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For us in the West, New Year feels like a distant memory. But, while we’re in the midst of ‘Dry Veganuary’, celebrations in China are just about to kick off.
It’s a peak travel season with a growing number of tourists coming to the UK. In fact, flight arrivals from China between September and November were 23% higher than the same period last year. And, these visitors are willing to spend. From January to March 2018, visitors spent a record £123 million in the UK, on average £1,680 per visit - almost three times the market average.
That’s a huge opportunity for retailers who are looking for ways to push up profits and increase in-store footfall. But amazingly, our research reveals that only 43% of retail and hospitality businesses believe that Chinese consumers in the UK are an important target audience – evidence that some retailers are missing a trick.
If you are interested in tapping into this opportunity, it’s important to understand how to effectively target Chinese consumers. Back in the day, it was easy; you simply had to partner with tour operators for busloads of Chinese tourists to be delivered to your door. But these days, Chinese travellers are more independent and more discerning. They make their own travel arrangements and rely on recommendations from friends, family, and social media.
The key to successfully targeting Chinese shoppers in the UK can be broken down into three parts:
Months before visiting the UK, Chinese consumers begin their research on brands. So communication must begin well in advance of departure. And, to get it right, you’ll need to understand your audience, their journey, and the platforms they’re using.
We all know about Millennials and Gen X. But in China, demographics are much more granular. You’ve got Post-80s (those early initiators of Chinese consumerism); Post-90s (luxury enthusiasts); Post-95s (social media shoppers); and Post-00s (less impressed by mainstream brands). These demographics are active on different social media platforms, from WeChat to Weibo to QQ. So, each segment needs a tailored strategy targeted via different channels.
This might sound complicated, but it’s worth the effort; up to 70% of China’s younger consumers prefer to buy products through social media channels. And don’t forget the all-powerful social media influencers or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). They have millions of followers and can make and break a brand with their reviews. They also have fantastic customer insights and can be an invaluable asset.
Chinese shoppers have travelled a long way and are looking for products that will stand out back home. Bespoke items are popular as are limited editions. And in this selfie age, a branded backdrop in your store can be a sure-fire way of making it onto people’s newsfeeds.
Mobile is also an important consideration. China remains the global leader in mobile payments, accounting for 60% of the worldwide user base. And the use of QR codes to make purchases is universal; codes can be found on everything from vending machines, to print and outdoor media, in-store items, and menus. Consumers can even use their smartphones to virtually queue for busy restaurants. eMarketer predicts that by 2021, 79.3% of smartphone users in China will be scanning, swiping, and tapping to make a payment.
All this helps to streamline the purchase process. Chinese shoppers in the UK expect the same convenience, which leads us neatly on to the Golden Triangle of Chinese payment methods.
With over one billion users and counting, Alipay is the leading payments and lifestyle platform for Chinese shoppers in Europe. It also offers a range of free marketing tools. For example, you can send push notifications to all Alipay users within 200 meters of your store.
The world's largest card scheme, UnionPay covers almost 80% of the payment share in China and is popular for making high-value purchases.
The social platform WeChat is so ingrained into the lives of its users that someone who loses their smartphone in China is likely to say: ‘I’ve lost my WeChat.’ It’s also an advertising channel where retailers can display brand information and communicate with shoppers. It’s committed to expanding its footprint across Europe and we’re seeing some interesting developments as it ramps up competition in the region.
It’s good to give the Chinese consumer the choice to pay with their preferred payment method at any given time, so it’s best to offer all three.
If you know when and how to target your customers, you’ll continue selling to them when they return home. A good place to start is Ctrip. It’s an online travel agency-come-social platform where returning tourists can write reviews and share experiences. Ctrip’s latest program, Trip Moments, encourages tourists to upload photos and videos from both inside and outside stores. Ctrip then links the photos to your official store page. Other popular review platforms are Dianping, (Chinese TripAdvisor), Zhihu (Chinese Quora), and Mafengwo (online travel agency).
And of course, timing is everything. Chinese New Year is a great opportunity to boost your marketing efforts. But it doesn’t stop there. There are more than 80 calendar events you could potentially campaign around, meaning the opportunity for attracting, engaging with, and selling to Chinese shoppers is year-long.
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