How Does China Buy? A Look at the Customer Journey.

customer journey in china
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There’s no denying that business is done differently in the east than in the west.

So it makes sense that the behaviour of consumers also contrasts, right?

Put simply, the Chinese customer’s journey puts a lot more focus on the overall enjoyment of the experience. Almost equating shopping with a hobby, rather than a necessity. 

Case in point: over 70% of Chinese shoppers consider it to be a fun activity, while less than half of Americans find any joy in the hunt for consumer goods.

What’s more is that Chinese shoppers value recommendations from fellow consumers, reviews, and social influencers far above other factors that contribute to a purchase decision.

Efficiency vs. fun: Differences in Western and Chinese customer journeys

customer journey in china

Here we can see that most shoppers in the west – after becoming aware of a product – tend to jump straight to search engines, briefly check reviews, then onward to where the final purchase is made.

On the other hand, Chinese buyers like to take their time and make more of an event out of the whole experience. Enjoying the exploration and consideration side of things. 

This might, understandably, seem like a bit of a generalization. 

Of course, as an international brand looking to start selling in China, it’s important to understand how the Chinese customer journey applies to major verticals like:

  • B2B
  • Real Estate
  • Apps
  • Tourism
  • E-commerce
  • Higher Education

So let’s break down some prominent verticals and include some recommendations on how to approach them – let’s get to it!

Understand the real needs of your B2B customers

Ever heard of Alibaba?

Jokes aside, this B2B e-commerce titan proves that not all activity in China is B2C-centric.

The strategy here should focus on what these B2B customers need, what problem a business can resolve for them, and where they’re spending their time.

Some of the major digital touchpoints that B2B prospects interact with are:

  • Branded website
  • WeChat
  • LinkedIn
  • Baidu
  • YouKu (Video streaming)
  • Zhihu (Q&A/Forum)

With these in mind, the B2B customer journey could look something like this:

Awareness: The prospect comes across your ad on LinkedIn, Baidu, Youku or Zhihu and arrives at your landing page. Your landing page peaks their interest and they do further research by watching a company video to find out more about what you offer. This then leads them to your branded site where they check out your content.

Consideration: Now they want to find out what other consumers think about your brand. They search WeChat, or even submit a question on Zhihu for more information. If these are positive, it’s back to your site to browse your products. 

Decision: If all has gone as per plan, you’ve earned the prospects time in the form of a sales call, proposal and final negotiation.

Our recommendations for international brands:

  • Maintain a consistent presence across all major touchpoints.
  • Focus on retention and repeat business by offering winning experiences.
  • Use a sophisticated search function on your website, especially if you have a large product catalogue.

Customer journey for e-commerce in China

As mentioned, Chinese consumers prefer to have a fun experience when shopping – especially online.

While western shoppers might lack the patience to sit through a several-hour-long live stream strictly intended to sell products, it’s something to be celebrated in China.

Awareness: The potential customer sees their friends or their favorite influencer talking about a product they’re interested in on social media.

Consideration: They conduct product research: first using Baidu, then comparing costs on major ecommerce sites, and finally consulting reviews and testimonials on ecommerce and social media sites.

Decision: The purchase is made through a branded site, ecommerce marketplace, or during the buyers’ next overseas trip.

Our recommendations for international brands:

  • Leverage influencer marketing as a core part of your social commerce strategy.
  • Explore ecommerce channels that aren’t necessarily massive in the west i.e. live stream selling.
  • Create well designed and easy to use product pages and trust triggers throughout your ecommerce site.

Customer journey for real estate in China

The real estate journey doesn’t end online. Property is a major purchase consideration – especially overseas – so the focus here is on building trust and being consistently informative.

Baidu search is the primary touchpoint on the Chinese real estate customer journey.

Awareness: Your ad catches the eye of the prospective buyer after they’ve made a relevant search on Baidu.

Consideration: The client lands on a Baidu-hosted, Chinese language landing page where they can view the compass listing. Providing a property brochure or datasheet is important here so the buyer can have as much relevant information as possible.

