Tips to create a successful WeChat marketing strategy for Chinese outbound tourism

The Chinese outbound travel market is growing rapidly, with nearly 150 million overseas trips made by Chinese travellers last year – a growth of 1,326% from just 10.5 million in 2001. Today, it is the most powerful outbound market in the world, beating even the USA, and with Chinese travellers spending a whopping $277.3bn in the process. And with just 9% of Chinese citizens currently possessing a passport, the scope for further growth is excellent.

The attractiveness of this market to Western brands is obvious, and already many businesses are stepping up their marketing efforts to accommodate the unique needs of this sophisticated audience. Today we’ll look at WeChat, one of China’s most popular social media platforms, and establish how western brands can leverage it for marketing success.

Why create a WeChat marketing strategy?

With over one billion users every month, WeChat is China’s biggest social media app, and it’s owned by Tencent. Akin in popularity and usage to Facebook and Whatsapp, the platform offers a wide range of functions to marketers – from mini program apps through to flight bookings and mobile payments.

Steps to creating a successful travel-based WeChat marketing strategy

The Chinese market is dynamic and complex, and this vast audience of netizens expect tailored, engaging and unique online experiences which offer them real value, entertainment and a seamless user experience.

Key points to know about Chinese outbound marketing:

– 60% of Chinese outbound tourism is now made up of Millennials and Gen Z travellers and 72% of this audience use social media, blogs, user-generated peer-content and travel websites to create their own tailor-made itineraries.

1. Use the right KOLs

Travel Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are particularly important for attracting the millennial market, who use their smartphones extensively and value recommendations of trusted Chinese influencers. KOLs are seen as providing inspiration and being trustworthy. By engaging with the right KOL, your business can begin to engage with Chinese travellers as they plan their journeys. A good WeChat strategy is to agree a sponsorship or partnership arrangement where your KOL will provide reviews, soft-sell advice that positions your brand, live experiences at your destination and so forth. Research intensively to find the right influencer, with the audience that is right for your product / service. Remember too to provide your KOL with giveaway items – such as a free hotel stay, discount code or high-end product – so that they can launch a viral competition.

2. Time your campaigns

Travel in China peaks at Chinese New Year, through summer and in October Golden Week. Ensure your WeChat marketing strategy is designed to kick in during the planning period beforehand – typically 3-4 months beforehand, with tailored WeChat marketing campaigns that generate travel inspiration to your destination.

2. Create superb content

WeChat articles are a key source of inspiration to Chinese outbound travellers, so ensure your content is carefully curated to be visually appealing, beautifully designed, on-brand and engaging – Chinese customers love witty, entertaining and informative content. They also love the nature theme when it comes to travel. For example, a natural attraction can use scenery based imagery and messaging that reinforces the ‘clean, unspoilt, beautiful and natural’ image – generating high engagement amongst users who live in Chinese cities. Restaurants find that food-based imagery is popular and incredibly share-able, especially with competitions attached.

Create a variety of content styles using all tools available – such as the Moments feature – and have Chinese language speakers on hand to answer questions online and engage with followers. Competitions and quirky campaigns are key to success – and remember that your content can also be used to cross-fertilise your other branded social media sites and repurposed or repackaged to refresh your engaged audience and to inspire new visitors to your branded account.

3. Get your website and app ready

Consider using the WeChat mini program feature to create an in-site app that allows Chinese users to carry out their desired outbound travel function with your brand – whether that’s booking a flight or a room, making a reservation or ordering a product that they plan to see at your physical premises (where they will be lavished with attention; with Chinese speaking customer services staff, themed product variations targeted to Chinese needs and extras such as gift wrapping etc.) Ensure your website and its WeChat landing pages are optimised for Chinese visitors, with Chinese localisation that ensures language, tone, user journeys, content and images are mobile-friendly and ready to meet the unique needs of your Chinese users.

3. Integrate the right mobile payments

China is becoming an increasingly cashless society, so make sure you have WeChat Pay and AliPay integrated into your website and app. When your WeChat marketing strategy sends leads to your digital assets, they will expect to make any bookings or online payments using a platform that they trust and recognise. (Many shops, hotels and service providers in the West now offer mobile payments and Chinese payment platforms in their premises too, helping to boost sales.) WeChat Pay also offers the benefit of a tax refund mode which is attractive to Chinese customers.

4. Use WeChat advertising

WeChat advertising can be highly targeted, so do the necessary research to accurately pinpoint your target audience using tight demographics, and then set up an advertising campaign that matches these carefully planned criteria. This will maximise your returns whilst managing your budget. A Chinese marketing agency can assist with this and manage the process from end-to-end.

Find out more

Ready to leverage the power of WeChat to bring your brand to the attention of China’s vast and growing outbound travel market? Whether you are new to digital marketing in China or an experienced player, our team of experts work on a partnership basis with your brand to provide the service that you need. We evidence all results and help your budget – and conversions – go further with native Chinese speakers and highly skilled Chinese digital marketing experts ready to work on a flexible basis with your brand. Contact us to find out more.