Comment: How critical are Chinese virtual communities to your business?

Comment: How critical are Chinese virtual communities to your business?
Peggy Li
Published: 25 October 2019 - 3:30 p.m.
We all know the power of TripAdvisor and Zonatgo and the platforms’ profound impact on reputation management. Virtual word-of-mouth is impacting consumers’ purchase behaviour and our sales, marketing, and PR strategies.

The main social media and online review platforms reach all but the burgeoning Chinese-speaking audiences, which remain firmly connected to Chinese social media and review platforms. Many of us have no idea what these platforms are, how conusmers use them, and what benefits they hold for hoteliers or restaurateurs getting involved in them.

Since the introduction of visas on arrival for travellers from mainland China to the UAE and, more recently, KSA, the make-up of Chinese visitors has changed and evolved. Sure, fully inclusive “coach” tours are still coming and continue to provide quantity, though perhaps not necesarrily, spending power, but there is also a new wave of FITs, which is steadily growing. They’re young (on average 25 – 45 years old) and have a higher average spend (approx. USD 4,500/week). They’re also very likely to do virtually all thri trip planning and intineray arranging online while they are still at home.

E-commerce is popular with Chinese consumers and, in the travel space, leads the way, closely followed by as the preferred travel booking aggregate. Both, when taken together with advanced e-payment platforms like AliPay or WeChat Pay offer seasmless booking and payment experiences to Chinese consumers looking to book trips abroad.

China is the world’s largest social media market and according to McKinsey’s Digital Consumer Trends Report 2019, Chinese consumers spend 44% of their time online, the majority of which is spend on social platforms and apps like WeChat, Weibo, TikTok, iQIYI, and Tencent Video.

Attention and conversion rates are impressive, helping companies increase their sales and brand awareness. 50% of respondents mentioned that they familiarized themselves with a product via social media, while 25% acquired products directly through social media channels.

The report emphasizes that peer-to-peer reviews, interaction with KOLs (“key opinion leaders”, a.ka. “inlfuencers”) and user-generated content have prompted 40% of respondents to acquire a product they didn’t intend to buy.

McKinsey concludes that professional, industry-specific, knowledge is required to optimize and grow omnichannel engagement and that attention has to be paid to clear audience analytics to determine what channels are relevant to your brand.

Many of the industry’s major players are well aware of this trend and are actively working with their teams in China to manage their other regions’ Chinese social media strategies, however they still mostly focus on accommodation and very few, if any attention is being paid to F&B and MOD opportunities. It’s important to understand that Chinese travellers do not just book (and pay) accommodation online, but are looking to book and pre-pay as many elememts of their trip as possible, which is partially due to the restrictions on taking cash out of China (the max. allowed is currently approx. USD 5,000/person).

Restaurants and attractiosn would do well to take a closer look at getting involved with Chinese social media and e-commerce platforms, because the opportunities and the ROI are considerable.

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