HT Localization Presents Language Translations for Real Life: International Success - Chinese Markets Part 2

Segment 16- Getting Back to Business for International Success - Chinese Markets Part 2 


In the last segment, we began a discussion around the classic 4 P’s of product marketing to understand how Western businesses can more successfully expand their market share in the Chinese Markets? 

We looked at the first two P’s: Product and Promotion. Two key take-aways were:

1. Do your homework. Know which languages your Chinese markets speak and read, and localize your product and marketing initiatives accordingly.  Focus on the local aspects and benefits of your product.

2. Understand the value of relationships within the Asian society, and leverage regional social media and blogging platforms – in the local language. Narrow in on local promotional platforms to disseminate information about your product.

This segment, I'll continue with Pricing, Placement and Position as it relates to the global Chinese markets. But before we jump in, I want to share a little story...

A long time ago, around the mid 1940’s to early 50’s, there was a conflict in the Orient. The new government declared victory and pushed out the defeated loyalists. Among them were businessmen, wealthy land owners, former top government officials, citizens and their families.  Many died fighting in the Civil War or of starvation, others were captured and still many more fled or were pushed out of the troubled lands to other destinations.  As in many war stories, families were separated.  There existed a family, of four brothers…one brother fled to what is now known as Taiwan, another to Hong Kong, another to Siam, and the last stayed behind and sought refuge in the area known as Shanghai.  Each gave up his property, wealth and old way of life to make anew in another land, bringing his hopes, dreams, customs, culture and language.  While they married local women and built a new life, they continued to hold on to traditional pieces which made up of the fabric of their heritage.  The brothers never reconnected, but they always remembered one another, and shared stories with their own grandchildren.  Today, we see remnants of these brothers and their stories in modern Chinese people across the East and West.  Interacting in one world, these remnants make up the soul of the Chinese heritage. To truly understand the person, one must look beyond the borders.

With this backdrop in mind, I now turn back to our current discussion…the 4 or 5 P’s:

Price: Value

There is a cost or investment involved with purchasing your product, the benefits far outweigh the costs. There is value. The price is right. Consumers should buy it.

Is your value proposition in line with the local competition? Do you really understand how value is measured by the Chinese consumer? There is a reason why many people find the words “Made in China” imprinted on many products found in the Western world. 

The Chinese are producers. The Westerners are the consumers. This mantra has been a mainstay in China for many years, as many large corporations have looked towards the East for their manufacturing needs. Not only is labor abundant and inexpensive, many businesses have been able to enjoy the cost advantages of local suppliers in China.  That said, in order to get more Chinese consumers, make sure your value proposition is strong and in line with the local expectations. Don’t try to sell fortune cookies fresh from Chinatown, USA to people in Beijing, China. 

Placement: Distribution & Access

The product is available and easily obtainable, no hassles, just a click of the button… Consumers should buy it.

Can your Chinese consumers find your product? What are the right distribution channels? How easy can your Chinese consumers order your product? What about payment options in a cash society?

According to iResearch, China’s web search reached over 64 billion queries in Q4 2010. China’s largest search engine is NOT Google, but Baidu with about 80% of the market share.  The rules of the game for Baidu are not the same, as those for Google.  According to Baidu, one the most serious problem Western companies face when optimizing for China is lack of online presence due to incomplete localization.  Many companies provide incomplete content and pricing details, and fail to consider cultural aspects such as color, images, symbols, languages, etc.  Localization involves adaptation for culture, not just translations.

One might consider advertising with Pay-Per-Click programs to broaden visibility in the Chinese Market; Google has had much success in this space in the U.S.  That is not a bad notion, but try getting a Google Ad through the “Great FireWall of China”.  Baidu’s search engine has benefited from the Chinese government’s active role in censorship of select foreign websites.  My advice is to figure out the rules of the road and stick to them for success.

Once they find it, how will they pay for it? China is more of a cash-based society than America. Credit card and Paypal are simply not as popular in China.  Make sure your eCommerce site has the payment options that local consumers trust.  It would be a shame to lose a potential customer due to lack of sufficient or trusted options for the transactional elements.  Alipay, China's leading third-party online payment solution, reports to having over 550 million registered users and $380 million worth of daily transactions. Many Chinese have experience and confidence with this payment solution.

