Recently, Jiao Li, co-founder of Crayfish.io, delivered the second webinar in the China-Let’s Talk Business series talking on the topic of how to do B2B marketing in China after the pandemic. Jiao firstly took a look at the data and trends for the B2B market in China and then offered her advice and suggestions on how businesses can do B2B digital marketing in China, particularly for those which have limited budgets and resources.
The pandemic has been a catalyst for the digitalisation of B2B marketing processes in the Chinese market. Whereas pre-pandemic it may have only been expected that tech companies employ digital techniques to market to their clients, traditional manufacturing companies are now also utilising digital marketing to target their customers. In the Chinese market, the B2B economy is recovering quickly, faster than the consumer market, and from the figures in the industrial production index, it is clear that from April 2020, not only had the B2B market recovered, it has been continuing to grow ever since. The Chinese market represents a significant opportunity for B2B businesses right now.
McKinsey data shows that lots of business deals are now happening remotely; whilst traditional sources of revenue like in-person and phone are declining, digital interactions with sales reps and digital self-service are growing significantly, facilitating business deals to happen online. This growth trend of digital methods is especially prevalent in video conferencing software like zoom, teams, skype and Tencent video conferencing, or online chat functions including chatting to customers via emails and Wechat. Whilst these trends were enhanced by the Pandemic, 4/5 believe that this model is more effective now than it was prior to the pandemic in 2019, and more than 90% of B2B decision makers expect that this remote and digital model will continue in the long run.
It is also clear that in a post-covid world, having an integrated e-commerce strategy is of high importance when targeting the Chinese market. 98% of B2B buyers claim they will make a purchase in an end-to-end digital self-service model up to the value of $50k, showing there is a really high earning potential of having an e-commerce end point to your digital B2B marketing strategy. The digitalisation trend is here to stay, so it is important for businesses to adapt and adopt digital techniques into their business models, especially when targeting the Chinese market.
One of the biggest challenges for B2B businesses in China is that there is a lack of knowledge and awareness of the Chinese business world. Due to the internet firewall, the digital platforms and ecosystems used in China are completely different from what is available and accessible in the UK, with some being a lot more advanced than the UK counterpart. This makes it important to understand the nuance for each Chinese platform and how to utilise it in the best way. Another significant challenge is having a general understanding of China as a whole. China is a large country and there are different digital behaviours across different cities and areas. For example, Douyin (similar to Tiktok), is very popular in tier 1 cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, whereas in tier 4 cities, they use an app called Kuaishou much more frequently. Therefore, it is not possible to create a standardised marketing strategy to reach the whole of China, and instead your business needs to think about their goals from a macro perspective, but come down to a city level when it is time for the implementation and execution of the strategy.
The Chinese digital world is very fragmented; there are many different platforms and people distribute their time amongst these platforms in a dynamic way. Whilst the buyers in B2B markets are businesses, the decisions made are by consumers working in the digital world. Therefore, their digital behaviour will be the same as when they are a consumer in their personal life. By looking at data on how people spend their time on social networking sites, it is clear that people are spending more time on networking and watching short videos, due to the introduction of apps like Tiktok. Furthermore, 95% of people in China have at least one mobile phone and most online searches are happening on mobiles. Building on these trends, using social media could be an interactive way for businesses to show their products and draw [Chart, bubble chart Description automatically generated] in interest in B2B markets.
Throughout the pandemic live streaming has becoming a huge trend, allowing consumers to buy products when they were not able to go out shopping physically. Many B2B platforms also began to implement live streaming on websites like Taobao and 1688 in the later half of 2020. In these circumstances, it was a way for businesses to introduce their company and products to buyers and many videos were shot in the manufacturing site directly so that prospective buyers could have an insight into the business functions and the manufacturing process. Whilst brands that are not image driven will struggle to keep up with the algorithm of apps like Douyin, which require new content constantly to stay relevant, for brands that are interested in taking up the challenge, producing short videos is an innovative way to leverage this technological trend.
Brands need to consider localising their products and content, which remains key to entering the Chinese market. Whilst most Chinese social media apps have an English version, the majority of search engines and their content will be in Chinese so it is vital to create content in the local language. Not only should language be adapted, but also the content and the way it is presented. It is also key to have the knowledge of the different selection of basic marketing and social networking channels, for example, Chinese search engines, or Wechat/Weibo. These aspects of the basics for a sound marketing strategy in China are explained in more detail below:
-Content layout - China has a high context culture which means Chinese people like to have as much information as possible presented to them before they make a decision, therefore inherently on-screen text is not as concise or as accurate as we would like to see on an English website and there is reduced white space as on Chinese websites all space is utilised with graphics and information.
-Content presentation - Chinese websites are more lively and colourful. Businesses should be aware of the meanings and significance of colours in Chinese culture, for example black means death and is therefore considered an unlucky colour in China. For this reason, businesses should avoid overusing colours with negative connotations.
-Navigation - due to their high context culture, navigation on a Chinese website happens horizontally rather vertically.
WeChat is commonly considered to be an ‘app for everything’ or ‘super app’ in China because of its wide range of functions. Chinese people typically spend 1/3 of their time on WeChat. In 2020, WeChat’s monthly active users exceeded 1.2 billion, and the number of users is still keep growing. Your B2B buyer is highly likely to be a WeChat user, so it's very important for you to reach and engage with them through your WeChat official account. We have a detailed WeChat marketing and sales course recording online for you to purchase if you are interested to learn more.
-The first and most important search engine in China is Baidu, with over 220 million daily active users. As it is China’s first and foremost search engine, its algorithm is tailored towards content in Chinese language or using a mainland internet server.
-Baidu is an ecosystem with Baidu Zhidao (like Quora), Baidu Lixianbao and Baidu qiyebaike. Due to the algorithm, there is a bias for putting websites that are producing content within the ecosystem at the top of the search engine, so businesses should consider making content for the Baidu ecosystem as well as their own website so that their search results for their website is optimised.
-Due to the high mobile phone ownership in China, business websites should also be optimised for mobile searches.
-Zhihu is a platform for professionals and is important because it has a unique use of profiles. 80% of people on there have a BA degree and their objective is to search and ask questions about different professional fields. It has high authority on search engines, meaning it is easily searchable and accessible, and making it a good place to introduce and raise awareness of your business
-Toutiao is the leading news app in China with 240 million daily active users. The uniqueness of its algorithm, using machine learning techniques to show the most relevant content to users, makes it really easily to make sure your digital marketing strategy has the most effective reach and is read by the most relevant people.
-LinkedIn in China is not used as a social media, but rather used by professionals to find a job.
-Multi-national companies in China will use LinkedIn to search your business so it is important to have a profile on there.
The Chinese market is one of the most important markets, whether you are B2B or B2C business. Given that marketing strategy has to be so different in China from the UK, it is vital to be aware of the challenges the Chinese market can present. By having a willingness to stay informed, humble and learn about China, your business will have the potential to optimise on the opportunity that the Chinese market presents. Having a partner like Crayfish.io, which understands the local language and culture, can help to overcome any challenges your business may face, and can guide your business through the process into the Chinese market, providing a much higher chance of success.