Leveraging Chinese shopping holidays
The past few months have been tough for Australian brands. But they have been even tougher for Australian brands that rely on Chinese customers.
As early as January Chinese customers in Australia started to change their spending in response to COVID-19. They could see the devastating impacts on the health and freedom of family and friends back home in China and proceeded to unfollow and turn off from brands trying to sell to them during this time.
Australia was operating as usual, and with the virus contained in China, it was difficult for local brands to understand why so many local Chinese were in almost a form of self-imposed local lockdown.
With China now entering what seems to be a cautionary recovery phase and talking about rolling back restrictions, the role of Chinese customers in our retail recovery will be key – many have been spending conservatively for some time and are primed to re-enter the market.
So how can you leverage this?
In China, a range of giant conglomerates have long competed against each other to drive billions of dollars in sales through one-day branded shopping festivals. The kinds of shopping events that make Black Friday look like a regular Monday morning in Myer. You’ve probably heard of the buying frenzy that happens around Chinese New Year and maybe you’ve caught wind of Singles Day. But there are even more.
As Australian brands consider the coming months and how to move inventory, they should also be considering how to leverage the following Chinese shopping days:
- 6.18 Shopping Festival: while this was created by e-commerce platform JD.com to celebrate its June 18 anniversary, many more retailers have jumped on board over the years. This is the number one shopping event to capitalise on in the next three months
- National Golden Day Week on October 1, which kicks off a week-long holiday during which many travel and shop. Brands should be thinking and planning for this as it is absolutely massive
- The mammoth Singles Day on 11 November regularly breaks sales records – think US$43 billion in sales over 24 hours
- The smaller but sweet 520 Day on May 20, which is a kind of Valentine’s Day for the young and internet enabled where they trade cute gifts
Australian brands can absolutely leverage these events here, down under, but it has to be through the right channels and in a manner that demonstrates they understand the audience.
Few retailers have adequately communicated with this audience before and subsequently have few Chinese customers on their books. This means building a Chinese consumer journey including establishing the right channels, as well as the right payment options.
WeChat is the most well-known channel of choice for Chinese – click here for a primer on what it is. In Australia, it acts as your Chinese website, serving up great content that appeals to Chinese culture and buying behaviors; it is your online Chinese-speaking customer service, connecting your salespeople to customers. WeChat Group is an online community that helps brands more deeply understand consumers, while Weibo is just as important and is a great place to drive reach with KOLs and leverage market trends. Being on these channels is critical, but you also need to build in payment mechanisms like WeChat and Alipay. You should also think about incentives, paid media and leveraging KOLs to drive more reach and success.
We see great opportunity for alcohol and giftware brands for 520 Day, while there is plenty of scope for fashion, beauty, automotive and many more over Golden Week and 6.18. Not sure where to start? Give us a call!
What brands can learn from China’s recovery
Chinese retailers are a couple of months ahead of Australia’s as the country relaxes its restrictions and attempts to get back to normal. There are a number of key trends emerging out of the country that Australian brands should consider as we cautiously approach recovery.
Worry free shopping
It’s understandable, but the lingering concerns over virus transmission are still in play in China and social distancing is still being followed. In this climate Chinese brands are finding they need to demonstrate a vigilant safety culture and hygiene standards to confidence and customers. The rise of the “worry free economy” is being touted by many as brands offer contactless delivery and enhanced online services including a continuation of live streaming and virtual appointments.
Down under, western and Chinese consumers will have the same concerns, particularly as our social distancing is set to last until September. As we chart a road to retail recovery Australian brands returning to the market should be considering how they meaningfully communicate a safety-first approach to operations and how they can pivot retail locations to offer more personalised touchpoints – think fewer people in store, but more meaningful contact and service.
In China we’ve seen a number of high profile offline only brands start to move into online, and quickly – Prada, IKEA and BMW all established Tmall stores during the epidemic, among others. This has particularly occurred as brands have sought to move back into sales mode during the recovery period. Digital strategies during the major infection period focused on adding value through information, education and entertainment (think the likes of fitness brands offering live streamed workouts, restaurants offering cooking workshops etc), and while brands haven’t dropped this approach as it has resulted in great engagement, they’re now selling more overtly and they’re doing that online. Retail foot traffic is coming back, but certainly not in the previous numbers. People are spending, but not crazy amounts. That means there are less buyers, more competition and so marketing needs to be effective and efficient.
In Australia we’ll start in a similar place – consumers will be conservative and cost conscious, while brands will be keen to start to move inventory. For brands it means thinking about your online to offline ecosystem – how you can continue to drive brand equity online through social, what is your D2C approach and how does that fit with any high street retail you might have. The key message? Digital isn’t going anywhere and if you thought you could get away with social media silence at the start of COVID-19, that isn’t going to work much longer.
