How to use Chinese social media marketing for China online shopping success

If you’re a Western e-commerce business looking to sell your products online to customers in China, it’s essential to master the various digital marketing channels at your disposal to reach this vast, increasingly affluent and diverse audience. To succeed in China online shopping experiences need to be carefully strategised and expertly delivered, with well-conceived Chinese social media marketing plans that maximise the potential of Chinese platforms (remembering that Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube aren’t available.)

The knowledge and skill required to successfully market a Western e-commerce business in China mean that many Western brands choose the use the services of a specialist Chinese marketing agency, particularly to navigate the complex and localised requirements of Chinese social media marketing.

For those who are considering how to progress with their China online shopping strategy, here are some tips for success:

1. Understand your customers in China

China’s population of over 1.37 billion represents a huge challenge for understanding, segmenting and targeting markets without expert knowledge. Western e-commerce brands must develop a deep understanding of diverse buyer groups and their wants, needs and values. Successful marketers will strive to understand the impacts of regionalism, language differences and dialects, cultural and social differences, Chinese values, political and economic impacts and the interplay of other contextual elements. These elements must be understood to create workable buyer personas and to successfully identify and segment potential target audiences for an e-commerce launch. This research phase must not be underplayed; getting it right will greatly increase your chances of success in the Chinese online shopping marketplace.

2. Master Chinese social media marketing platforms

Chinese social media is dominated by WeChat and Weibo. WeChat, comparable to WhatsApp, has a billion registered accounts. Weibo – the microblogging site – has 400+ million users. The former is particularly useful for established brands and a powerful marketing channel for engaging with customers, growing brand loyalty and delivering customer service. Weibo is ideal for market entrants and a strong channel for creating brand awareness. Don’t forget the video sharing channel, YouKu either, which also has 300 million users. For e-commerce success in China, it makes sense to employ a multi-channel strategy that maximises your message sharing and visibility. This cross-channel promotion also increases your chance of converting prospects to leads. For example, a prospect who engages favourably with your YouKu content may decide to investigate your brand offer on WeChat or Weibo, learning more about your brand values and product offer in the process and engaging with your sales messages to move towards an online purchase.

3. Set up your Chinese social media marketing accounts

Create your official WeChat and Weibo official accounts via an overseas business licence. This will help to build trust with your target audience and show your legitimacy as a business. This can be a complex process as Chinese regulations require a number of administrative processes, including registrations and payments before Western official accounts can be registered. A Chinese marketing agency can overcome the administrative hurdles and the language barrier to speed up the process.

4. Define your content strategy

Chinese audiences are highly sophisticated when it comes to digital content, and they want to see branded content that is useful, valuable, engaging, entertaining and moving. Targeted brand stories and experiences are key and Chinese audiences particularly enjoy short videos and the use of Key Opinion Leaders (see below). The right content strategy will include a mix of blogs, videos, images and KOL content, designed to elicit different responses and to move potential customers along their brand experience journey. This content should also be shared across platforms to increase visibility and support offline marketing, PR activity and Baidu PPC for a fully integrated brand experience.

5. Clarify your editorial personality

One leading current tactic in Chinese social media marketing is to create a brand identity that is distinctive and persona led, with a clear gender, age and background and a unique voice which is represented in writing style, word choices and phraseology. These editorial personalities help to create individualised perspectives and allow digital readers to relate in a more meaningful way to the brand and its content. As an example, DHL combines the use of a nickname “小D” (Little D) and an informal tone to position the expertise of their brand amongst B2B and B2C audiences on WeChat. As a Western e-commerce brand, it is well worth investing in this brand identity to bring your offer and brand to life.

6. Consider the use of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)

Key Opinion Leaders, or KOLs, are used by many Chinese and overseas brands to successfully engage with Chinese customers and to generate sales. They are essentially social media influencers and wield a significant amount of influence in their home country. For example, it has been reported that Fan Bingbing has helped to generate US e-commerce revenue worth $74 million (source: KOLs are generally media celebrities, web celebrities, bloggers or industry experts and their fees and influence vary widely. The right KOL can help your brand by sharing sponsored content with their fans and visibly engaging with your product to help build trust amongst your target audience and to encourage early-adopters to buy and share their positive experiences with their networks. A Chinese marketing agency can help you to identify the right KOL for your brand and to liaise with their agency booker to progress a formalised sponsorship arrangement.

Find out more

If you are keen to extend your brand into China and sell successfully online to Chinese customers, Market Me China can help you to get your marketing strategy right from the start. From the research and planning stage through to conceptualisation, delivery and post-delivery analytics, we ensure that your marketing budget goes further and that your objectives are achieved. We support Western brands and e-commerce businesses across a wide range of industries and sectors and have an excellent track record in achieving excellent conversions for our valued clients; working as trusted, flexible and expert partners to your business. Contact us to find out more.