Should Western brands focus on website or mobile for China marketing?

When you market in China, it is vital to have a strong digital presence, in a highly engaged online market of Chinese customers which love digital content and the experiences, services, engagement and opportunities that it delivers. There are already over 800 million Chinese citizens already online, and the government is rapidly growing the country’s digital infrastructure, including rolling out 5G to its major cities, so that the power of the internet will only continue to grow in this vast, powerful country of sophisticated consumers. So for Western brands seeking to find success in the China market, there is no doubt that a strong digital presence is key – but should the focus be on website or mobile for successful China marketing?

The case for mobile in China

Figures from CNNIC (Aug 2019) suggest that 854 million internet users in China by June 2019; 847 million mobile internet users in China by June 2019, accounting for 99.1% of the total internet users population. This degree of penetration, combined with the upward digital growth figures for China overall, show just how important it is to have a mobile presence. Chinese consumers love their phones, and they also spend a lot of time on their phones, engaging with rich, entertaining content and shopping online.

This means that, for Western brands, it is certainly important to have a mobile presence of some kind – whether that’s in the form of a mobile-optimised website (something we would absolutely recommend) or an app. At Market Me China, we would recommend a mobile-optimised website as the cornerstone of any brand’s digital strategy, for a variety of reasons, which we will explore in more depth below.

What about apps?

For Western brands who are already further along their digital marketing journey in China, an app can also be extremely useful, for example, to launch a campaign or to deliver a specific function, such as a competition or an online sales platform. Apps are also useful when you want customers to engage with functions hosted in their phones – location tracking or GPS, camera and so forth. Most Western brands will choose to have a localised Chinese website which is mobile-friendly, and then build supporting apps as required for specific marketing purposes for their target audience.

Why a Chinese website matters

As a general rule for success, Western brands should always have a strong, localised and mobile-friendly Chinese website as the cornerstone of their digital assets. This is because:

1. Chinese customers like to research Western brands – which are they are inclined to trust – and to undertake significant research online before making a purchase decision. The brand’s website is the natural place to carry out this research.
2. Chinese customers also like to feel a connection and an affinity with a brand, so a website is an ideal place to deliver this experience; with the brand’s full online offering in one space.
3. A website offers the cornerstone for a brand’s digital assets – linking to e-commerce functionalities, social media, ePR and so forth. These other digital channels will usually map back to the website, to provide a digital hub and to build SEO for better online rankings.
4. A website URL will be returned in Chinese search engine queries – meaning that you can reach more users with your website.
5. A good website will mark your brand out as a serious player in the market – building credibility and trust, which are essential in Chinese business.

It is vital that the website is mobile optimised, however, so that your Chinese audience can access it via the digital device of their choice. this might mean using their phone on the go, and then using a tablet or laptop/desktop computer when they are at home.

Good practice development for digital marketing in China

For Western brands seeking to develop their presence in the Chinese market, we recommend starting with research into the target market and their needs, wants and desires. This can include research on online habits and preferences.

Using this data, a Chinese specific website can be created, or the existing brand website can be localised for a Chinese audience. Market Me China offers full website localisation services which go far beyond basic translation, and which incorporate vital considerations such as Chinese targeted UX, cultural factors, accessibility, censorship requirements, technical factors and so forth. Naturally, all websites that we produce are mobile-friendly and optimised for different browsers, screen-sizes and other technical factors, ensuring a fully responsive and engaging experience for Chinese customers.

In conclusion

For most Western brands, the best approach will be to create (or localise) a mobile-optimised website as the priority and then to create any apps according to specific requirements and the overall marketing strategy. Many brands that are seeking to market in China will prefer to create their digital assets from scratch so that they are expertly targeted to meet the unique needs of this complex, huge market. However, brands which choose not to do this can still achieve success by localising their existing website, ensuring it is responsive for mobile screens and considering targeted and specific app use where appropriate to meet overall strategic marketing goals.

The help that you need

At Market Me China, we provide expert Chinese website development, and mobile advertising services, along with a full package of integrated Chinese digital marketing support. From social media campaign planning and KOL engagement, through to online PR, Baidu PPC, online advertising and post-campaign analytics, we are here to help your brand. We work with all industries seeking to grow their brand in China, with particular experience in education, travel, B2B and e-Commerce. As a Chinese digital marketing one-stop-shop, our team of experts works flexibly with your business to provide measurable ROI. Please contact us to find out more.