Over the great wall of the Chinese web.
Chinese web numbers almost 650 millions users. Penetration of the total population comprised 42% in 2014 and the government has planned to reach 80% by 2018. Mobile surfing is much much more popular than the one via desktop computers and many people use the Internet only from mobile devices.
Together with the viral distribution of photos documenting Chinese riots, under the ideal of harmony, foreigner platforms and portals such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google have been banned Since 2008 as consequence of governmental control. After recent Hong Kong riot Instagram was additionally banned.
Anyway, VPN represents the best solution for all the people who need to use Facebook or Google. Just remember to download a VPN application before departing for China because in China itself it is not so easy to get the download.
The Chinese web developed quickly out of its own rich digital ecosystem that includes its own search engines like Baidu, social media like WeChat, and its own e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba. Moreover, some platforms are more advanced than the Western ones, e.g. Tencent and Wechat.
The three well-known web giants are: Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu.
Search Engines in Chin
Google has just 2 - 4% of Chinese market share (people in Hong Kong plus expats using the VPN system). The absolutely main actor on the scene of search engines is Baidu, with around 80% of the market. Others to be known are Qihoo 360 (14%) and Sogou.
Baidu is similar to Google in that it has many different functions such as Baidu Tieba, Baike, but generally speaking it is much more advertisement oriented: banners and displays have more visibility than in European search engines, and some functions are permitted to big companies only, e.g. Gucci, to put their promotional webpage inside the organic search of Baidu.
The platform is integrated with its own social media - Baidu Tieba (equivalent to Google Plus), with a video-sharing platform, and a very rich and used Chinese Wikipedia, namely Baidu Baike.
The biggest e-commerce market in the world
The numbers are clear: in 2014, 242 millions of the Chinese made purchases on-line and 44% of this total amount (106 millions) buy on line at least once a week. China is already the biggest e-commerce market in the world. Cheap products and quick shipments, growing trusts to the Internet giants, friendly search functions and experienced e-commerce buyers together make the success of Chinese e-commerce. Alibaba is the most commonly used platform, but other well-known channels are 1688, Tao Bao and Tmall, all of which have similar functions.
How a western company can approach the Chinese web.
While trying to come to being on the Chinese web, it is definitely strongly suggested to rely on companies that provide this kind of services that can be customized to each company and their requests.
Our suggestion is to bear in mind that your website and all the aspects concerning communication and detailed information have to be in Chinese. Besides, the website has to be enlisted in Chinese search engines such as Baidu. It takes a few weeks and qualified agencies able in this job but allows the company to be exposed to Chinese users.
If the company intends to reach Chinese users, it is fundamental to open social media accounts and fit the communication profile according to its target.
Most companies that deal with China have already opened and currently use an official Wechat (Weixin) account, in this way keeping close relationship with their customers or partners.