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Think your Google marketing experience will help you attract Chinese customers to your online store? Think again.
Mainland China has its own internet ecosystem, which is shielded from the rest of the world. Here, people use Baidu, not Google. And they don’t talk to their friends on Facebook, but on Wechat.
Even if you’re experienced in ecommerce and internet marketing, you will need to read everything that Francesco D’Einar, Director of the Business Development at Westwin in Shanghai, has to say about digital market entry strategy for overseas ecommerce companies.
Keep reading, and learn more about how you should optimize your online store for China, Baidu SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing), PPC (Pay Per Click) ad retargeting – and why a Hong Kong .hk domain is a good substitute if you cannot register a .cn domain.
Francesco, please tell us a bit about your work at Westwin and Adstochina.com
I’m the Director of the Business Development for Westwin Inbound Unit, where I work to build and grow the business in terms of partnerships, reputation and revenue.
I have a solid background in marketing and business management and I have been in China for several years, always working to connect foreign companies to Chinese customers.
Westwin is the former Microsoft Online China (MSN) which was acquired and renamed on August 2016. This allowed us to expand our range of services, now we are active in several different areas and my business unit is focus on helping brands with their digital marketing for the Chinese audience.
Let’s say that I have a budget of $20,000. How should I spend my money to break into the Chinese ecommerce market, from abroad?
The answer is not as easy as it seems because every case is different and depends on various factors like the nature of the business, goals, budget and so on.
But in general you should follow what I call “ The 4 steps market entry digital path”:
1. Create your presence, brand awareness and reputation;
2. Build a base of followers;
3. Drive sales;
4. Maintain your reputation high and increase sales levels.
It’s a gradual and flexible process, where the effort in terms of spending can be adjusted according to the ongoing results.
But what I would like to highlight is that, whatever you do to achieve results in China, you should have and follow a clear strategy as much as you can, even with a high level of flexibility.
To answer your question, and considering a common business situation, I would start with having a localized Chinese website together with an official account on social media, Weibo and WeChat.
Then you should bring traffic and increase the awareness by SEO, SEM and content strategies.
To get sales, advertising on various platforms is the right choice. And don’t forget to open an e-store on WeChat.
Maybe at this stage your budget will be already gone, but for sure you will see the first results.
Search Engine Marketing is one of your key areas. Which search engines should overseas companies target?
We have solid partnerships with all the major digital media players [companies] in the market, and also with the most popular search engines.
Baidu is still the leader, so it should be the first choice and vast part of the budget should go there, followed by Qihoo 360, that is still a good option, even if cheaper.
How should a website, such as an online store, be optimized for Baidu?
If we talk about an e-commerce website, we should keep in mind that our target customers are Chinese people, so everything must be Chinese users-friendly.
Our site should be fully translated to Chinese also because it will help to get better results in the page-rank and web crawling from Baidu.
Furthermore, having an organized platform with clear sections will be helpful for SEO and SEM strategies. The URLs can be both in Pinyin or English, most important is that they are similar to the company name, abbreviations are also ok.
Another point to don’t forget is to make sure that your website is well optimized for mobile use.
How important is it to have the website hosted in China?
Having a website hosted in China is important for several reasons, the most important of those is the loading speed of the website and sometime even the actual possibility for mainland users to access to it.
However, to host a website in China is mandatory to get an Internet Content Provider (ICP) license and to apply for it, it’s necessary to have a business license from an entity legally registered in China.
Since most of the newcomers don’t have any presence in China, the option that I suggest is to register the website in Hong Kong, where the issues with loading speed and access are limited.
Is it important to get links from websites in China?
Due to many reasons, getting a good rank on Chinese search engines is not easy, so optimizing your presence in any possible way is the only thing you can do. Using backlinks, blogs, PR platforms like BaiduPedia, etc.
Everything is useful to get better ranking results.
You also work with PPC ads. How do you combine an SEO/SEM strategy with PPC in China?
Well, PPC ads are part of an overall SEM strategy and they are fundamental to get a big exposure in China.
Using SEM on Baidu allows you not only to do retargeting, but also to accurately target users based on geographic, demographic, interest, timing selections.
The performances from SEM are supported and improved by a proper SEO which allows your website to rank higher in Baidu’s algorithm, with the content on the website being crawled better.
As a result the quality of Ads and keywords will be higher which means better rank position with less costs.
Thank you Francesco. What kind of services can you offer our readers?
Westwin offers integrated digital marketing strategies and solutions for achieving success in China. From branding to advertising, to social media marketing and e-commerce, we help brands to get big exposure and sales among the Chinese audience.
Great. How can they get in touch with you?
You can get in touch with me on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/frandeinar