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Marketing to Chinese Consumers

Chinese couple shopping

Chinese consumers are the world’s biggest and most-engaged users of social media, but this wasn’t always the case. The country was a late-comer to social networks and just 10 years ago its internet penetration rate was still under 20%. This meant most Chinese sought and received information through traditional state-run channels like print, radio and television. If consumers wanted information, it was going to come through Beijing’s propaganda machine.

But all that changed when the masses started finding their way online. Connections and conversations flourished giving Chinese a voice they’d never had before, and China’s social media networks became the busiest and most engaged on the planet.

But it’s important to note that social in China, as discussed here on Smartpay previously, is much more than sending messages and sharing memes. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which are popular in NZ and other western countries, are blocked in China and this has allowed a unique ecosystem of innovative networks from WeChat to Alipay to evolve. Their messaging apps coupled with their payment capabilities have created an intoxicating platform to streamline marketing, advocacy and sales channels. And this is by no means limited to Chinese in the Mainland.

Sky line of Beijing street

In 2017, 138 million trips were made beyond the borders of China. Although the numbers are immense, Chinese are relatively new to international travel and have limited confidence as a result. Coupled with often-lengthy visa-application processes, Chinese are unlikely to travel on a whim and do a significant amount of research before taking a journey.

Much of the travel research happens by way of reviews and recommendations from friends and family on Chinese social media. Travelling is one of the sure-fire ways to build sought after status in Chinese society – particularly when visiting aspirational destinations such as Australasia. To gain this status, 96% of online Chinese share their foreign travels on social media according to, providing aspiration and information for the next round of travelers. One of the most powerful ways for restaurants, stores, hotels and tourist attractions seeking to reach and connect with Chinese tourists is to tap into this obsession with social media and mobile payments.

AliPay app on screen

WeChat and Alipay have become two of the most valuable tools for reaching Chinese travelers. With an active userbase of 600 million – there’s no doubting the place Alipay has in the lives of China’s consumers. Alipay is the king of the castle in mobile payments – holding a majority market share in China’s surging mobile payments space.

Eager to lower the barriers for China’s population to spend abroad, Alipay has initiated a dedicated section of its app to exploring and finding merchants, no matter where you are in the world. Alipay ‘Discover’ is used for daily life and travel. All merchants who accept Alipay are automatically given a basic listing in Discover.

For those looking to maximise their real estate on the Discover platform, Smartpay can help.  Merchants simply need to provide their business’s photos, key products and contact information and Smartpay will make your listing more enticing – they will even translate your listing into Chinese for free. On top of that, a few taps on the app can set-up up a coupon or discount for Alipay users, landing your store on the front page and calling to those deal-loving tourists who have just arrived or making a spontaneous decision on what to do, buy and eat, driving both traffic and spend in your physical store.

WeChat is China’s most popular social network, accounting for 34% of China’s data traffic. To put that in perspective, Facebook accounts for just 14% in North America. WeChat’s ecosystem allows brands to create Official Accounts enabling vouchers and targeted advertising, building customized menus to suit your product/service, create personalised greetings according to the method and occasion they signed up. Businesses can also push relevant content and updates all while linking in to other corners of China’s gargantuan social media space – of which WeChat is the hub. But those are just the core features. When accounts are going above and beyond in search of some ‘x-factor’ you see the likes of loyalty programmes, booking engines, location-based services and interactive and advocacy-encouraging tools helping visitors both show off and recommend your wares to their spheres of influence, all within the WeChat platform.

But for many businesses catering to Chinese tourists, the biggest challenge of WeChat is attracting followers. Official Accounts now number 20 million, all competing for followers. Incorporating WeChat Pay gives a distinct advantage by allowing paying consumers to automatically sign up to the associated WeChat account. This then opens the door to further educate followers about your business and encourage advocacy and inspiration to their friends and family, which would have otherwise gone amiss.

Both Alipay and WeChat Pay can further increase your exposure running their own campaigns during popular travel periods such as October’s Golden Week and Chinese New Year. These often feature cashback or rebates, and for some the merchant doesn’t need to provide any discount from their own pocket to participate.

Australasia is a hotbed for Chinese tourists, and will become more popular as incomes, accessibility and confidence provides the means for more to make the down under. Getting set-up with Smartpay has the obvious benefit of seamlessly integrating Chinese travelers’ preferred methods of payment into your system – giving them the ability to both see and conduct the transaction in CNY. And while the marketing capabilities of Alipay and WeChat Pay may fly under the radar, with Smartpay’s help you can use these platforms to open your doors to more Chinese customers.

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Grow your China business with Alipay and WeChat Pay

Join us at our free seminars to learn more about Alipay and WeChat Pay – what they are, how they work and how accepting them could make your business more attractive to Chinese tourists.

We have two dates to choose from in Rotorua with more regions to be added.

  • Rotorua, 3 July – 5pm-7pm
  • Rotorua, 5 July – 10am-11.30am

Tickets are limited so book your space today.

By signing up for Smartpay’s no sign-up cost, no minimum-term payment solution, you will be staying a step ahead of those competing for Chinese tourists’ wallets.

Find out more about Smartpay’s solution to open your doors to more Chinese consumers here.

Speak with one of our Kiwi payment specialists today!

Every year our payment specialists help hundreds of businesses in all sorts of industries to get the right payment solution. Talk to us about your business today.