Many have pondered what would happen if everyone in China jumped at the same time. There’s been talk of the earth being thrown from its axis, mass earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other catastrophic events.
Although China’s 1.4 billion people are unlikely to ever synchronise the world’s greatest leap, many of them are stamping their feet and making businesses take notice.
Until recently, Chinese consumers had very few channels of recourse. Then the Internet became mainstream. Chinese consumers finally had a channel to make a public stand when things weren’t up to scratch. In 2011, after Weibo had reached a critical mass, a businessman in Qingdao was so disappointed with the service he received with his Lamborghini, he hired nine men wearing blue suits and hard hats to destroy the $650,000 supercar with sledgehammers. He captured the spectacle on film and it went viral. The stunt spurned countless copycats in China, who resorted to equally dramatic social media posts to share their poor experiences – to the horror of many poorly-prepared brands.
Another high profile example of Chinese consumers’ displeasure has arisen again, this time with Ikea, writing off much of the goodwill that the furniture giant had earned by providing public sleeping, dating and dining facilities. Following Ikea’s decision not to recall furniture in China as it did in the US and Canada following the death of at least six children in North America, the predictable PR-nightmare ensued. Consumers in Ikea’s fastest growing market expressed their anger on WeChat, Weibo and other online forums about China’s exclusion from recall. 69% of respondents accused Ikea of prejudice against Chinese consumers according to one survey. After the damage was done, Ikea backpedalled, offering refunds or assistance to anchor the deadly dressers and chests.
Where practical, keeping Chinese consumers happy is vital to success in the market. They are the world’s most avid social media contributors and a poor product experience, particularly from a foreign brand, will often spread like wildfire. They write more online reviews than any other country in the world – just look at the average ecommerce storefront. Chinese tourists write 42% of luxury travel reviews globally. China’s inherent lack of trust and research habits means other consumers read and take notice of those reviews more than their peers in any other country.
Providing effective customer service, and relevant responses to crises are often overlooked when developing marketing strategies for China, but one misstep can undo all of the other good work a brand has done. Understanding the Chinese consumer and how they respond to such events should be an important part of planning. China Skinny can assist with that. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.