I recently got into a conversation with some colleagues that work in a mobile technology firm in Singapore and the Philippines. We started out talking about the local market and how clients were dealing with digital in Singapore but ended up getting onto the subject of China, because it’s a market that a lot of our clients are very interested in. It’s a market that you just can’t ignore these days and for companies of all sizes in this region, it’s obviously a very attractive target market.
It reminded me of an Econsultancy round table I attended a couple of months ago, which was focused on the Chinese marketplace and the growth in digital spend.
They shared a report with us as a pre-read and I have to say the statistics are truly staggering. One statistic alone sets the scene quite well: “China’s online population, at 618 million, is twelve-fold that of the UK and double that of the US. There are now 302 million “e-shoppers” in China.”
Importantly, mobile is the biggest driver for penetration and crucial in the shopping process across all kinds of products and services. Equally important it seems is social media as it is even more powerful in influencing the purchases of Chinese shoppers than shoppers in the West.
That’s because Chinese shoppers love to rate products and services and they are particularly vocal in social media if they feel let down or disappointed.
So it should be fairly obvious then to any marketer that wants to be successful in China that they’ve got to have a strong strategic focus on mobile and social. It should also be obvious that you really have to obsess about the quality of the customer experience that you deliver as it’s going to get talked about in social media fuelling either brand advocacy or criticism. Right?
Despite this it would appear from discussions at the round table (attended by several major brands and retailers), and from the experiences my colleagues and I were sharing that the typical approach to China is actually one of trial and error.
Experimentation in mobile and social to see what works and what doesn’t work, seems to be a fairly common approach. This feels like a very risky approach to me.
Just a couple of years ago UK brands were making similar mistakes in their reactive approach to mobile, adopting a ‘just get it out there’ approach. We thought it was risky for them back then and when we conducted research to look at the impact of poor mobile experiences on brands we found that more than half of the customers we interviewed had ditched a brand completely following a bad experience over mobile.
This doesn’t bode well for those taking an experimental approach in their marketing to tech-savvy Chinese consumers today.
The thing that’s lacking are real world, qualitative insights on how Chinese consumers are shopping, how they’re making decisions and what they really want and expect from brands in digital.
And the really surprising thing is that a lot of major brands simply aren’t investing in gathering these insights to inform their strategy, planning, marketing or design activities. This is something I really don’t get.
These kinds of insights can help brands get it right first time.
A bit of advice I would give: Bring Chinese consumers into the design process and give them a voice while you’re still able to make design decisions.
Don’t just throw an experimental mobile app into the market and hope that consumers will like it.
Don’t wait to hear about where you’re failing in your digital customer experience from social media reviews, it’s a bit late then; the damage to your brand is already done.