Any business seeking opportunities in China must adapt their website if they are to succeed. But with such big differences in platforms, language and culture developing an effective website can be challenging. To help you identify the key hurdles you must overcome, here are seven essential tips.
Gain an Internet Content Provider (ICP) License
All individuals, organisations and companies in China must conform to the country’s strict censorship laws. Therefore, any business wishing to host a website or set up an official social media account on the mainland must first gain an Internet Content Provider (ICP) License from both the provincial and national government. These licenses are only given to registered companies from within China so if you aren’t a legal entity you will be unable to publish online content.
For businesses that sell or market goods and services on the web, mobile optimization has become a necessity. Today’s Chinese consumers use their mobile devices, rather than desktop computers, to research products, engage with brands, and make online purchases. Therefore, having a website that isn’t mobile friendly will almost certainly result in failure. So, when developing your website, or looking for a specialist to create one, ensure that it works smoothly across all the different mobile platforms.
Include local payment options
If you plan on selling directly to Chinese consumers you must consider what payment option you are going to offer them. Most international consumers are perfectly content with Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, but these methods are almost unheard of in mainland China. Union Pay is the go-to choice for card payments, but in a cash-based society this is still an unpopular method for online transactions. The best and easiest option is to integrate either Alipay or Tenpay into your website so your customers can make the fast and convenient payments they are accustomed too.
Due to the ‘Great Firewall of China’, hosting from outside of their borders can significantly slow down loading speeds. This won’t usually affect businesses whose websites are mostly text based and have been properly coded, so if that is you, there is nothing to worry about. However, if your website contains lots of high resolution pictures and videos accessing it would be aggravatingly slow for Chinese users. If this applies to you then hosting your website from within mainland China, or employing the services of a Hong Kong-based hosting company, is a must.
TIP: Additionally, you can increase the loading speed of your website by removing any Google templates, banners and fonts.
One of the biggest mistakes we see is websites that have been translated very poorly, littered with embarrassing mistakes. Not only is this incoherent but it automatically undermines your reputation and in some cases, even results in your brand being ridiculed on social media.
Even companies who have their website or marketing content translated by experts often find results aren’t effective. This is because direct translation doesn’t take into account the cultural differences and the nuances of the language. In business terms this means companies end up marketing the wrong aspects of their product or service to their target demographic and fail to effectively meet their needs. This is because of a common assumption that what is relevant and appealing to westerners will be same for the Chinese.
To avoid these pitfalls companies must effectively localise their content and design by taking all the elements of the language and culture into account. This requires the use of professional translators and the copywriting skills of native speakers with business and marketing backgrounds.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Baidu is the most popular search engine in China controlling over 79 percent of the market. Making your website visible on this enormous platform requires you to develop an SEO campaign. Marketers must take into account the different SEO practices between Baidu and Google, for example Baidu rewards Keyword Repetition while Google heavily penalises for it (using an algorithm that detects context and synonyms).
Connecting your website to social media accounts
To further boost traffic to your website, as well as increase your brand awareness and recognition, a strong social media presence is a must. Nearly every Chinese company has a profile on WeChat, Weibo and Youku. Syncing these accounts and connecting them with your main website enables you to broaden your net and maximise appeal to your target demographics.
As you can see, developing a Chinese website is not a straightforward process and takes commitment in both time and money, but the rewards can be enormous for companies who do it right. So, whether you’re developing your own website or hiring a specialist to do it for you, these seven steps must be followed to achieve any degree of success.