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What you need to know about digital marketing in China

digital marketing in China

What you need to know about digital marketing in China

The Chinese population (1.3 billion people) represents a fifth of the world population, 37% of the world Internet penetration and has 1 billion mobile phones all around the country. Government policy has driven the deployment of broadband throughout the country and in 2015 e-commerce will represent 7.4% of total sales in China.

Why Chinese prefer to shop online?

A Chinese customer purchases on Internet about 4 times more frequently than a European.

But why?

Actually it’s very easy to understand. When you live far away from big cities you won’t be able to find everything in shops. It’s  much easier to find products using the Internet. Apart from availability problems, the factors that lead to the purchase are quite similar to those we know in Europe: products available at every hour, lower price than when you shop in stores, convenience of purchase (as you can actually purchase from your sofa). Besides, in tier 1 cities, you can have your purchases delivered within 3 hours. What more to ask for Chinese customers?

In China, and more than in Europe, the shipping costs are very low and the delivery times very fast. All these factors encourage the Chinese consumers to buy online rather than offline.

Who buys online?

50% of the online consumers are between 18 to 30 years old. Actually, they are quite young and they have a purchasing power much higher than previous generations.

Since they  tend to live in their parent’s house longer than many westerners, they don’t have to pay as much for their living fees.

So, they can spend more on leisurely spending like clothing or cosmetics for women or electronics for men.

Who are the digital actors in China?

Forget everything you know about the digital market. In China everything is different. You can’t use Google, Facebook, Twitter or Youtube because of the “great firewall”.

China has closed its virtual borders to the rest of the world for so long that it has allowed a great number of internet companies to strive, for example giants, Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba being the most famous of them.

Let’s have a look at their search engine!

baidu logo

Baidu is number one. Over 70% of the researches made in China are made through this search engine. But the powerful search engine has also developed a number of services which allows the users to do some shopping or have a blog.

Besides its numerous services you want to use to increase your visibility, it is on Baidu that you HAVE to do SEO, which is fairly different from what you are used to on Google.

The importance of marketplaces

In Europe and the United States, we have Ebay and Amazon. In China it’s again totally different.

Many platforms exists, some specialized like Meilishuo, some more mass market oriented like the two online platforms: Tmall and Taobao, both belonging to Alibaba. Together, they realize 80% of the online sales for the group. Tmall can be very interesting for brands because they benefit from the huge capital of trustworthiness of the platform. Yet, it is not easy. You have to match a wide variety of conditions and requirements reviewed periodically to ensure that only viable shops stay on the platform.

An example  of Tmall shop : L’Oreal selling its cosmetics on Tmall

digital marketing in China

L’Oreal shop on Tmall

digital marketing in China

As seen above, people can not only see the description but also different key parameters to assess whether it’s worth buying a certain product. To sum it up, you want to have all three indicators red on Tmall to have a product selling well.

  • Price
  • Customer service
  • Speed of delivery

Those three are the key parameters for Chinese to buy online products like cosmetics. (cosmetic in China)

What browsers do Chinese use?

The computer renewal rate is very slow: therefore Internet Explorer 6 still accounts for over 25% of the computers parks! But on the other side the number of people who use their mobile to surf on Internet is huge (around 900 million mobile Internet users). It’s impossible not to have your website in a responsive design. You’d be left out very quickly!

The importance of speaking directly to your customers

digital marketing in China

The Chinese consumer loves personalized interactions and relations. Then, the best way to interact with them when you’re a brand is to use the social network and speak directly with them. WeChat, the mobile phone app makes it possible with all these features. And as it is the largest messaging app by monthly active users in China; it’s an amazing opportunities for brands. WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast messaging, sharing of photographs and videos and also allows brands to develop “mini-apps” in order to launch interactive marketing campaigns.

Having an official account, just like the one showed above, allows you one to one conversation with your customers, something Chinese particularly like. That would be the VIP feeling you need in China.

digital marketing in China


Weibo, the Chinese twitter is also a good channel to use if you want to talk to your customers as the brands can create then own page and personalize it.  Actually, 56% of Weibo users follow at least one brand on the network.

digital marketing in China

Lancôme Weibo : 427,534 people following news from the brand and commenting on it live.

To conclude, I would say that the marketing budget for a brand which wants to develop its presence in China should be divided into community management, e-commerce, and SEO activities on Baidu. And don’t forget : Think local, act local…starting with a China localized website!

Now, you’re almost ready to attack the Chinese market!

Other interesting readings on Chairman Media:

Haosou VS Baidu

Challenges of advertising agencies in China

Chinese Tourism trends

About the Author

ThomasHi, my name is Thomas, French. Fond of marketing, I graduated this year from Bordeaux 3 university after four years studying applied foreign languages. I learned Chinese and marketing among other topics. After my first two years, I went to Xi’an, the historical heart of China where I studied Chinese for a year. And now here I am, at long last after graduation, in Shanghai the business heart of China, working in Digital marketingfollow. I live in China and I’m more than eager to learn everything about it from its most remote places to cities like Shanghai or Shenzhen, vibrant with activity.

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  • Reply
    Eric Tran
    May 19, 2015 at 10:30 am

    I will be in Shanghai on June/2nd. Can we meet and talk about e marketing in China. We are a real estate firm based in Southern California.

    • Reply
      May 20, 2015 at 11:32 pm

      Dear Eric, I would love to hear about you.
      Drop me an e-mail via our website marketingtochina


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