“You’re crazy to not be thinking about China.”
As a Korean tech company, you’ve probably heard this advice more than once. With increasing smartphone penetration rates and a high penetration of digital sales, China is a strong market for many mobile apps. If you are in the mobile gaming industry, the pressure to enter the world’s largest gaming market is even larger. This, however, does not mean you should immediately start your expansion and begin spending your precious marketing budget.
As a leading Chinese advertising technology company, we’ve seen and helped many companies enter China’s digital marketplace. From our experience, we’ve compiled a checklist of the 8 practical steps that all companies should go through before advertising your technology in China.
1. Consider if China is right for you
Even though many industries, like gaming and ecommerce, are thriving in China, your app might have other things to consider before entering.
Start by analyzing the demand for similar apps in your vertical. Consider their success, your differentiating factors and then use this information to estimate demand for your app.
Next, have a deeper look at your competitors and study whether or not you will be able to capture market share from them and drive people to use your app. Chinese gaming companies, for example, have created a notoriously loyal following for their games and foreign competitors often have trouble drawing in new gamers. Is your app ready to compete?
2. Enter the local android app stores
This often overlooked step is crucial. Being in the Apple App Store and the Google Play store is not enough – especially since Google Play cannot be accessed (legally) in China. Make sure to distribute your app into the local app stores like Tencent, Baidu, 360, Mi Store and Wandoujian. This process is easily done, but its benefits will not go unnoticed.
3. Understand where your users live
An additional aspect to consider is where your consumers will be located, specifically what tier they belong to. In our digital age, it may seem unnecessary to choose a geographic location. But launching in a specific physical market allows you to target a more niche group of users – usually your early adopters. Test in one market and expand to similar markets. Use the following map to identify city tiers and economic growth in those cities.
- City tips:
- Tier 1 cities are home to the most affluent and sophisticated consumers
- Most foreign companies prefer to launch in Tier 1 or Tier 2 cities, as they can be more receptive to foreign products.
- Understand which metrics are useful to you and execute accordingly
4. Choose the right channel and leverage the power of technology
What does your target market look like? Are they middle-aged business men who frequently shop for shoes online? Modern advertising technology allows you to target people that fit these exact criteria, not wasting your marketing budget on eyeballs that don’t matter. Some advertising technology platforms allow you to get as specific as IP address, mobile operating system or temperature in a region – powerful tools to help locate your ideal users online.
Furthermore, it’s critical to know how to reach them. Will your audience respond well to video adverts? Or is it better to do in app ads in their favourite games? Understanding where your audience lives online can help you increase the likelihood of gaining users.
5. Advertise using cultural quirks
China is unique in almost every way, so be sure to treat it as such. Take time to learn the culture quirks for advertisements, understand what type of messaging works well and most importantly have your adverts in Simplified Chinese. For example, while red may signify “Stop” or “Bad” in other countries, it is a good colour in China and attracts positive attention. Similarly, Chinese audiences respond well to character advertising, such as having mascots or familiar characters in your advertisements.
6. The right partner makes all the difference
Having an on-the-ground partner is essential when marketing to China. In part, they help with an understanding of local trends and culture differences. More importantly they have the established connections, technology and partnerships necessary to get your ads in front of the right people.
Finding the right partner, however, is easier said then done. The advertising technology landscape is extremely scattered and hard to navigate, especially for a foreign company. We strongly encourage you to visit and spend time on the ground, speak to those you trust and form your own view.
7. Make sure your app has a familiar user experience
This often-overlooked step is essential to your success in China. This step goes beyond translating your app into Simplified Chinese and encourages you to look at cultural norms and differences in consumer expectations. Some examples to keep in mind:
- Dates in China are written with the year first, then the month, and then the day.
- Chinese names have the family name first and then the given name
- Chinese web users are much more comfortable with clutter
- Chinese apps have more movement
For an in depth look at Chinese app design see Dan Grover’s blog.
8. Revise your pricing structure for China
Finally consider pricing of your app. There is an interesting phenomenon in China: While users are less likely to pay for apps, they do spend money on in-app purchases, with 90% of all app revenue in China coming from within the app. Likewise, many of the most popular apps are free to download and encourage both in app purchases and ad revenue. Use this information to modify your revenue structure to fully benefit from Chinese users.
All ready to go?
Gone through the checklist and are ready to launch in China? Get in contact if you have any other questions, we’d be happy to help!