Companies like Coca-Cola, Nike, Unilever, Procter & Gamble (P&G), McDonald’s, and Johnson & Johnson have done a great job converting their brands into household names in Metro China, mainly by investing big in advertising and promotions. Having pockets deep enough to put these messages in front of the Chinese people is great, but if your firm is interested in entering this market of 1.37 billion people but doesn’t have access to the advertising financial resources of a Coca-Cola or P&G, what do you do?
Start thinking about word-of-mouth (WOM) campaigns. Due to historic events and their family teachings, Chinese people tend not to trust content coming from strange sources. However, Chinese people are known to be loyal to their friends and family. Forrester Technographics® data shows that “recommendations from friends and family” (44%) is the primary source of content people trust in Metro China. Interestingly, among the top five sources, we also see “email from people you know” (40%) and “social networking site profiles from people you know” (25%). These are both forms of word of mouth that have transitioned from the offline world to the online world.
Last week I joined a few of my colleagues in China to meet with a variety of eBusinesses in both Beijing and Shanghai. We met with online retailers, technology companies, and other players in industry. For those used to selling online in countries other than China, some of the takeaways included:
Multichannel remains in its infancy. With the leading online retailers in China being pureplays, multichannel remains at very early stages. In-store pickup or returns are not widespread – however, there are emerging multichannel initiatives. In a recent, high-profile online-to-offline expansion, for example, Taobao opened a new furniture showroom in Beijing to enable consumers to experience different furniture brands sold on the site. The furniture sellers rent out space in the showroom to display their products. We had an opportunity to visit the huge showroom, which was somewhat quiet when we were there – terminals stationed throughout the showroom (see below) enabled consumers to insert a card and select products online, then proceed to checkout to pay.