With the Chinese market being always more saturated and evolving (trends and regulation), it can be a struggle for many brands to cross into the Chinese market. As a brand owner, do you also want your brand to enter the Chinese market? Have you encountered any difficulties during the entry or after entry during the brand building phase?
In this article, we introduce you to e-reputation, why it matters, and how you can work on it for your international brand in China. Working on your e-reputation is one of the key elements of your long-term success in the Chinese market.
What is “e-reputation” or iWOM?
E-reputation is the perceived quality and standing of a brand or company on Chinese social media and online channels/platforms. It is important for companies doing business in China. When you enter the market, you need to build your e-reputation.
Because of the Great Firewall, Chinese consumers do not have access to Google, Facebook or Instagram. In the majority of cases, they never heard of your brand before. On the other side, when you are already on the market for several years, you need to maintain a positive e-reputation. Many consumers in China rely on online reviews and word-of-mouth when making purchasing decisions (and especially iWOM, internet word of mouth).
- E-reputation: The reputation of your brand online
- iWOM: The word-of-mouth about your brand online
Why does it matter so much in China?
A good e-reputation can help a company attract new customers, while a bad reputation can lead to lost sales and damage to a company’s reputation. Companies that do business in China should actively monitor their e-reputation and take steps to protect it from negative comments or reviews. Word-of-mouth is very strong in China.
64% of fashion shoppers consider it as the most important criteria while purchasing a fashion brand or fashion item. If you want to increase your conversion rate in China, your brand reputation online needs to remain positive and attractive.
The Reputation of a Brand is Offline and Online
Rely on Online Reputation
People now have a wide range of choices when it comes to shopping for things, and most discerning shoppers will compare products on multiple occasions, often using online tools to search for information on product quality and brand service before making a purchase. Positive and quality online content will accelerate shoppers’ consumption. With the widespread use of the internet in China, a good buzz or bad buzz spread in a couple of seconds.
The Offline Era is not Gone
Before the development of the Internet, it was word-of-mouth that was the main source of offline business and the reason for the growth of the business. Being able to get one customer to use a product service and then actively recommend it to family and acquaintances, this spread to the development of relationships, reflects the quality of a company’s service. 65% of fashion shoppers still rely on friends’ recommendations in China before purchasing a fashion brand or item.
The Need for O2O Reputation Consistency
The brand sold online should match the offline brand experience and the two should not be disconnected from each other to strongly enhance customer trust in the brand and truly improve the brand reputation. The Chinese consumers’ journey still relies on O2O strategies (online-to-offline).
Spread the iWOM, the Internet Word-of-Mouth
The Customer Itself is the Propaganda
Chinese consumers are not impulsive in their purchases, by virtue of Baidu searches, Baidu rankings, Zhihu Q&A and other social media are important tools for them to research the good and bad of a brand. Therefore, consumer reviews on these platforms are crucial. Creating communities, accelerating discussions, and interacting with them can effectively promote a brand and drive Baidu rankings.
Do community management
A community culture can foster a loyal community, posting interesting content to spark discussion and organising online collaborative events are also great ways to do this. You may wish to set up WeChat and Weibo forums, update them daily and accelerate Q&A discussions, which will be an invisible way to build a good brand reputation online.
Avoid ‘Badvertising’ or Bad Buzz
“Badvertising ”- from “bad” and “advertising” – created by Julie Rivoire, strategic planner at the Oxygen agency in Paris is a common reality in China. On average, 1 luxury or fashion brand faces a bad buzz each month.
Bad buzz is a branding nightmare, how can we best protect our company’s reputation as communicators?
- Focus on social values. Especially for luxury brands that are deeply involved in sexism and racism, these are sensitive topics that are widely talked about in China. So when you enter the Chinese market, you need to understand Chinese culture, beliefs and politics and always be vigilant.
- Don’t ignore the details. Effective branding cannot avoid negative comments, which may be on Weibo, Xiaohongshu, or WeChat. Brands need to look at the context of the reasons for negative comments, argue whether there is a problem, look at the details and do a good job of crisis communication.
Read more about the main sensitive topics to avoid in China
I’m sure you’re now full of surprises about how to set up e-reputation in the Chinese market. However, no problem, GMA can help you！
How Does a Brand Get Started in China
1. Market Research Before you Start
It is critical to have a clear perception of your brand. We will help you understand: why is it so important to enter the Chinese market? How to enter? Or why did you fail to enter the Chinese market before? What are the reasons?
This means that we will open a series of online and offline questionnaires to really understand what customers want. You can organize a pool of Chinese consumers located in mainland China to understand their main motivations and preferences.