Ok, this trend isn’t one that has come out of COVID-19 but it is one that Australian brands should be considering anyway. Group buying became highly popular with the launch of Pinduoduo – one of the fastest growing e-commerce start-ups in China, meaning Together, More Savings, More Fun. It allows buyers to get deep discounts by getting friends to participate in group buys of items. Buyers have 24 hours to fill a group and the app shows the discount increasing as every new buyer joins.
The popularity of the concept has taken off and now many online retailers offer their own group buying deals on their platforms.
Australian brands can tap into this phenomenon by offering their own incentive based group discounts to local Chinese audiences to push more product in every sale. This can be achieved through platforms like WeChat.
The myth behind revenge spending
In the early days of China’s recovery many were hoping “revenge spending” by cashed up, and until then, locked down, residents would drive the early days of the recovery. And certainly early on the signs were hopeful. However, weeks in and the picture is one more so of cautious spending. Some numbers did suggest a boost to eating out and small purchases, but the luxury sector hasn’t ignited as some thought it would. The South China Morning Post found that Chinese consumers were planning on spending on groceries and clothes, but those luxury goods, not so much. Segments including health, finance and investment are also areas to watch.
In Australia, there is likely to be some kind of level of revenge spending, but this is likely to be similar to China – focused on food, fashion and small purchases.
All in all, when looking at China, what we can see is a clear desire to get back to normal, but that normal isn’t what it used to be. Safety is a huge consideration in the post COVID-19 world and is why digital and social will still be really important as buyers return to the market. Australian brands can check out Bastion Effect’s piece on how manage social media during COVID-19 here. Obviously when speaking to Chinese audiences there are different factors to consider, as digital channels and the habits and behaviours of users are wildly different. More on that to come in a future blog!
Bastion China appointed to drive Audi campaign
Leading Chinese marketing and communications agency Bastion China has announced it will partner with automotive giant Audi as part of a campaign to tap into the Australia-based Chinese community.
Bastion China has been engaged to develop an effective long-term communications strategy to position Audi as a sought after brand and gain traction in this growth market, Australia.
The campaign is focused on the launch of the luxurious new Audi Q8 SUV.
To gain leverage and drive engagement with the local Chinese market, Bastion China will set up an official WeChat account for Audi Australia and oversee a comprehensive content-management strategy.
Bastion China Partner Jane Lu said: “It is very exciting for Bastion China to work with Audi Australia in assisting with the Q8 new model launch campaign to engage the Chinese community.
“With the purposely crafted message and personalised engagement, Audi will be able to further communicate the value and brand with Chinese consumers,” she said.
Bastion plans to work with key WeChat influencers to boost social buzz and deliver key brand messaging that resonates with Audi’s target audience.
As a direct contact point, the platform will also be used to showcase Audi products, build brand loyalty, market prospective buyers and increase sales.
Audi Marketing Communications Manager Jessica Chen said the company was looking forward to a successful campaign and partnership with the Bastion China team.
“Audi highly value the growing Chinese community in Australia, and the partnership with Bastion China is an important initiative to engage and grow our Chinese consumer connection,” she said.
The client win further cements Bastion China as leaders in the automotive space, adding to the agency’s impressive portfolio, which includes Ferrari and the F1 Australian Grand Prix.
Bastion China specialises in designing high-impact, purpose-built marketing campaigns to help clients better engage with Chinese consumers.
Why Australian businesses can no longer ignore the local Chinese market
It’s no secret that our future is inextricably tied to China, yet the vast majority of Australian businesses are chronically unprepared to capitalise on this incredible opportunity. Even those Australian businesses that are trying to grow through China, often launch headlong into the mainland without considering or at the very least testing their products with the significant local Chinese population.
(This piece was originally written by Jack Watts, CEO – Bastion Collective and published by Marketing Magazine online)
According to the 2016 census there are 1.2 million people with Chinese ancestry living in Australia, a figure that has grown 115% since 2001 and shows no signs of slowing down. Of these 1.2m Chinese-Australians, only 25% were born here.
So who are these 1.2m local Chinese that represent about 5% of our total population? They are younger and more educated than the average Australian – 60% of local Chinese are under the age of 35, while 42% are tertiary educated (compared to the Australian national average of 14 per cent). This is reflected in 37% of local Chinese being students, while 39% are working professionals. They are 69% female and most likely to live in Melbourne or Sydney.