Finally, the 5th P: Position.   Some claim that product Position is actually rolled up in Promotion or Placement. Others insist that Positioning is so important that it should have its own “P”.  Let’s look into the positioning factors for local markets.

Position: Perception

The product has a clear purpose and value that is understood by consumers. The social connotations about the product are exactly on point with the intended messaging.  The product’s market share and status compared to its competitors are exactly where it should be.  The perceptions are clear and right on the money. Consumers should buy it.

First, do you know what people are saying about your product in the local market?  Are you sure that the message being conveyed is the right message that you want the local audience to receive? Is the perception culturally appealing? Is there a different or more effective message that should be conveyed to the local market? Who are the competitors and how are they perceived by the local market? How does your product stack up compared to the other key players?

It’s one thing to know your product, and know your competitors, but to be effective in any local market, especially in Chinese markets, you need to culturally understand the consumers and understand how they perceive your product compared to the local competition.  

Localization is the adaptation of product or copy to a local market. But what many company’s fail to do is to fully get into the “head” of a local consumer.  I can try to sell something to you because I think it is a great product and it will solve your problems and there is value for you. However, how do I know that you will believe me? What are the cultural values that drive a Chinese consumer to buy one product over another? What are the motivational factors that will make a Chinese consumer perceive my product as the right solution?  How do we discover these factors for the Chinese market? And once discovered, how do we adapt the product positioning to appeal to the Chinese?

First, as stated in the last segment, get on board with the local social media platforms, blogs and forums in the Chinese markets to interact with the consumers. This will provide insight into the local perceptions about your product. But don’t stop there; get on board with the social media buzz for your competitors as well.  This will give you valuable intel about how your competition compares to you.

  • Did you know that in many Asian markets, a European brand can be perceived as a status symbol and sign of wealth or worldliness, and a show of riches? If given the choice, some Asians would prefer to pay top dollar for a product simply because it is “Made in France” (examples include health and beauty products).
  • Did you know in some Asian cultures, a reference to other’s imperfections or blemishes might be perceived as disrespectful?  For example, if you point out how your product can beat the leading brand in “tests or surveys”, some Asian consumers may think that you are arrogant and self-assuming, especially if the competitor that you are comparing to happens to be a local Chinese brand.

So be very careful how you position your product for the local market. First understand, then adapt and build trust. Then once trust is established, keep checking to re-affirm your position.

So what have we learned about preparing for business success in the Chinese markets? Let’s recap:

  1. Product - Do your homework. Know what language your Chinese market speaks and reads, and localize your product and marketing initiatives accordingly.
  2. Promotion - Understand the value of relationship building within the Asian society, and leverage regional social media and blogging platforms – in the local language.
  3. Price - Ensure that your value proposition is in line with local expectations, and use culturally desirable connotations.
  4. Placement - Make sure your product is accessible and searchable, and leverage the appropriate transactional experience for the culture.
  5. Position - Seek first to understand, then adapt and build trust. Understanding how your product is positioned within the local market next to local competitors is key.

These tips will surely help you get ahead, or get “into the head” of the Chinese consumer. Remember product marketing is as much of an art as a science, and when dealing with the Chinese markets, you need to look across the world to explore the Eastern traditions if you want greater business success. Any by the way, the story about the four brothers is a true story that I learned from my grandfather: to truly understand the person, one must look beyond the borders.

 … Stay tuned for the next Segment of HT Localization Presents Language Translations for Real Life Series, where we’ll explore … Getting Back to Business for International Success with Website Localization.

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This article was written by Rachanee Thevenet, Co-Founder of HT Localization.  Rachanee is an Asian-American expat living in Spain with her family.  She loves all things international including food, art, literature, culture, languages and people.  She has years of professional product marketing expertise and global expansion experience.

HT Localization, LLC. is a worldwide translation & localization agency providing a full range of professional language translation services, including social media localization, marketing translations, website translations, software localization, eLearning materials, documentation translations, etc.  With locations in the US, Spain, France, Zambia & Thailand, and coverage across all languages and most industries, HT Localization is well positioned to provide around the globe services for all translation needs.  

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