There’s no doubt about it. If you’ve ever worked in the China market, you’ll know that selling in China can be complicated. But it’s also a market that’s rich in opportunities for ambitious brands.
China’s GDP is currently growing by 4.44%, a trend that’s only predicted to accelerate in the next five years. The eCommerce market is projected to reach US $2,375 billion by 2027 with foreign investment increasing 21% year-on-year to reach historic highs.
If you’re looking to expand and grow your brand, there’s nowhere better to invest.
So, what is the best way to drive sales in China?
Here’s our tried-and-tested 8-Step Approach, to help you strategically engage Chinese consumers, hit your sales targets and increase brand awareness
1. Know why you’re investing in the China market
First things first, it’s vital to understand why your brand wants to invest in the China market. This will drive your Chinese strategy and help you focus on key areas for growth.
What are the benefits to you?
This could be things like market potential within your specific sector, the broader macro environment (for instance China’s trademark and GDPR laws, tax relief or banking systems), emerging social media trends or increased spending power among Chinese consumers.
China is simply too vast and complex not to have a highly targeted marketing strategy. With a good understanding of the opportunities for your business, you can shape your China branding.
2. Segmentation and targeting: Understanding Chinese consumers
You’ve got the why. Now it’s time for the who.
Do you know which consumer segments you’re targeting?
Brands should focus on clear target-clusters and aim for “low-hanging fruit” first. To do this, conduct audience analysis and create segmented personas – understanding Chinese consumers’ behaviour, triggers and pain points.
As China is home to the world’s most sophisticated and discerning customers (especially when it comes to international luxury brands), you simply can’t afford not to do this.
Any brand that doesn’t hyper-target runs the risk of shouting into the void with its Chinese marketing campaigns. It’s a surefire way to burn through budgets, fast.
3. Reaching Consumers: Working with distribution partners
We’ve done the why and the who. Now it’s time for the how.
Make sure you understand how your products and services can reach your target consumers.
This could involve B2C (Business to Consumer) channels like eCommerce, retail and pop-up stores, and distributors. You could also use B2B (Business to Business) techniques such as offline sales events, sales reps and corporate distributors.
Feeling unsure where to start?
Having a good operations partner with distribution expertise in your category is essential. As long as industry context (i.e. why you’re investing) and your target consumers’ behaviour drives this strategy – you’ll be heading in the right direction.
4. Research your competition and market position
With a firm grasp of your motivations and initial China strategy, it’s time to undertake competitive research. This should be an ongoing process, as local competitors are incredibly agile in China, and the landscape changes daily.
Know where you’re positioned in your competitive set. This is known as “gap analysis” and ensures you stay relevant to your customers’ needs and wants.
If there isn’t a gap in the market your brand is filling – you’ll need to rethink your product or China branding strategy.
Know who your competitors are, where they’re operating, what they’re doing and importantly, how you can define your position
5. Get clear on your competitive advantages and USPs
To unlock marketing opportunities in China, understanding your competitive advantage and USPs (that’s your unique selling points) is critical.
If you’ve already done competitive research, you’ll be halfway there. Now, it’s time to focus on your brand.
Ask yourself, what’s your point of difference? Have you created a thorough roadmap and business plan making the most of any USPs? If not, now’s the time.
Remember, it’s Chinese consumers, not your brand that dictate your USPs. What are they looking for, and what would people genuinely appreciate and value? If you’re creating a China marketing plan that isn’t focused on your target audience, your messaging won’t cut through.
When putting plans together, create clear KPIs (key performance indicators). This will help you understand what success looks like for your brand, with measurable factors like sales, enquiries or social media interactions.
6. Create a China marketing and communications strategy
With this 8-Step Approach, you’re creating a truly strategic China branding strategy.
Building on your competitive advantages and market awareness), it’s time to create a communications plan. Using your target-market personas, think about the right narratives to engage and sell to your Chinese consumers.
Messaging and campaign hooks must be planned ahead of any promotional activity. This will help you side-step any potential PR Crises (yep, we’re talking about that Dolce and Gabbana marketing campaign), where messaging goes off-track.
Create a China communications strategy, including things like tone and image guidelines as well as crisis management plans. This should always stay on brand, but also remain consistently attentive to your customers’ motivations.
With the right plan in place, you’ll grab attention (for all the right reasons) in no time.
7. Choose your channels wisely – based on consumer behaviour
What are the best channels to launch your Chinese marketing and communications plans?
It’s important to choose your channels wisely. Research where your customers hang out – in both digital and physical spaces.
Your channel plan must focus on your consumers’ behaviour, buying and search habits. If not, you’ve wasted campaign budgets, time and effort talking to the wrong groups!
For just a few ideas, online channels could include livestreaming, Chinese social media platforms (like Little Red Book, Bilibi, Douyin and Weibo), search engine marketing on Baidu, China digital advertising, influencer campaigns (with either KOLs or KOCs) or educational webinars.
Working across both online and offline channels means you can reach and engage consumers effectively. As part of this, consider pop-up stores and experiences, in-store promotions, events and conferences, as well as press launches and co-branding opportunities.
8. Constantly measure, track and adapt your campaigns
With your Chinese strategy firmly in place – you can get to work putting it into practice!
Once underway, measuring and tracking all activity is vital. Constantly track your conversion rates, and adjust plans to increase leads, traffic and sales.
We’ve already mentioned how agile and fast-moving the China market is. And you must be too.
Continually optimising campaigns based on results and changing conditions will keep your marketing and communications plans relevant.
Work with your sales team to make sure leads are genuinely turning into business. If not, then something needs to change. Go back through the previous 7 steps to fine-tune and improve your plans to generate future success.