages followers to become your brand ambassadors. Giveaways, raffles and other competitions will encourage referrals.

WeChat case studies:

Let’s look at WeChat as a case study of the power that Chinese social media can offer to luxury brands. This hugely successful platform has a billion users across the globe and features that include mini-programs and Moments Ads. Ways that Western luxury brands use the platform’s mini-program feature include:

Longchamp lets potential buyers book a VIP retail appointment in a physical store and see a personalised preview of exclusive services and products. Customers ready to buy a luxury bag can do so online and then visit a retail store to collect it offline.
Gucci offers personalised wallpapers and branded stickers for users to share amongst their own networks; again building that personalised and intimate brand experience with a sense of prestige.
Hermes offers before and after customer services support, as well as the ability to prebook a viewing appointment in store.
Dior used this feature to deliver an hour-long livestream with a ‘see now, buy now’ mini-program that engaged 3 million visitors; a platform first.

Where to start?

To be successful in this competitive environment, your Chinese marketing campaign on social media should include tactics that deliver against the key deliverables of exclusivity, engagement, community, personalisation, gamification, social gifting and limited time offers. Unsure where to focus your efforts? Your Chinese marketing agency will get you started, fast!


Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are Chinese online influencers and wield a huge degree of power across buyer markets, particularly B2C markets. There are a huge number of KOLs, each of whom charges different fees to promote, sponsor or review products. Again, your Chinese marketing agency can help you to find the right KOL for your brand and make the necessary arrangements for a profitable business relationship. This approach can jump-start your social media following on Weibo, WeChat and Little Red Book.

Baidu PPC (SEM)

Social network and KOL activity rely heavily on the emotional side of buying, using influencer marketing, beautiful and aspirational imagery and clever campaigns that resonate on a personal level with customers. Baidu PPC also helps to increase your website’s ranking for online buyers who are actively searching out your type of product. You have to invest in carefully targeted Baidu PPC in order to use your budget wisely and for maximum ROI, and invest in SEO activity for the longer term to consolidate your presence. These activities must be ongoing and carefully managed, with regular adjustment for optimum results. Get your Search Engine Marketing right and you’ll see heightened conversions from greater targeted traffic to your website.

Case study – Crème de la Mer:

This legendary facial cream had long been renowned in the West, but once it joined The Estée Lauder Group in 1995 its reputation grew amongst a global audience. The brand launched successfully in China via a standalone Chinese website which was filled with products and equipped with live online chat. La Mer also delivers paid advertising campaigns on Baidu and uses PR to share releases, editorials and peer to peer marketing to rank highly. At the same time, it has built a powerful social presence on Weibo, WeChat, YouKu and more, providing content that offers genuine value to customers with tutorials and expert tips.

Find out more

For help in perfecting your Chinese marketing strategy, contact Market Me China for expert assistance. Our team of marketing professionals specialise in all forms of digital commerce and offer the practical skills and insights that you need to succeed in the Chinese market. Whether you are a new luxury brand seeking to build a foothold in China or a more established brand looking to grow your reach and sales, we are here to help. Contact us today to find out more.