2. Social Media Selection for Category Brands
WeChat, Weibo, DouYin, and Xiaohongshu, are the mainstream social media platforms in China today, and each platform has a different audience.
Take Xiaohongshu for example, its main group is women, girls will share their outfits and food on it, while mothers will share their parenting experiences on it. So, if you are a mother and baby brand, you can work on your content marketing on Xiaohongshu. To maximize your audience and find customers, you can use several features such as paid ads and lucky draws to make your name known.
3. Have Press Releases on Fashion Online Magazines
Offline promotion. Most of our clients are fashion and luxury brands, so helping you to be listed in Chinese fashion magazines (e.g., Vogue, Bazaar, GQ China) will help your brand to integrate into the Chinese fashion circle, and a large part of magazine lovers, moreover, can learn about the brand information in famous magazines.
The probability is that e-magazines will be used. In China, the age of electronics has created the age of e-magazines, where paper magazines will have less impact and online magazines have more exposure and can help brands rank high on Baidu’s ‘Brand Zone’ in a short period of time. If you boost your online reputation and reach a larger exposure, you should target e-PR and e-magazines. Vogue China, ELLE China, Harper’s Bazaar have online versions available. A good PR on these fashion magazines will help build a strong audience and increase consumers’ trust.
4. Build up Your Baidu ‘Brand Zone’ with SEO
Online promotion. As Baidu is the search engine that Chinese people use every day, we will help you to create your brand website, describe your brand story and recommend your product information on the Baidu webpage; create a Baidu ranking so that more people can search for your brand keywords.
5. Spread the Word with Q&A on Zhihu
Let your brand spread by word-of-mouth.
Zhihu is a platform in China where bloggers ask questions and many netizens comment to answer them. The special thing is that people are involved in the discussion process, which is a moment of invisible seeding.
- “I would like to try new honey and I heard about Lavender honey. Does anyone know the health benefits related to this type of honey?”
- “I have a wedding next week and would like to purchase a new dress. Any recommendations?”
- “My kid is growing fast and I am looking for fashion outfits with a good price. Have you heard of a good brand recently? I’d prefer to purchase from overseas”
In addition to the comments, there will be people recommending fashion brands that they think to work well. From experience, when the brand becomes more visible in Zhihu, the Q&A mentions will appear on Baidu. When a Chinese customer will search for your brand, they will find these positive answers on your Baidu ‘Brand Zone’. More people can recommend your brand to each other, and get an invisible promotion.
6. Get Exposure to KOL and KOC Campaigns
- KOL Marketing
In China, KOL marketing strategies are particularly effective in China because people are more likely to trust someone they admire than an advertisement. These influencers will be especially useful to you if you want to increase your e-reputation and brand awareness by interacting with your potential customers through KOLs. With the huge visibility of KOLs on social media, it will also have a positive impact on your e-commerce sales.
- KOC Marketing
KOC is the most cost-effective solution in China (Key Opinion Consumer) which is the average consumer who likes to share real product reviews on popular social media. Then, all you need to do is:
- Build a brand community and give KOC the opportunity to submit reviews
- Select KOC candidates who are ideal for referrals
- Get timely feedback from KOCs to continuously improve your brand
In this way, with the combination of KOL and KOC, good brand marketing will be beneficial to increasing brand awareness and tapping more potential customers. With the combination of PGC and UGC, you will drive a stronger reputation and conversion rate among your followers.
Why is E-Reputation Important for Your Business?
Online reputation is not only a matter of branding but also a matter of sales. Your strong brand awareness and positive reputation will help convince Chinese distributors to work with you. Both B2B (distributors, wholesalers, retailers) and D2C (Tmall, Little Red Book, Douyin) sales are driven by the reputation of the brand and the trust among partners and customers.
We recommend brands establish short-term partnerships with Chinese distributors to sell their products using DouYin online tools. For some products, we will serve you throughout the process to improve the best advice when opening offline physical stores.
Contact us for your e-reputation in mainland China
The digitalization of Chinese society and new marketing tools are constantly being updated, the pace of business is very fast and the environment is constantly changing. There is an urgent need to improve the online reputation of brands.
Based in Shanghai, China, GMA is a company specializing in digital marketing. Because we understand how to effectively market your company in China based on the market and Chinese consumers, and how to better build your brand with e-reputation, we have created numerous successful projects.
We will provide you with a comprehensive service, you can contact us.
Super high quality article.
I share it on linkedin, perfect understanding of needs in China.