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How social media influences Chinese travel decisions

social media influences Chinese travel

The start of the travel season is just a month away and Chinese tourists will have already begun planning their summer or autumn holidays.

The Chinese market was once known for being heavily reliant on travel agencies and package discounts when deciding their travel destination, but in the last 5 years, TA and group travel numbers have plummeted with more than 50% of Chinese consumers travelling independently (that figure is even higher among 35 and under audiences).

This begs the question; how do Chinese consumers today decide on holiday destinations? Itineraries? Places and products to shop? When we consider that for luxury purchases alone, the average consumer journey in China has 15 touchpoints, we can assume the journey when purchasing travel products is just as complex if not more so.

For many Chinese consumers over 50% of these touchpoints will be digital. Find out how social media affects Chinese consumer decisions at each stage of the consumer journey below.

Inspiration and awareness: Celebrity aspirations & pressure to develop personal brands

When it comes to picking destinations to travel, for the affluent Chinese consumer nothing inspires quite like:

  • Celebrity or KOL endorsement online or in TV shows
  • Display advertising on frequently used websites and apps, for example in March, Visit Britain experimented with a display campaign on AMA platform Zhihu, encouraging users to ‘create their own story’
  • Ctrip campaigns and special offers on flights or experiences
  • Positive reviews from friends on social media (as long as it’s not too many friends)

Consideration and intent: Reviews, blogs & OTAs

After narrowing down the destination Chinese consumers will use user-generated content (UGC), reviews, travel blogs and KOL channels to help plan their itinerary, these include:

  • Ctrip destination guides
  • Mafengwo and Zhihu reviews and travel journals
  • British KOL WeChat travel guides
  • Word-of-mouth from friends or relatives in the UK

Planning travel shopping: Social-commerce platforms and must-have products

Alongside the itinerary, the most planned part of a lot of consumers trips is their shopping. With limited time and an increasing number of things to do and places to see, Chinese consumers want to guarantee they can get the products they want without delay. In a post-Brexit Britain, many are making the most of the exchange rate and planning to buy luxury products for themselves, friends, relatives, colleagues and bosses.

For those with a bit more time on their hands, a trip to the UK is much more about enjoying the specialities and niche products and brands not available in China. Key channels for shopping planning include:

  • Little Red Book and other social-commerce platform reviews and wish lists
  • Beauty and fashion influencer’s Weibo and WeChat recommendations
  • Zhihu and Mafengwo recommendations, product reviews and promotional information
  • CTrip WeGuide promotions and in-app recommendations

On-location: Personalised promotions and sharing moments

The younger generations in China are placing more emphasis on travel and leisure. As such trips to the UK are getting longer and brands have more chance to engage with Chinese audiences while they are in the UK. Overseas geotargeting for Chinese platforms has only hit its stride in the last 12-18 months but there are some key platforms you can use to engage Chinese consumers after they reach the UK:

  • Alipay push notifications and vouchers
  • WeChat moment ads, WeChatPay red envelopes, WeChat and Visit Britain’s London CityExperience
  • Ctrip WeGuide promotions

Want to learn more about the Chinese consumer journey and how digital media can influence their travel and retail choices? Join us for our inbound Chinese consumer masterclass on 23rd May 2018 where we provide detailed insight into the different Chinese inbound audiences and their consumer behaviours.

By Marie Tulloch, Inbound Marketing Manager.

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