With the post-covid opening of China (hopefully), Chinese Consumers are starting to look for more ways to spend their money and what better time to prepare for the eventual wave of wealthy Chinese buyers than now!
In this article, we go over the ways foreign (and local Chinese) businesses go viral and make bank from Chinese consumers both in China and internationally. Note that following these steps do not guarantee your product or business services will go viral. However, almost all of the services and products that make waves through the Chinese consumer landscape were following this exact strategy. Here is how to attract Chinese consumers to your business!
Chinese Payment Systems
The first and most obvious step in getting more Chinese customers is to simply accept Chinese payment systems, in this case 2 crucial and revolutionary applications: WeChat & Alipay. As of 2021, these 2 apps account for over 90% of all online AND offline spending in China. Since 2020, seeing cash in China has become a rare sight to behold as phones replaced the need for a wallet. I myself, the foreign writer, stopped carrying my wallet for over a year. It became something I would do purely out of habit, when I practically never needed it.
WeChat is the #1 communications app in China and along with AliPay, the preferred payment method for Chinese consumers. To download WeChat, just open Google Play for Android or the Apple store for iOS and download WeChat. Once you have downloaded the app, create an account and follow the following instructions:
Click the profile icon at the bottom right corner of the WeChat user interface and then select the “Wallet” option inside of the profile page.
Select “Cards” from the top menu and then “Add a new card.”. Enter your card’s information and relevant details. Note that your bank account’s linked phone number must be the same as the phone number you registered your WeChat account with.
Depending on your bank and your location, you may not be able to move money from and to your WeChat, but you will be able to accept money from others into your WeChat account.
AliPay is the #1 payment method in China, edging out WeChat bby a narrow margin. To download AliPay, just open Google Play for Android or the Apple store for iOS and download AliPay. Once you have downloaded the app, create an account and follow the following instructions:
Get a Chinese bank account at your nearest Chinese bank. We recommend Bank of China (BOC) or Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).
Go to AliPay’s global business website at global.alipay.com and click on “Merchant” in the menu. There are 2 payment type options: In-store and online. You can register for both.
Complete the online registration form.
AliPay will reach out to you to verify the authenticity of your business. Once your business is verified they will help you implement Alipay as a payment portal for your business.
China’s digital marketing channels are very different from the rest of the world’s. This is partly due to two factors: 1. The timeframe of China’s internet connectivity and 2. The banning of foreign social media channels. By the time the bulk of China’s population had internet connection, applications had already become popular. Apps in China replaced the need to browse the world-wide-web. Most of China’s netizens today stay inside and in-between applications.
It’s not just the quality of the product or the service that matters when you are trying to attract more Chinese customers, it’s how good and unique it looks in pictures. Having an Instagramable product or place can single handedly make your business go viral in China. There is nowhere else in the world where this is more true than in China. It’s common to see long lines to stores, restaurants or cafes in China, and most of the time it is due to a picture or video going viral online. One recent example is Oatly’s blue and green ice cream that looks like the planet earth being served on a cone. To this day there are lines around the block at the gelato shops serving this ice cream. All for a picture… and an ice cream!
Hire a KOL
KOL stands for Key Opinion Leader. These are online mini celebrities whom have hundreds of thousands of followers in China. Influencer marketing is bigger in China than anywhere else in the world. When brands, restaurants and resorts around the world are made popular in China, it’s usually because of traveling KOLs posting about it on their Weibo or XiaoHongShu accounts.
There are several KOL agencies that can help you find a suitable KOL. KOLs are expensive, unless they accept to promote your business in exchange for free stuff.
Use the XiaoHongShu App
XiaoHongShu directly translates to “little red book”. Over the years, this once niche application has taken the lead in Chinese consumer opinion. As you may already know, women are the primary drivers of online shopping and consumerism. XiaoHongShu’s 90 million monthly active users are 88% Female, 60% from Tier 1 cities, and 80% born after 1990. To summarize, Little Red Book’s users are young and wealthy Chinese women, the biggest spenders on online shopping and tourism. Users on Little Red Book share just about anything from fashion to destinations and life lessons.
Get help from a Chinese Friend
Whether it is your friend or an employee, it is best to get help from someone who speaks Chinese and ideally has a Chinese ID. WeChat and AliPay have English language options and shouldn’t be too much trouble however XiaoHongShu and all other Chinese social media applications are in Chinese only and sometimes require a Chinese ID number to register. It is also a big advantage to be able to interact with users inside these social applications. The good news is that with 1.5 billion Chinese people on Earth, there are bound to be some locally.