Digital marketing into the Shenzhen and the Greater Bay Area

Oct 2, 2019Digital marketing, e - Commerce, Social Media, Websites

Shenzhen and the Greater Bay Area opportunities, challenges and next steps.

There is no secret that China is Australia’s most important trading partner. The Northern Territory is in a prime position to reap the benefits of this dynamic trading partnership due to our close geographical proximity.

In addition, direct flights to Shenzhen should help accelerate trading between the Territory and China’s economic engine known as the Greater Bay Area.

The Greater Bay Area (GBA) is part of a very ambitious Chinese initiative to reshape the historical Pearl River Delta which includes Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and other cities in Guangdong province into China’s Silicon Valley.

For Northern Territory businesses it will represent the ability to trade with a market of more than 68 million people with a GDP output of US$1.4 trillion (Austrade, 2018).

As with any ambitious plan, GBA has a number of challenges to overcome. Perhaps the biggest challenge will be integrating the two autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau which have different political, tax and legal systems which could complicate its potential growth. 

Despite some of its logistical and political challenges what makes GBA so unique is that unlike the U.S. Silicon Valley which bases most of its growth from digital technologies, GBA has a very diversified economy. Twenty of the world’s top 500 companies are based there and include different industries like auto-manufacturing, electronics, real estate, and finance as well as digital technologies.

Some of the most important technology companies like Tencent, ZTE and Huawei are headquartered in Shenzhen. Hong Kong is one of the most important financial centres in the Eastern hemisphere and, Macau generates three times the gambling revenue when compared to Las Vegas making it the most important gambling centre in the world.

This diversity has helped companies in the region to develop new technologies and products that are shaping the future such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of things.

This allows them to compete in a global market in other sectors and makes it a very attractive place to do business and trade.

Who can benefit?

Businesses in all sectors of the Northern Territory’s economy can benefit from trading with the Greater Bay Area. The mining sector can benefit by exporting minerals to cities like Shenzhen, Zhuhai or Foshan for manufacturing, retailers can benefit from emerging e-commerce platforms, and the interest in China for Australian goods will continue to grow as people’s purchasing power increases.

Another area that could benefit is tourism, as direct flights will bring people looking to do business in the Territory but also explore all that the Territory has to offer.

International Education could benefit as the demand for talented and skilled workers with cross-cultural experience grows in the GBA. Exchange of people and ideas could also benefit the Territory in the form of technology startups and new services aimed at facilitating two-way trading between both regions.

Social media for business in China

One way for businesses to develop a presence in the region is by using social media. This is another area in which the one country two systems administrative regime creates some interesting challenges.

Firstly, most western social media channels such as Facebook are blocked in China. However, they are available in Hong Kong, in fact, 70% of internet users in Hong Kong are on Facebook, WhatsApp is also quite popular with 74% uptake.

Hong Kong as a financial hub tends to be more open to outside influences, Hong Kongers tend to be more cosmopolitan, English literacy is higher and their culture has been westernised through their colonial past.

However, this also means that competition for market share is higher and targeting through Facebook or Google advertising will require significant investment.

As mainland China plans to integrate Hong Kong further into the Chinese economy, the traffic of people from the mainland and the cultural influences have also helped usher the popularity of Chinese social media platforms.

Therefore, social media platforms such as WeChat (Chinese: 微信; pinyin: Wēixìn; literally: ‘micro-message’) are part of the daily life of people on both sides of the Pearl River Delta.

WeChat: China’s biggest Social Media Network

WeChat can be described as WhatsApp plus Facebook on steroids. In China, the platform is used for more than connecting with friends and family.

WeChat can be used for purchasing goods and services through WeChat Pay, this payment method can be found everywhere in China, even some small remote street stalls can offer this type of payment method.

A business can also set up an official page on WeChat which functions similarly to a Facebook page. However, to set up an official page you will need to set up a legal company in China.

If you wish to interact with existing customers on WeChat you can open a personal account, and you can use the name of your business but the drawback is that WeChat accounts are attached to the person that created it and are not transferable.

Another interesting dynamic in China is that QR codes are widely used. If you have a WeChat account, you can add your page or profile QR code to your website or collateral materials like your business card or banner to engage with your customers.

TikTok: China’s first global social media network

Another growing Chinese social media platform that is taking hold in the west is TikTok (Douyin in Chinese: 抖音). This social media app is similar to what Vine used to be, people create short videos with music and a lot of filters and speeds to match the video to the music.

In February 2019 TikTok exceeded one billion installs from the App store and Google Play.

Experts regard TikTok as the social media for Gen Z or “the Instagram for the mobile video age”.

Tik Tok is still a relatively new platform that is still growing worldwide and fairly untouched by advertisers in the west which makes it a very attractive option for brands looking to target to younger audiences. 

Also, it is important to know that the western version of the app and the one used in China are different. However, TikTok is growing globally and businesses such as education providers can leverage its popularity with young people to promote their services among potential customers that are already in Australia or other parts of the world.

Search engine advertising in China

Google is also blocked in Mainland China. However, Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising is available through China’s largest search engine, Bai du (Chinese: 百度; pinyin: Bǎidù). Potential advertisers need to be aware that the process to open an ad account in Bai du is a lot more complicated than a Google ad account. 

There are only two ways to set it up, through one of Bai du’s offices in Beijing or Shanghai which is time-consuming and complicated or through a Bai du partner agency.

Things to consider before advertising in China

It is also important to consider that tariffs and regulations might be different between the autonomous regions of China and the mainland, therefore it is paramount to research your target market to make sure that your product is adequate and to choose the right social media channel and message.

To learn more about how to benefit from selling your goods or services online stay connected to our OBM page and Captovate’s Facebook page. 

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