What do Chinese online customers want from Western brands?

All marketers know that customer insight is essential to create a successful marketing campaign. So what exactly do Chinese online customers want from Western brands?

The allure of Western brands in China

Chinese customers greatly value Western brands and view them as being of particularly high-quality. Big designer brands do exceptionally well in China, but smaller and newer Western brands can also enjoy real success with the right strategy.


This is perhaps one of the most important attributes that a Western brand can offer. Whether it comes in the form of a prestigious university course, a boutique hotel or travel experience, or a high-quality physical product, the attribute of quality is one that will greatly interest the sophisticated, discerning and increasingly affluent audience of Chinese buyers.


Most Chinese customers have been burned by Chinese counterfeit fakes, and are naturally suspicious of unbranded, locally-produced goods as a result. Authentic Western brands which maintain total adherence to their values (especially of quality, style, heritage and so forth) will be able to gain the trust of their Chinese audience – both for the initial purchase and for an ongoing relationship.


Chinese customers expect high-performance from quality brands. They will pay more for luxury materials, sophisticated technologies and premium products which signal their taste and success. For services, the performance attribute can be translated into results – such as onward employment outcomes from a certain higher education programme, or a smooth welcome and superb customer experience at a travel destination. The key is that the actual brand experience must match its promise.


Although Chinese customers are generally price-conscious, they are willing to pay more from premium brands which signal their sophistication and economic success to peers. This is particularly the case when it comes to designer brands. Often, Chinese customers will pay for this prestige directly from brands in the West via eCommerce channels, as imported equivalents tend to be more expensive within China.


Chinese customers also believe that they will enjoy a bigger range of choice, and access to more collections (for example for clothing, accessories, make-up and so forth) if they buy from a Western brand. This offers Western brands of all kinds the chance to offer variety to win new Chinese customers – whether it’s in the form of a series of international business courses or a range of luxury leather handbags.


The Western lifestyle, history and culture is of great interest to the outward-facing, sophisticated and increasingly global Chinese audience. Western brands which incorporate elements of heritage – such as Cambridge Satchels or Dior – will find this particular brand value strongly received in this market. Chinese customers love to engage with a brand’s rich, and authentic heritage story, to feel a deep emotional connection to it.

Fresh experiences

Chinese people are fascinated by new experiences and keen to travel. This has led to an increase in demand for Western products that include wine, food and clothing. Western brands have two opportunities to delight and engage new Chinese customers here – from the offer itself which can broaden their horizons, sophistication and aspirations – through to the marketing used to enhance and enrich the experience and the promise of that experience. Thanks to the scope and cutting-edge nature of Chinese digital technologies, Western brands often have a far greater chance for creativity and innovation in their integrated Chinese digital marketing campaigns than they will at home.

Personalised communication

Because Chinese customers are so sophisticated in their online shopping habits, they expect their chosen brands to communicate with them in a highly personalised, relevant and tailored way that meets their interests and needs. Furthermore, they expect these communications to innovative and present across the Chinese social platforms that they use – including WeChat and Weibo. Brands should begin by ensuring that their brand and its values translate effectively to their target Chinese audience’s needs, wants and desires and progress to creating a tailored communications plan and campaign.

Ease of purchase

Along with tailored digital communications, Chinese customers also expect to find that their chosen Western brands have provided a seamless user journey with integrated e-commerce functionality. Western brands should seek to integrated popular Chinese payment platforms into their websites and build eCommerce stores within Chinese social media platforms which offer this functionality. Where possible, purchases should be completed in just a few clicks, via the ubiquitous smartphone.


When Chinese customers choose to patronise a quality Western brand, they expect the brand experience to continue from advertising through to service. Western brands should seek to go above and beyond with their service. This could include gift-wrapping items which are shipped to China via e-commerce sites or including personalised thank you notes. Accessories such as dust bags or care products for luxury bags and shoes are also valued, along with further vouchers and promotions for future sales. Every service touchpoint should be considered as an opportunity to delight and retain the customer.


The Chinese market is highly sophisticated, and these customers expect to enjoy a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints. This means that brands need to invest in all of their digital assets, from their Chinese website through to the right KOL partnerships, ePR activity, online advertising and so forth.

Chinese customers are extremely active online – sharing reviews on forums, recommendations in private social networking groups, to friends and in comments on social platforms. So Western brands must invest heavily in their digital presence and then seek to manage it, with regular analysis, engagement and ongoing interaction with their online audience. This will be made easier with the help of a Chinese marketing agency who can manage all digital engagements online on behalf of the brand and provide back-end analytics to evidence campaign effectiveness.

Find out more

Market Me China works with Western brands from across all industries, including travel, e-commerce and education, to help them to maximise their returns from the Chinese market. Whatever stage you are at in your Chinese marketing journey, we can help you to get better results. Our team of Chinese digital marketing professionals can act as an expert and flexible extension to your own in-house team for the best possible results. Please feel free to contact us to find out more.