Chinese consumers, especially in Tier 1 and 2 cities, are educated when it comes to brands. International companies can no longer rely on their country of origin doing their marketing for them and the competition from local brands gets increasingly stiffer all the time. Generating brand loyalty becomes an ongoing challenge and the solution has to be based on quality and service.
The past two decades have seen an explosion in the choices available to people in China. The country has opened up to the world and become an economic powerhouse, meaning everybody wants a slice of this particular pie. And because things move so fast here, with new channels opening up to marketers all the time, it's difficult for brands to create the assets they need to keep themselves memorable amongst their target market.
So whether it’s Scandinavian paper pulp board sold by the ton or fancy South American coffee sold by the cup, in first tier cities especially, the options are manifold.
But has this led to as much bed hopping between brands as the research seems to suggest, and what is being done to keep hold of customers and consumers when they choose a brand?
Well quite a lot, it seems. And as always in China, digital tools, particularly platforms like WeChat, are at the forefront.
B2B – isn’t it all about the balance sheet?
The Brandigo\China old guard can tell many a tale of ‘negotiations’ with purchasing managers in Chinese companies. We can bemoan that these folks know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, but getting costs down is the job of procurement departments the world over. They think with their heads, not their hearts.
In the 'bad' old days, some old fashioned guanxi would grease the wheels. Taking the manager out for a lavish meal or showering him or her with gifts was a good place to start. That sort of business practice has now, thankfully, long become a thing of the past.
Customer service and aftercare are vital in China, and using digital tools, it is easier to maintain this relationship. For example, you can send surveys asking for feedback, incentivizing people with a chance to win in a lucky draw. Hosting exclusive events for existing customers is another great way to meet them in person and develop a personal relationship. Sending personalized emails or WeChat messages with quality, relevant content, is another option for making that customer feel valued – and keeping your brand front of mind.
B2C – This time it’s personal
Chinese consumers are savvier then ever, and millennials in particular will no longer accept shoddy customer service or companies that shrug their shoulders and say its Hobson’s choice for the customer. Clever brands not only treat their customers well, they turn them into evangelists.
In the highly competitive F&B space for instance, international and local brands alike are doing some excellent work to foster and maintain brand loyalty as part of their China marketing strategies. A great example is Wagas, an international casual dining/cafe chain. The brand has built up a loyal following with a reputation for high-quality and excellent service, an identity that taps into the Chinese passion and trend for healthy modern living, and a loyalty program that customers find genuinely rewarding.
The company has used WeChat and an innovative mini-programme that empowers loyal customers to manage their own reward points and earn member-only coupons which they can redeem at Wagas or Baker & Spice venues around China.
Technology is opening up the options companies have to convert sales into brand advocates. Clever brands are embracing this, leveraging on the mobile phone, the tool most people have on their person throughout their waking hours, to market to them in a direct, personal and useful way, helping them solve their problems or making using the product a fun and engaging experience. B2B and B2C brands can take advantage of these omnipresent devices to deliver engaging content and brand experiences right into the hands of their customers that will foster brand loyalty.
If you want to find out more about how to make your China marketing strategy more effective, or to bring your brand up to speed on the latest China digital marketing tactics, you can download our latest ebook, The CMO's Guide to China Marketing: 10 Top Tips for Your International Brand. Just click on the image below.