A world of its own

By Samuel Clohessy | Jun 13, 12 08:40 AM

The world's biggest market shift in our lifetime is happening right before our eyes. That is, China's population buying online.

The world's biggest market shift in our lifetime is happening right before our eyes. That is, China buying online. The internet in China is literally in a world of its own. 

In 2004, China had 94 million registered internet users. Now, it is over 500 million and will hit one billion by 2020. China also has over 300 million active users of social media. These users are not on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any other form of western social media. The reason; all are banned in China. 

Did you know that Google has less than 10% of market share in China for search and that its Mandarin equivalent www.baidu.com controls over 84% of the search market? Furthermore, radio, TV and newspapers are close to useless in China for brands wishing to penetrate the Chinese market because these mediums are solely owned and run by the Government. Chinese people simply don't trust them and it is enormously difficult and expensive for foreign companies to gain access to them anyway. Additionally, flying up to trade fairs are grossly time consuming and expensive and are now essentially unnecessary when wishing to sell to China. Chinese consumers make purchasing decisions more than 70% of the time from information found online, which is why it is the most cost effective, seamless and undisputed platform for foreign companies wishing to access the Chinese market. It is the easiest and virtually only way for brands and Chinese consumers to engage in 'freedom of speech', build relationships and for companies to sell to their specific target audience. Yes, the government can censor the internet, but it only generally concerns political issues and not free enterprise. 

E-commerce sales in China alone are set to grow 20.41% annually to reach $356. One billion in 2016 with E-commerce expected to generate $169.4 billion in sales this year in China. 

So how can you take advantage of this giant, burgeoning market and sell effectively to China's online community with your existing website? 

The answer is; you basically can't. 

Simply, you need a web presence in China which comprises three core things:

1. You need a professionally translated website written to sell in Mandarin and, as importantly, hosted in China.

2. You need Chinese SEO performed so Chinese consumers can find you on their search engines.

3. Now, having a Chinese website is one thing and having SEO done is another, but having a platform to actively promote your brand with one or more registered and verified social media accounts in China is pivotal if you wish to engage your audience, build trust and market your products or services. 

‘Sina Weibo' www.weibo.com is China's ultimate social media platform. It started in 2009 and already has over 250 million users. Due to the fact that the Chinese are somewhat sceptical of formal institutions and authority, users disproportionately value the advice of opinion leaders in social networks. An independent survey of moisturiser purchasers, for example, observed that 66 percent of Chinese consumers relied on recommendations from friends and family, compared with 38 percent of their US counterparts, illustrating that Chinese people simply rely on social media to make decisions much more than anyone else.

 Companies without a physical presence in China are not permitted to open verified social media accounts on platforms like 'Sina Weibo'. So, for any serious company wanting to market in the vital social media space in China, they must have a verified account opened by a registered service provider in China. 

So ask yourself a few things … can you afford to cut your business off from almost a quarter of the world? Do you have a web presence in China? And, if you don't, when will you?

Samuel Clohessy works with Web Presence in China, a new Australian company with over 30 years combined experience on the ground in China and a business model which is the first of its kind. Web Presence in China is Australia's first fully fledged digital marketing agency with the skills and know-how to take Australian companies online inside China.

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