Before doing business in China you must understand the digital landscape

Before doing business in China you must understand the digital landscape article image

China has a unique digital landscape which – due to local internet regulation – has evolved separately from the rest of the world.

As a result, search engines, social media and mobile phone applications (to name a few) in China are all very different to the Western world.

This means that when you are looking to sell your products to the domestic Chinese market, you will need to adapt your approach accordingly. From setting up your online e-commerce store to promoting your brand on social media, the secret to success in China is to adapt and localise for the Chinese digital ecosystem and online user preferences.

Here are the three main differences in China’s digital landscape that you must know before doing business in China.

Social Media

China Social Media 1

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are some of the social media platforms that are inaccessible in mainland China.

Instead, the most popular social media channels in China are WeChat and Weibo.

Users not only share updates with their friends and family, but also leverage its advanced features to make purchases online, pay in store, order food and transport, take care of utility bills and much more.With over 1 billion active monthly users worldwide, WeChat is a highly influential social-sharing app that’s unlike any platform we know in the West.

For international brands creating and maintaining a WeChat official account it can be a very effective way to generate brand awareness and build a loyal following by creating engaging and informative articles related to your product or service offering. What’s more, you can leverage WeChat advertising to further increase your reach.

Only recently, Tencent (the company behind WeChat) has launched the ability to target adverts at outbound Chinese travellers. This means that you can promote your product to Chinese travellers the moment they arrive in Australia.

Search Engines

It’s no secret that Google search is unavailable in China.

Instead, Chinese search engines dominate the local market. In 2018, Baidu had 70.26% market share of the total search engine traffic volume in China. Mobile-only search Shenma currently drives 19% of all search traffic and the market share is expected to grow further as mobile search is becoming more and more popular.

International businesses need to pay attention in optimising their Chinese website for local search engines because it plays a crucial part in the decision-making journey of Chinese online consumers. The less well-known a brand is in China, the more online research they will do to ensure the product or service is trustworthy and of high-quality.

Social Engines in ChinaThough fundamental Chinese search engine algorithms are similar to the Western world, there are some key differences that you must be aware of if you are looking to increase your brand’s visibility in China.

For example, Chinese search engines tend to favour local content – giving higher rankings to Chinese websites that are hosted in China and have local links (i.e. to their Chinese social media accounts and inbound links from relevant vertical sites).


As the world’s largest online retail market, the Chinese e-commerce holds a lot of potential for international businesses. With the rise in purchasing power of Chinese millennial consumers and a mobile-first consumer behaviour, the demand for international products on Chinese e-commerce platforms is unlikely to slow down anytime soon.

Shopping festivals such as Alibaba’s Singles Day offer exciting opportunities for both local and foreign brands to sell their products to the Chinese market. While Chinese consumers respond strongly to sales and promotions during these shopping events, it’s crucial for international companies to work on building their brand awareness first before participating.

Otherwise it will be difficult to stand out amongst the over 14,500 international brands already selling on Tmall Global.

How China’s unique digital landscape will impact your business decision-making

Evidently, there are many significant differences between Chinese and Western digital landscapes.

This means that you can not simply take your current strategy (when choosing distributor partners, promoting your product etc.) and apply it to the China market. Even if your brand is well-known in other markets, it is unlikely to have the same brand recognition in China if you ignore the fundamental elements of China’s digital landscape.

The key to success is to adapt and localise your market approach.

By creating an official Chinese website that contains all your product offerings, features and benefits, this will help inform, encourage and generate greater awareness towards your brand. It also gives Chinese consumers greater confidence in the authenticity of your products. 

This information in this article has been supplied by Sinorbis, a company offering innovative digital marketing solutions for Western organisations doing business in China.


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