Localisation is an essential step for most businesses wanting to appeal to shoppers in China. For some, it’s a new label and a China-optimised website. For others, it’s taking the time to understand Chinese consumers’ unique needs, and developing products, services and marketing that cater for them.
There are many successful examples to learn from, such as Mondelez filling Oreo cookies with green tea-flavoured cream and Quaker adding lotus root starch to oats to appeal to Chinese taste and texture preferences. A number of snack food brands create packaging and portion sizes to cater for Chinese workers’ love of sharing. Unlike in America or France, pharmacy shelves in China are lined with face whitening and pollution-protecting moisturisers.
The need for localisation spans far deeper than the obvious FMCG categories. Car makers provide extra leg room in the back for the high portion of China’s car owners who don’t drive their own cars. Apple’s large iPhone 6 Plus screens was in response to Chinese preferences. Hotels around the world now offer congee for breakfast and beam CCTV into rooms to cater for increasing numbers of Chinese guests.
One of the more interesting examples of localization was developed recently by some Chinese scientists in Shaanxi province – hoping to appeal to China’s nationwide obsession with healthy eating, while maintaining a protein-rich diet. The scientists successfully bred cows with new genes that will produce steaks that are rich in omega-3 acids, typically associated with fish.
When thinking about localisation, it’s worth noting that it is often not as simple as creating goods and communications that will appeal in China – a one-size-fits-all approach is better than nothing, but it can be greatly enhanced by meeting varying needs across city tiers and regions. Starbuck’s Chilli Mocha has created much buzz in Chongqing, but gets little airtime in Shanghai. Skincare customers in Beijing are buying for extreme dry conditions, whereas purchases are to combat the high humidity in Guangzhou. Travellers in Tier 1 cities are more likely to be independent and experience-focused than the less confident Tier 3 tourists. And each of those regions have unique cultural traits and will respond to different communication strategies.
While localisation can often make products and services more appealing to Chinese consumers, they shouldn’t be altered so much that they lose touch with their core value and heritage, which is often what attracts Chinese consumers to foreign products in the first place. It comes back to understanding what is and isn’t important to your target Chinese customers and regions – China Skinny can help with that. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.