What works in the US may not necessarily work in China when it comes to design. In a Pingwest event last year, Evernote China’s General Manager Amy Gu shared seven must-knows for companies modifying their products for Chinese consumers.
1. Integrating with WeChat is a must
WeChat in China is like Facebook in the States. More than just a social network, WeChat is also a mobile wallet, QR code scanner, and CRM for business use. For American companies trying to engage with Chinese consumers, WeChat is the most efficient and wide-reaching tool.
One example of an American company using WeChat is LinkedIn. In order to further its localization efforts, LinkedIn integrated their WeChat QR code with their other social profiles. They also learned from the UX of WeChat to create Chitu, a separate professional social networking app specially designed for Chinese users.
To make use of WeChat, brands should consider a deep integration, providing mobile only offers on the platform and making use of their sophisticated CRM for mobile marketing.
2. Secure mobile payment matters
There are many reasons why WeChat has such a large user base in China, but the near one hundred percent mobile penetration rate (all phones including the smartphone) in the country is one of the biggest ones. In China, smartphones penetration is near fifty percent, driven by the commoditization of the product by low-cost domestic producers.
China’s mobile commerce market grew by 168% in the first quarter of 2015, and for every two Chinese online shoppers, one is shopping on their phone. The convenience of smartphones has changed the life of the most isolated Chinese citizens in underserved rural areas.
During Chinese New Year in 2016, WeChat allowed their users to send traditional “red envelopes” via the app instead of giving cash.
Credit: Freer / Shutterstock.com
When you plan on monetizing in China, make sure you have a good mobile shopping experience and a secure mobile payment method.
3. Free Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is a must. If you don’t have Wi-Fi access in your store, Chinese customers may actually leave to a different store. This rule also applies when Chinese people travel abroad. Three major Chinese airlines provide Wi-Fi access on flights because over 86 percent of passengers cited Wi-Fi access as a priority during flights.
For Chinese tourists, free Wi-Fi is essential abroad because the cost of international roaming is expensive. Chinese tourists usually stay connected with family and friends via WeChat when they travel, and a big reason for that is to buy foreign goods as gifts for people back home.
Chinese shoppers also like to share photos on WeChat constantly, so providing a way for them to do that (via WiFi) is an effective way for US businesses to market to Chinese tourists.
4. Chinese shoppers spend more to be seen
Many wonder why Chinese shoppers spend so much when travelling – this is true almost no matter the country. In Japan, the spending habits of Chinese tourists have been dubbed “爆買い (baku-gai),” which means to “buy explosively” – or just to buy a lot in one go.
One reason why Chinese shoppers do this is because they shop for social recognition, and foreign brands are regarded as premium goods in China. Another reason is the high tariffs for luxury goods in China, which, for example, makes buying a COACH handbag much more expensive at home than in the US or Europe.
To avoid high tariffs, Chinese travelers are usually tasked with purchasing large numbers of luxury items for family and friends when going abroad.
Besides luxury spending by Chinese tourists abroad, international brands are also benefiting from premium pricing within China. Chinese customers are less price sensitive when they can spend half of their monthly salary in exchange for guaranteed social recognition.
5. Design for young people
According to a McKinsey & Company article, those born before 1985 in China mainly used the Internet for work. Those born after 1985, referred to as the Generation-2 (G2) consumer, are the first real generation to use the Internet for every aspect of their lives.
Due to the many social and cultural changes in China in the past few decades, each generation grew up differently and thus would respond to marketing in different ways. An integrated study on China’s market landscape relating to your brand’s product, including user interviews, focus groups and market research can help in understanding your target audience before making any decisions.
6. Make use of manpower
China built itself into the manufacturing empire it is regarded as today – the world’s factory full of cost-efficient labor. Today, while cheap labor is on the decline in China (and other countries are becoming competitive in terms of that), abundant manpower remains.
Compared to the US, where same day delivery may cost you a ten dollars, you can easily get your package delivered on the same day for free – with free returns – in China.
7. Be careful with cultural symbols
Lastly, when you go to a new market, it goes without saying that you must do you homework on local customs. For example, Apple Stores in China have price tags ending in 8 instead of 9. In the Chinese language, 8 sounds very similar to the word meaning “make a fortune.” As a result, Chinese people often try to make connections with the number 8, like getting it in their phone number and so on.
Designing for China does not mean losing the core of your brand. LinkedIn maintains their international positioning in the China market. Dropbox has the same UX globally, including in China. You do not need to wait until your brand is perfectly prepared before you enter a new market. The best way is to start to building mutual trust with potential partners as soon as you decide to go China, and keep improving your product with your Chinese stakeholders while you are there.