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Three Most Common Misconceptions about China Marketing Efforts by UK Inbound Businesses
Inbound travel & tourism industry may be one of the few sectors that have been benefited from the chaotic Brexit. The depreciation of pound sterling has helped bring in greater influx of visitors from all over the world, especially China.
Therefore, more and more UK inbound businesses have turned their eyes on China market, hoping to acquire more Chinese visitors via some sort of marketing efforts in that market. However, based on its engagement and service with various clients and observation of China marketing efforts by some inbound businesses, Digipanda has identified following most commonly seen misconceptions:
1)China is known for being the providers of cheap “stuffs”, ranging from clothes, toys to mobile phones, so marketing cost in China must also be very cheap.
Digipanda is not in the business of export and import and therefore we may not in the position to talk about “made in China” phenomenon. However, so long as potential marketing cost in China is concerned, that by no means can said to be “cheap”. Let’s take the online presence in China for example, most marketers would naturally think about building a Chinese website as the first step to have an online presence in that market and a website does not cost that much here in UK nowadays. However, things are quite different in China, as if you want to make sure your website is visible and offers good user experience in China, you will have to host that website in China. And to achieve that, you will need to show your China Business License, which means you will have set up some sort of physical presence in China, which of course adds on the cost.
Another example is WeChat marketing. You may have known the importance of having a WeChat public account and some of you may also know that it is totally free to register a new WeChat public account. However, what you may not know is that if you want your WeChat public account to be vertified (which is extremely good for your credibility), you will have to submit your China Business License, which means more costs. Now, you’ve got your WeChat public account, so what? You still need to prepare a decent budget to promote it. It will take ages before you can see some results, if you purely rely on “organic growth” . So, how much budget is “decent”? Well, the most traditional way to promote a new WeChat public account is through established popular WeChat public account of your industry, or KOL Moments, or WeChat groups. For established WeChat public accounts, they may charge you over 1,000 pounds to several thousand pounds for only one post. “Here in UK”, which claimed to be the most popular WeChat public operated by Chinese in UK, charges over 10,000 pounds for one post on their 1st slot! For KOL, the price may range from several hundred to tens of thousands of pounds. Xue Zhiqian, a famous singer, charges 500,000 RMB, or over 56,000 pounds for ONE Weibo post!
It seems that the cheapest marketing tool is WeChat groups. Digipanda can get access to thousands of WeChat groups of different categories, and we charge 60-80 pounds for posting promotional message in one group once. However, as there is at most 500 people in one WeChat group, if you want to reach, say 50,000 people, you may need to employ at least 100-150 groups, which means the cost may be also somewhere around 10,000 pounds.
2) I can copy what I am doing here with Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc. to China.
This is again absolutely wrong. Even if we do not consider the fact that Google, Twitter, Facebook etc do not work in China, just think about website building. It is quite easy to build a website here in UK. However, if you want to have a legal website for commercial purposes in China, besides domain name, servers, etc, you must have an ICP (Internet Content Provider) certificate at hand and you must put the ICP number at the front page of your website. Meanwhile, in order to get the ICP certificate, you have to submit your China Business License!
Another example is Baidu. Although Baidu is known as the Chinese Google, it does not operate 100% same as Google. For example, Baidu offers privilege to websites hosted in China in terms of ranking of search result, which means, no matter how good your Chinese website is, if it is not hosted in China, you won’t get a satisfied SEO result with Baidu!
3) In China, I can solely depend on such channels as OTAs, e.g. Ctrip, Tuniu, etc. to generate sales.
Yes, you can put your hotels, tours, attractions, meals, etc. on sale on Ctrip, Tuniu, Qunar, etc. However, you simply should not put all eggs in one basket. First of all, such OTAs will not do branding or awareness building for you, which means, you have to wait passively for your products appearing on the search result page of a potential customer, after he/she executes search on these OTAs. Secondly, some of the online stores, such as the one of Mafengwo, rank various suppliers according to the quality of customer service, which means, if you could not provide timely response to user inquiries. These two points mean you need to to do awareness building for your products in China, and in some case, if you choose to use an online store operated by an OTA or travel & tourism website, you may need the support of a local team. The following ballpark shows the decision making process of a typical Chinese outbound traveler. It shows that if you have areal online branding presence and come up during these stages such as on travel search, word of mouth via (micro) blogs or social media and such, you will be steps ahead of your competitors and bookings are bound to come in whatever booking channels Chinese travelers choose.
It has to be acknowledged that breaking into China’s online world is by no means an easy job. However, investing some of your time, energy and financial resources on it will prove to be worthwhile. Simply look at 3 latest figures: 1) In 2017, UK issued almost 532,000 visitor visas to Chinese visitors, representing a 152% increase over that of 2012. 2)According to Global Blue, Chinese visitors’ consumption in UK in 2017 increased by 32% over that of 2016, while the increase in mainland Europe was only 5%.3) More Chinese cities will have direct flight to UK, including Xi‘an, Chongqing, Wuhan, Changsha, etc.