3 sure ways to keep Chinese users engaged online

June 11, 2018

China has a long history of managing diversity and change, and with up to 1.4 billion citizens inside its borders, people in China sure know how to spot value from a crowd of options.

Weaving this same organized chaos and providing a combination of options is the key to keeping online users engaged and for brands to stand out from the estimated 500 new products and services launched in China each day.

This quick guide will get you up to speed with three online user engagement norms in China. This includes two norms you might not expect in other regions of the world but which are all the rage in the world’s biggest consumer market.

Design: the Las Vegas approach

Whereas brand websites and apps in the West tend to uphold minimalistic design and stay close to the hem of Steve Krug’s best selling guide to web design Don’t Make Me Think, standard practice in China is to do the opposite.

This means planting a medley of options on the landing page with everything from sliding image carousels, to inflated menu options, links to live-streaming, QR codes, and flashing ad banners reminiscent of Las Vegas.

A larger-than-life example of this principle is “Danmu”.

Translated into English as “bullet words” or “barrage”, Danmu is an overlay of user text comments rolling across video content in real-time. This doubles as a raw but effective technique to gauge the audience’s reaction and attitude towards video content. Having hundreds of other viewers streaming their contents as “Danmu” builds trust through visible peer popularity – especially as 34% of surveyed Chinese users trust online customer reviews when shopping with their favorite online retailer, compared to the global average of 15%.

Chinese consumers also tend to trust online content and websites based on the depth of content provided rather than on friendly navigation and aesthetic design. Thus, having numerous menu options helps to visualize the depth of your online offering.

China’s Taobao ecommerce platform prides itself on its product options, as shown on the left-hand-side tab and the countless menu options on its homepage.
Source: www.taobao.com

Instant gratification: give, give, give

Threaded through the multiple layers of content must be the option of instant gratification. Just as you wouldn’t want to walk away from a local fair or arcade without playing a little Pinball or lucky dip, Chinese consumers love an adrenaline spike of random chance and reward – even when browsing a brand site or social media channel.

PwC report that 36% of Chinese users value instant gratification with personalized marketing offers. This often comes in the form of coupons to spend on the site, lucky red packet money games they can play on their phone, refer-a-friend program to earn credit, app downloads (again with coupon incentives) or a chance to win tickets for a holiday as part of a social media campaign.

Online VR activity for users to claim prizes by collecting virtual “hongbao”.
Source: China.com

Many apps include “hongbao” (red packet) giveaways and this is not just limited to business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. China’s largest business-2-business (B2B) cloud computing company, Alibaba Cloud, last year ran a lucky money mobile game where users could win free credit for cloud servers.

It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, the goal is not to leave the user empty-handed!

Mobile: in the hands of consumers

In a country where more purchases are conducted through mobile phones than computers (at 66% as of 2016), online campaigns and content must be mobile-friendly and responsive. PwC reports that 24% of Chinese consumers use mobile apps as a source of inspiration before purchasing, compared to the global standard of 13%. And we believe this might even be underestimated.

There is also the additional option of launching a HTML5 site for special events, for example on social media platform WeChat. These simplified website landing pages with compressed but highly visual content – designed for quick consumption on mobile devices – are ideal for large live events and collecting user contact details. This includes industry conferences or live celebrity brand endorsements such as the Maybelline live press conference with celebrity Angelababy (mentioned in our recent blog post).

In summary, when choosing your channels and content and design formats for online campaigns, don’t just choose one. Chinese consumers have a high level of tolerance for choice and they love to find and pick the option they find interesting and relevant or where they can find an instant reward! Keeping everything you do mobile-friendly will also help to ensure a better user experience for your end-users.

Not sure what will work for your brand in regards to user engagement? Talk to AgencyChina for a customized solution or to find out what’s worked in the past for other brands in your industry. 

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