For Australian businesses, the 1.2m Chinese-Australians that live here are just as important a consideration as the 1.4m Chinese that Tourism Australia says will visit our shores in 2018. In fact the two are linked. The Visiting Friends and Relatives tourist market is often here to visit their daughters, sons, nieces and nephews who study at one of our universities.
So why should Australian businesses care? Well, these communities can be extremely lucrative. They spend approximately $9bn on Education, $9.2bn on travel and ethnic-Australians (of which Chinese are one of the biggest segments) spend $18.7bn in Australian Retail. Not only are Chinese spending their money on Australian shores, but they are buying $100bn of Australian exports every year.
The question for most Australian businesses is how do I speak to these communities? The clear answer is that you don’t do it in English as 82% of Australian-Chinese do not speak English at home. To put that into perspective, most Australian brands spending millions on marketing campaigns automatically rule out 5% of the Australian population and another 1.4m tourists because they only communicate in English.
Chinese migrants aren’t consuming traditional Australian media nor are you likely to reach them on Facebook or Twitter. WeChat is the key channel to reach Chinese with 1 billion monthly active users globally and 3 million active monthly users in Australia. For those not familiar with WeChat, it is a Chinese super app, owned by one of China’s largest companies, Tencent, that essentially combines Facebook, Instagram, eBay, Uber, Amazon and just about every other app currently on your phone.
Most Chinese pay for every-day items using WeChat Pay and 10,000 Australian Stores and Restaurants have already caught on by adopting WeChat Pay as 59% of Australian Chinese are much more likely to buy from a shop that offers this service. Businesses can advertise themselves and deliver online services via WeChat official accounts meaning users rarely leave the app’s ecosystem. There’s not even a lag for getting paid because WeChat Pay allows local merchants to receive payments to their Australian accounts within a shorter time frame and at a lower transaction cost than credit cards. Australian businesses can expect to have more success in marketing their services to Chinese tourists and locals with the display of the familiar WeChat app logo at their physical or online store-front. It’s an easier experience for Chinese to shop and pay, and also provides them with the feeling of familiarity.
What is clear is that if your business is not on WeChat, you are not talking to this incredibly lucrative market. Australian businesses need to wake up to this opportunity fast. WeChat is a good start, yet there are so many cultural nuances to this community meaning that brands need a clear and tailored approach. The local Chinese community is not one united, closed and cohesive community. It is in fact a hugely diversified group for whom a one-size-fits-all approach does not work.
Businesses need to be able to demonstrate cultural knowledge and cater to the different identities within the Chinese community. A recent study conducted by research and insights agency Bastion Latitude found that only 39% of Chinese migrants surveyed agree that Australian companies ‘understand their needs’, yet 66% of Chinese migrants state that they ‘would prefer to buy brands that show they understand the Chinese community’.
Of those surveyed, 51% of Chinese migrants stated that they would ‘like to see more Australian companies communicate in Mandarin’. Beyond creating in-language communications companies can also include references to Chinese culture in communications (e.g. use of Gold) and by recognising cultural events (e.g. Lunar New Year which 49% would like to see Australian companies celebrate). This doesn’t have to be an overt message but can simply act as a nod of understanding to Chinese culture.
Some of Australia’s biggest companies and events have been getting on board. Bastion China, the marketing and communications arm of Bastion Collective has assisted Australian organisations to build a local Chinese presence, including the Royal Melbourne Show whereby at last year’s event they launched a first-of-its-kind WeChat event app to attract new local Chinese audiences in the lead up to Chinese Golden Week. Success indicators included raising awareness amongst the local Chinese community and driving traffic and ticket sales for the event. The WeChat channel gained over 1,800 followers in less than four weeks. In the first two days of the Show the Mini-Program app had over 634 unique users for an average time on site of 5 minutes and 38 seconds, with the demographic aged between 18-39 years old, reflecting the international student community. Other functions included daily event listings, the ability to create a favourite menu to build a list of attractions and events to see and do prior to arriving at the Show, detailed information on all activities, locations and an interactive map that could filter according to attraction or service (such as toilets or ATMs). The WeChat Mini-Program used a unique QR code scanned into WeChat for easy access to the Royal Melbourne Show WeChat account.
The influence and purchasing power of China within our region and within our country will only continue to grow at a rapid rate. If your business is not prepared for this, you need to be.
WE ARE PART OF BASTION COLLECTIVE
Bastion Collective is the largest independent communications agency in Australia. We exist to be the Bastion of Australian Ingenuity. Our integrated agency network allows us to deliver simple, original and resourceful communications solutions to our clients' complex problems. Bastion Collective clients can use us for one specialist service or our entire integrated offering, delivered through one central point of contact.
We do this all to help our clients create, grow, measure and protect their businesses.