China internet and social media report how Chinese consumers use the digital world to learn about wine
China now has more than half a billion internet users, numerically more than any other country in the world. Not only are these consumers increasingly going online, they’re also spending more time online than their counterparts in other countries, and they bring the internet with them wherever they go, through increasingly common tablets and smartphones – over 350 million people in China now use mobile phones with internet access.
What are these millions of consumers doing online? In the main, chatting to each other. The top activity is instant messaging – often through the popular platform QQ. They are also microblogging, using Sina Weibo, the local equivalent of Twitter: an estimated 250 million users at the end of 2011. And they’re shopping – an estimated 194 million consumers bought something online in 2011. In other words, the internet in China is less of a reference library, more like a raucous city market where information and goods are traded at a furious pace.
Chinese consumers are using this social / trading space to make rapid judgements about brands, and this is where understanding the Chinese internet landscape becomes crucial for international wine brands that want to survive in China. When we survey our sample of imported wine drinkers, we consistently see online sources coming out as one of the top sources of information about wine. Not only are consumers going online to get their information, these sources are also highly trusted, often with higher trust than some of the more traditional (and more expensive) avenues commonly used in other markets.
Reaching Chinese consumers requires stepping outside of the comfort zone of the familiar Facebook and Twitter account. The fact that these websites, together with a long list of other foreign websites, are blocked in China and only accessible to the small number of consumers using a VPN (virtual private network) is not the only explanation for the explosion of domestic equivalents. It does, however, seal the nail in the coffin of any attempt to use a one-size-fits all approach to social media marketing across markets – being in China requires setting up China-specific accounts on domestic websites.
The second barrier comes in the form of language and online habits. Consumers tell us that they want to see content in Chinese, and marketers have the additional challenge of making that content compelling enough to cut through the noise on the channels that consumers go to for information about wine.
Since we published our first edition of this report in 2011, a few areas of the online wine world have become increasingly important. The first is Sina Weibo, the Twitter equivalent which is now the top website for discussion about wine, and one of the top 5 websites for getting information about wine. A presence on Sina Weibo is now the natural first step for a brand looking to build its credibility with Chinese consumers.
Table of contents
- Online wine landscape
- Online retail
- Interacting with consumers online
- Case studies of successful online marketing
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