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8 Mistakes Too Many Businesses Make on Their Chinese Websites

China 8 Mistakes Too Many Businesses Make on Their Chinese WebsitesThe allure to gain millions of new customers made many Western businesses chase the highly prized Chinese consumers. While many have invested heavily in product development, market research, advertising, and basing staff in China, there are still those who make some basic mistakes online.

The Web should be a key pillar for any marketing strategy in China. China’s 513 million Internet users are online for an average of 2.7 hours a day, more than any country except Japan. According to research by Ipsos China, 37.6 percent of Chinese consumers regularly increase their brand awareness through websites. And when it comes to increasing purchase intent, 47.5 percent are influenced by websites; traditional media like TV, radio, and newspapers sway less than a third of consumers.

So now we’ve established the importance of a website in China, what are the common mistakes businesses make on their Chinese websites?

8. Staying Contented Because It Looks Great on the Monitor

Many websites in China look plain ugly on a mobile screen and are fiddly to use with fingers. More Chinese consumers access websites from their mobile than their PC, and with Android smartphones selling for less than $100, that gap is widening. When you’re optimizing for mobiles, make sure your Web pages also look good on tablets, most importantly the iPad.

7. Getting Lost in Translation

Amazingly, a few websites still display content fresh from a Google Translate. Even Tom Cruise’s publicist had a crack for a few days on his Chinese microblog. While many sites haven’t used Google Translate, some translations still fall short. Ensure you consult an expert translator who understands English well, as many translators don’t. It’s also a good idea to run it past another Chinese speaker to ensure the right message is getting across.

6. Forgetting the  Other Chinese Speakers

On the subject of translation, unless you’re only interested in Mainland China, it’s a good idea to translate to traditional Chinese characters, in addition to simplified characters. Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysian Chinese all read traditional characters, and although their number is small comparative to Mainland China, they still represent a larger population than Australia.

5.  Not Remembering Localisation Is More Than Just Translation

Never forget that localization is more than just translation. For many businesses, the only real ‘localization’ changes made from their English-language site is translating the content. Remember, the Chinese education system is not like the Western one, meaning Chinese often think differently and approach problems in a different way. Test navigation and the layout of the site with Chinese people to ensure they will go naturally where you think they should when they visit your site.

4. Limiting Payment Options

While most people in the West just pull out the credit or debit card or use Paypal to buy things online, it’s not very common in China.  China is much more of a cash-based society and netizens (Internet + citizen) generally pay online with locally tailored payment methods such as Alipay. Almost a third of China’s 198 million online shoppers have been duped by scam sites, so make sure you use a payment system that they trust if you’ve got eCommerce.

3. Not Making Sure Chinese Consumers Can Find You

No two marketing strategies are the same. In many Western countries, it’s hard to believe that anyone uses anything but Google when searching the Internet. Not in China. Local search giant Baidu accounts for around 80 percent of PC searches according to Analysys International and has big plans for mobile.  The rules for search engine optimization and marketing are different for Baidu than with Google, so make sure you know them.

2. Forgetting to Tap Into Social Media

If you’re not integrating social media into your marketing mix, then you’re risking the opportunity to connect to and engage with a large community of potential consumers. Social media is phenomenal in China, with 91 percent of Internet users claim to have used it in the past six months, compared with 67 percent of Americans. Moreover, 95 percent of Chinese consumers trust a brand more if they’ve seen it on social media.

Social media sites, like Sina Weibo, are a great way to build relationships with existing and potential customers, communicate offers, and get some valuable insights into what consumers think about you and your industry.

1. Getting Stumped by the Analytics

Once you’ve got your Chinese site functioning perfectly, you’ll want to track how things are going. Fluctuations in traffic may be different from other sites you have. When you’re trawling through your site’s analytics, remember, Chinese have different holidays and occasions than in the West. Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving aren’t important to many Chinese, whereas Chinese New Year/Spring Festival is huge. There’s Qingming, Dragon Boat, Mid-Autumn Festivals, and October National Day to consider, too.

Hopefully, none of these mistakes applied to you, but if at least one did, you’re probably missing significant opportunities in China.  There are many other initiatives that could help your cause, such as social media and smartphone apps. What makes China interesting is that the rules are constantly being rewritten even more so than the Internet in the West, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things.

Image Credit: Shutterstock / aywoo

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Mark Tanner is the founder of China Skinny, a service helping western businesses better understand Chinese consumers. He has been in the marketing game since 1998 in North America, Europe, Australasia and most recently, China, with a short break in Africa paddling down the Nile. His company China Skinny provides a free weekly newsletter giving insights into Chinese consumers. Subscribe at chinaskinny.com.

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4 thoughts on “8 Mistakes Too Many Businesses Make on Their Chinese Websites

  1. Thanks Mark! Excellent top-line summary of ways to ensure your brand’s Chinese website works well in that market and also providing some good top-line info on mobile and web usage among Chinese consumers.

  2. Excellent summary of all-too-often forgotten points. Every one of these eight bears serious consideration whether you are just starting to target a Chinese audience or have been for some time.

    On optimising for mobile, China is leading the way on a global trend of mobile and tablets becoming more important than desktops. I wonder if one day (soon?) we will be designing websites for mobile in the first instance and then taking that content and optimising it for desktops!

    And if you are serious about communicating with any audience, you must use a person with the correct skills to write the content. No one would use machine generated content for their English site, so why do some people still think it’s ok not to use a professional translator when adapting for non-English content?

  3. Nice tips! I would like to share that site owners (especially those who are not physically based in China) will need to learn more about how China firewall works and frequently check to ensure that their site are not being blocked by China Firewall..

  4. I’ve got to agree, this is a great basic article that most people forget. People need to realize that the key to rebuilding America is selling to China and the Chinese worldwide.