Decision: They examine the property listing page, which should contain all relevant information and be enticing enough that they reach out for a viewing, virtual meeting or a phone call

Our recommendations for international brands:

  • Focus ad spend on attention-grabbing, responsive Baidu search or display ads.
  • Invest in perfect translations for your landing pages – trust us, it’ll make all the difference.
  • Create transparent and informative property listing pages that leave no questions unanswered.
  • Consider a virtual assistant or another easy way for clients to ask questions as they are considering the offer.

Customer journey for mobile app users in China

Mobile apps are a huge business in China.

Baidu is currently one of the few channels that permits advertising mobile apps, so concentrating ad spend here is key. This is followed by influencer and key opinion leader (KOL) marketing to remove doubts and win over prospects.

Awareness: The prospect discovers the app via advertisements on Baidu search. 

Consideration: Engagement through social media channels including WeChat and Zhihu are pivotal at this stage as customers will use these to find out more information about the app itself.

Decision: Popular influencers and experts in the field of each specific app lead customers to a buying decision.

Our recommendations for international brands:

  • Implement a well-researched keyword strategy for search ads.
  • Enlist KOLs that demonstrate the value of your product through legitimate expertise.
  • Maintain official presence on major Chinese social platforms like WeChat and Zhihu.

Customer journey for higher education in China

Statista claims that the number of Chinese students going abroad for study keeps increasing, with numbers rising at around 10% year-on-year.

For this reason, western secondary education institutions are wise to appeal to Chinese international students.

Awareness: Baidu and Toutiao will capture the interest of the prospective student before admissions season, on which they’ll click to find the landing page for the university or college’s international program. Once they’ve downloaded the prospectus, they could be put in touch with a China-specific admissions agent to help them along. Nurturing this interest with social ads is a great idea here!

Consideration: Accessibility to your university through social channels and consistent availability of information will be crucial during this stage, along with regular exposure and reminders through social ads.

Decision: Maintaining contact through the admissions agent and offering visa/accommodation support will be what seals the deal.

Our recommendations for international brands:

  • Have a multilingual website so potential students can find the info they need without headaches.
  • Have a way for them to engage with Chinese language online queries.
  • Monitor leads via prospectus downloads and reach out with an appropriate admissions agent.
  • Create engaging (and tailored) social media ads across the major channels.

Customer journey for Chinese outbound tourism 

Chinese tourists take travel seriously

Because of this, there are many apps and tools that provide them with the info they need to plan and make the most out of their time abroad.

Awareness: Hopeful travellers will consult several platforms and apps when starting to plan their trip. These include Baidu, WeChat, Weibo, Zhihu, and official tourism board websites of countries they’re interested in visiting.

Consideration: Chinese travellers use Mafengwo as the leading social travel forum where users find shared user experiences related to journeys, travel tips, itineraries, hotel recommendations and feedback with other users on the platform.

Decision: Ctrip is used to compare airline prices before continuing to official sites to complete bookings. Fliggy can also be used to book flights and apply for visas to the desired destination.

Our recommendations for international brands:

  • Official WeChat accounts go a long way when engaging with Chinese tourists.
  • Be active on leading social travel forums, most notably Mafengwo.
  • Be sure to create informative pages on major booking platforms like Booking.com.

We’re confident our platform will win your business sales in China

It’s clear that there are numerous search engines, e-commerce platforms/marketplaces, and social apps that Chinese consumers interact with as they make their way from awareness to decision stage.

And, there’s no denying that it can be an exhausting job to constantly monitor all of these. 

But, don’t fret, our platform allows users to manage top advertising channels from a single, easy to use dashboard.

On top of this, our local expertise means our customers receive the best advice and support when designing tailored campaigns for the Chinese market. 

With over 5 years of experience helping leading brands get the most out of selling in China, you’re in safe hands with AdChina.io.

Regardless of the industry, here at AdChina.io we help global brands across the world achieve sales success in China. Our innovative platform makes targeting Chinese consumers easy, affordable and flexible.

Book a demo today to boost your sales, and unlock the biggest market in the world!

AdChina.io has helped hundreds of brands reach the China market. To see how AdChina.io can help you get started with advertising on top channels hassle-free create a free account today.
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