Why Your Global Digital Marketing KPIs Don’t Fit the China Market – And How to Fix Them
Regardless of what market you’re trying to reach, more leads and sales is probably your ultimate benchmark for success.
But how you track progress towards these goals will vary somewhat based on the market you’re in. After all, your target audience has its own unique preferences as consumers, and all of the various actions that you track on route to someone becoming a customer should reflect that.
Thus it’s imperative that you don’t use the exact same performance metrics for the China market as you do with the US or other markets. Otherwise you’ll end up with a bunch of numbers that don’t tell the real story.
Below I'll give a few examples of commonly used performance metrics that don't fit the China market that well and what you should track instead. I'll also mix in a few ideas for how to improve your landing pages and social media, as these things are all interrelated.
In the US and other Western markets, it’s common to use a contact form for lead generation. While contact forms do exist in China, they’re often not ideal for a Chinese audience for a couple reasons.
First, many CRM systems that collect data from contact forms can’t process Chinese characters, meaning Chinese have to fill in their information using Pinyin, the Romanized spelling of Chinese characters.
Depending upon the age of your target audience, asking Chinese people to fill in a bunch of fields in Pinyin may be a piece of cake or exceedingly difficult.
Yes, you can shorten the form to try to boost submissions, but one larger issue still remains.
Chinese don’t like waiting for help. They demand real-time assistance, and they’re used to getting it, especially in the online world. Go to virtually any Chinese website where a product or service is being sold and you’ll see right away the level of customer service provided.
For example, when I searched Baidu to see how to register a 400 phone number in mainland China, I came across the site below:
It has 3 different QQ chat boxes, a QR code for WeChat, a mainland Chinese phone number, and an additional chat program (乐语) that pops up on the screen if I stay on the site more than 5 seconds. Now this is real-time support.
Notice there's no "Contact Us" (联系我们) section that leads to a contact form for people to stick their email address in.
If contact form submissions is your main metric for measuring leads, your campaign data likely isn't telling you the full story. Even if you have a product people are interested in, you may only see a small number of contact forms submitted, or find that few people get back to you after you follow up.
Instead of tracking contact forms submitted as a benchmark for success, track how people are using your chat and call options. This of course means you’ll have to get a mainland China phone number and a chat program for your website, as well as invest in a Mandarin speaking customer support team. But it will make a big difference in the number of leads you generate.
You can track how many chat conversations, QR code scans, and phone calls you're generating from your different marketing channels, be it search, display, social, or some other source. This can be accomplished with UTM parameters, event tracking in Google Analytics, and Baidu’s call tracking tool, Li Xian Bao (离线宝).
You can also look at how long conversations with your support team are lasting on average, and how this is affecting your sales. If that number is decreasing and sales are going up, your customer service team is probably doing a better job and/or you’ve improved the way you present content on the site. You can also look at which specific forms of communication (e.g. QQ, WeChat, or phone) generate the most sales, and if people from specific sources prefer one form of communication over another.
Takeaway: Rather than tracking contact form submissions, use metrics that track engagement with these:
Email List Building
Marketers love picking up email addresses. But the value of building an email list is rooted in one basic assumption – that people check their email every day.
This is typically a safe assumption in Western countries, where email is a staple in business culture. But this is not the case in China. Again, this is largely a result of the real-time support Chinese are used to getting, especially online.
Email is too passive a form of communication for Chinese. And it requires a certain degree of faith, essentially that their problem will be solved by an email that won’t come for several hours or even days. Many Chinese just don’t think this way.
You may still be able to snatch up a decent number of emails for your newsletter, but your open rate and clicks will likely pale in comparison to what you’re used to with other markets. Again, you can’t take this to mean you have the wrong product or service for China. Rather, you have to take a different approach to building an online community.
If Email’s No Good, How Do I Stay in Touch with Leads and Customers?
While Chinese aren’t voracious emailers, never fear; their insatiable appetite for social media . Building your following on Chinese social media, especially WeChat and Weibo, is far superior to collecting email addresses.
Image source: wearesocial.net
Rather than making a newsletter opt-in form the centerpiece on your landing page, focus instead on drawing attention to your social media channels, especially WeChat. The majority of WeChat users check their account at least 10x per day, meaning you’ll likely have more success reaching your customers there than on any other platform.
Beyond simply tracking number of followers, track instances of meaningful engagement on social media that help drive your bigger picture campaign objectives. To avoid using “engagement” as too fluffy of a term here, I’ll give a couple examples specific to the China market.
