Love Me - I'm the Customer

By Angus Street

In my recent article, Shaky building blocks can become China cornerstones, I talked about the importance of having a social, digital and local engagement strategy as part of your China expansion blueprint.
With all the hype around Chinese social media channels, Weibo and WeChat, and the Chinese digital giants, Tmall and, businesses often overlook the most important consumer base right here at home. That is, Chinese-Australian or Chinese migrants with a powerful network of friends and relatives at home in China. 

Word-of-mouth is heralded as a primary decision-making factor in the Chinese customer’s purchasing journey, and our local Chinese diaspora is arguably the greatest channel for this. Brands often don't realise that our local Chinese community hold immense power, sometimes even more than social media and traditional advertising, and are the key first step and channel to accessing the China market. 
This misjudgement has been the undoing of many Australian companies. Just look at the disappointing results of Blackmores and Bega’s infant formula and milk powder, which launched in Mainland China without first establishing its position in the Australian market. 

While the consumer in China should be the ultimate objective of your overarching blueprint, from a local perspective there are a few simple changes that every business should consider adopting. 
Create Chinese language signage
The single biggest barrier for any Australian business seeking to engage with potential Chinese customers is the language barrier. It is also Chinese consumers’ greatest concern. Start the relationship off on the right foot by spending a few dollars creating Mandarin signage, information brochures and price lists. Hire bilingual sales staff who can communicate with customers in Mandarin. Being able to communicate in their native language allows customers to feel more comfortable and affords them a greater understanding of the product, thus increasing the probability of purchasing.

Showcase your brand story
Chinese shoppers worry about the quality of the goods they buy, particularly cosmetics and healthcare products that are unique or not easy to find in China. Address this by creating a Chinese language story that talks through the manufacturing process, puts a face to your Australian ingredient suppliers and steps the customer through why your product is uniquely Australian.

Provide a tangible brand experience
Chinese consumers are placing increasing value on experiencing the product rather than just the transaction process. To cater for these experiential desires, develop a ‘create, test, trial’ in-store activity. Everything from perfume or skincare making, a tailored embroidery service for fashion garments or a virtual reality offering. To take it one step further and link the brand story to a brand experience, look to create something that is exclusive and unique.  Some great examples include gourmet dining, wine tasting, farm visits or collaborations with iconic Australian events or tourist destinations.
Comfort and convenience
At the pointy end of the purchase look to invest in ways to streamline the deal. Integrating Chinese specific Point of Sale (POS) machines, that accept Alipay, WePay & Union Pay, will make the transactions as seamless as possible. You can then look to take it one step further and offer something memorable, such as free gift wrapping or an additional gift with purchase.
Maintain an aura of exclusivity
Brand fatigue has crept in among some Chinese consumers, causing them to turn away from brands which have lost their exclusivity and prestige. Brands such as Louis Vuitton, which exploded in popularity among China’s middle-class during the early 2000s and has inspired mass produced counterfeits, has more recently been dubbed a ‘brand for secretaries’ as China’s luxury consumers seek more exclusive and elite items from luxury brands such as Hermes and Chanel. While this is a trend seen primarily in the luxury consumer market, it creates an opportunity for niche brands that offer bespoke and boutique products as a point of difference to big brand luxury. 
The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017 suggested that your business is likely to be 60% more profitable by putting the customer at the centre of your decision making. The steps outlined above are just the start of how to test, learn and segment your product and service to the local Chinese market. The starting point of any local Chinese engagement strategy is to show the ‘love’ to the consumer. So get in touch with us to help craft your integrated approach to attract and retain loyal Chinese customers.

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