How to use Chinese influencers to market your travel brand

Overseas travel is big business in China! Before the COVID pandemic, Chinese travellers were already the biggest spenders in the global tourism market, and Chinese shoppers were already spending billions of dollars overseas. The United Nations World Tourism Organization calculated that Chinese travellers spent almost $255 billion across 154 million global trips in 2019 – and this sophisticated, high-income market is expected to lead the global recovery in international tourism.

This market is incredibly appealing due to its size and value. It is also diverse, spanning Chinese Millennials with plenty of disposable income and the desire for personalised travel experiences, and older Chinese adults who wish to experience stress-free global getaways that support their hobbies and interests, such as photography or culture.

This means that Western travel brands have an exciting opportunity to build success in the China market; positioning their travel brand and growing it at a time when the market is rapidly evolving. One of the best marketing methods for marketing a Western travel brand in China is to use Chinese influencers; or KOLs. Let’s take a closer look.

Why Chinese KOLs matter for travel marketing

Chinese KOLs, or opinion leaders, are hugely influential in Chinese modern culture and they use their clout (and followings) to promote travel destinations, products and services through sponsored content on platforms such as Weibo and WeChat. They might do this by creating promotional videos, posting product images or offering experience reviews.

Chinese KOLs are hugely influential because Chinese customers are far more likely to choose travel destinations based on recommendations from friends, KOLs and online reviews – around 74% in fact, compared to 30% globally. This means that Western travel brands can strategically use influencer relationships to share their marketing messages effectively to target audiences – building brand awareness, educating target customers and using a holistic digital marketing ecosystem to convert viewers into buyers.

How to effectively use Chinese KOLs for travel marketing

If your brand can find the right Chinese KOL and build an effective marketing plan for the relationship, your business can experience a real boost to its funnel marketing strategy, from awareness and education through to conversation. The trick lies in finding the right KOL, brokering the deal and devising the right content and flow that guides potential customers to conversions. Let’s look at each stage in turn:

1. Finding the right Chinese KOL for your travel brand

There are a huge number of Chinese KOLs operating in the travel market and many are open to paid partnership arrangements, in return for sponsorship and promotional content. It’s important to do in-depth research into potential KOLs and understand their follower base. Niche KOLs can be more effective than higher-profile KOLs with broad-base followers, because the right niche may result in a higher percentage of conversions.

2. Broker the KOL partnership

Many KOLs operate through agency relationships and do business in Chinese. It helps to use the services of a Chinese digital marketing agency that can research and identify potential KOLs, engage with them and secure the right promotional arrangement for your travel brand, based on your objectives, budget and resources. This will secure the best results and formalise the arrangement.

3. Create impactful content

When you have identified the right KOL (or KOLs for your different target Chinese audiences), it’s time to create impactful content that will resonate with your target customers’ needs. Your KOL will produce their own videos or posts, depending on your arrangement, but you will want to have a landing page for them to link to. This could be your main travel brand website or a promotional campaign page, depending on your objectives and campaign strategy. This is also an important point to boost your customer service availability to handle incoming queries and to optimise your digital ecosystem as a whole; focusing on usability and customer journeys, positive customer reviews, ePR and so forth.

When your influencer begins to direct potential customers your way, you will want to be ready for them with the most effective and optimised content possible. Market Me China can help you to get this right by ensuring your content is culturally sensitive, appropriate for your tightly defined target audiences (with the creation of user personas), and technically optimised to work speedily and correctly in China (factoring in considerations such as localised hosting and platforms etc.)

4. Measure & optimise

As with all digital marketing campaigns, it’s important to continually measure and evaluate the success of your KOL relationship, in the same way that you would measure Baidu PPC advertising, ePR and social media marketing in China. Again, a Chinese digital marketing agency can help you with this, by offering expert digital marketing skills and the native language abilities that make this process as quick, easy and effective as possible.

Other things to focus on

As well as using Chinese influencers to effectively market your travel brand to Chinese customers, it’s also important to:

1. Localise your digital content (website, and marketing materials etc)
2. Invest in cultural sensitivity and language skills across your business, to facilitate effective communication and customer service with Chinese customers
3. Offer familiar Chinese payment options such as WeChat Pay or Alipay.
4. Offer Chinese language signage and amenities, such as Mandarin-speaking tour guides, menus in Chinese and some familiar foods and drinks.
5. Work on your online reputation management, by using channels such as ePR and social media marketing and communities.

Find out more

There are no shortcuts to success here, it takes careful planning, time and work to build and maintain your travel brand in China, but with the right strategy, tactical delivery and partnerships with a Chinese digital marketing agency, your Western travel brand can experience success in the China market and benefit from this fast-growing, lucrative market at its early stages. To find out more about how Market Me China can help you with your Chinese marketing success, please contact our friendly team of Chinese language natives and professional digital marketers today.