Apart from tracking general stats like reads, shares, and comments, one specific metric you should pay attention to is the number of product or service endorsements you’re getting. Chinese buy things based on feedback from their peers, and social media is one of the first places they go to get this information.
Nurturing this virtuous cycle of positive feedback from satisfied customers is vital to your long-term success. Something as simple as a positive comment under a product photo can make a big difference. If you’re not getting user feedback on social media, try to think of a way to incentivize your customers to leave reviews, otherwise you’re short-changing yourself.
In addition to user reviews, look at how much other user-generated content is being produced by followers. This could be something as simple as people taking pictures of themselves using your products. UGC is very common on Chinese social media and is a good measure of the level of engagement you’re creating. Plus it takes some of the pressure to be a content producing machine off your shoulders.
One other thing that’s more common on social media in China than other countries is gift giving. Chinese often buy small things for their friends on social media, and some millennials, especially girls,will even ask their friends to buy them things on social media (求买).
It's perceived as a cute thing to do, and is often enough to get some Chinese boys to whip out their Alipay and save the day. Again, it's for small purchases, not BMWs or LV handbags.
If it fits with your business model, you can track how well your social media channels are facilitating gift giving. It's a clever way to drive direct sales on social media while letting your existing users do most of the marketing for you.
Takeaway: Rather than trying to build an email list and measure open rates and clicks, double down on your social media. Besides the obvious follows, shares, and comments, track how much positive feedback and other UGC you're getting, as well as leads and sales from promotions or gift giving (if it fits your business).
Many businesses offer some kind of download to potential customers. Common examples include:
- White papers
- Free trials of your product or service
Any of these can work in the China market, depending upon the specific needs of your target audience. One thing to keep in mind though is that Chinese like to preview things before they download them. For example, a video preview of your software product or glance inside the opening pages of your e-book will go a long way in increasing downloads.
Free trials tend to have the highest conversion rate of the above types of downloads. This is especially true for SaaS companies, as Chinese are very fond of new tools for their computers or mobile phones.
But Chinese, like people anywhere else, hate it when they click a free trial button and are taken to a page to input their billing information. Not only will people not go through with the download, but they'll also likely not come back to your site.
As far as content downloads go, these need to be highly relevant to your business and professionally translated. If you're just offering the same English language download you use in other markets, your numbers are going to take a hit.
Even if you're targeting English-speaking Chinese with your content, parents and other family members may become a conversion barrier if they have a say in the buying process and can't speak English, which are both likely.
Since downloads are typically given away in exchange for contact information, rather than collecting an email address, try asking for a QQ or WeChat ID, or a phone number. It will let people know that they’ll be able to talk to someone in real-time rather than exchanging emails.
Takeaway: Free trials work best, but content downloads can work too if they're really useful and professionally translated. Previews help a lot. Asking for billing info doesn't.
Organic Search Traffic
While better organic search rankings for your website is obviously an important SEO goal, this shouldn't be your only benchmark for success. Yes, improved rankings should translate to more traffic, but focusing only on how your website ranks can be problematic. To see why, check out the SERP I'm served when I search “England Travel”:
Can you find the regular organic search results on this page?
Baidu offers a number of its own highly comprehensive platforms for webusers, including a wiki, library, Q&A board, maps, travel guide, and more, all of which may take precedence over your website on SERPs. This means that even if your site is ranked number one organically, it may be buried in the SERP by Baidu's own platforms, as you see above.
Thus, it’s key to integrate Baidu's various platforms into your SEO strategy. It's also important to change the way you measure how well your SEO efforts are working.
Developing a presence on Baidu's various content platforms means a lot of people aren't going to come directly to your site after a keyword search. They may first read a post you made on a forum, download a document you uploaded to Baidu's online content library, or check out your wiki page. They may click through to your site from one of these sources if there's a link available. Or they may go back to Baidu and do a branded keyword search, or type your URL directly into their browser.
Takeaway: Rather than only focusing on how your website ranks organically, pay attention to how many of the total links on the SERPs your company controls. And in addition to only tracking changes in organic search traffic, focus on increases in direct traffic, branded keyword searches, and clicks from links in Baidu’s various content platforms. These metrics will give you a better idea about how your overall presence on Baidu is driving traffic to your website.
Hopefully this will help you get more out of your China digital marketing efforts as well as better track success. No two markets are exactly the same, so it’s important to understand the unique preferences of your target audience in choosing your performance metrics and measuring your overall campaign effectiveness.
Do you use these metrics for your China market campaigns? Are there some you use that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below.