EU SME CENTRE x NIHAO MEDIA GROUP

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EU SME CENTRE approach NIHAO MEDIA GROUP to share experiences and knowledge from our collaborations with Chinese influencers.

Original published by EU SME Centre.

The importance of using Chinese Key-opinion leaders as part of your market strategy

In a country with a population of over 1.3 billion people, China’s size and scale can be a big challenge for SMEs. While the potential is enormous and unique, there need to be a profound understanding of the ecosystem and consumer habits in China for anSME to succeed. The demand and consumer base are constantly growing and foreign companies have the opportunity to use different ways to brand and establish themselves in China for a long-term market success. The following article will introduce how to use KOL as a strategic marketing tool for SMEs in China.

KOLs Increasing Influence Among Chinese Online Consumers

Chinese consumers integrate a major part of their life with social media platforms, including reading the news, personal updates and staying in contact with work and social life. The digital ecosystem has been growing exponentially in the past years and the Chinese cannot go throughout their day without using apps. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that online key-opinion-leaders (KOLs) are a big influence on online consumers purchasing behaviour.                        

KOLs are often experts who influence a consumer’s opinion about a brand, product or service. Therefore, developing a KOLs strategy is is of increasing importance for the branding of SMEs in the market. . KOLs have a huge followers network, with millions of fans being inspired who trust  their  opinions and recommendations. These thought leaders are powerful in influencing the buying behaviour of potential consumers. With the steady growth of Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat, NICE, DouYin or Weibo, Chinese digital influencers are growing as well. Moreover, KOLs are becoming more and more diverse, covering different industries and niche markets. Therefore, SMEs can find the thought leaders in their market niche and target potential consumers.

It is interesting for SMEs to consider KOL marketing as a step to gain brand recognition in the Chinese market since the Chinese consumers are often seeking for recommendation and reviews on social platforms

According to Accenture, over 70% of the Gen Z generation in China turns to social media for purchasing products [1]. The collaboration with KOLs is thus crucial when targeting a market,  because of the influence they have on  consumers’ perspective on the company and their products and services.

 

Tailored KOLs Marketing Campaigns

In the wide variety of market segments, EU SMEs can use different ways to engage and grasp the many opportunities offered by the Chinese market. Here, some ways KOL marketing can be used in different industry sectors.

  • Personal Care: KOLs can be asked to use a company’s products in order to share their overall experience with their base fan base;

  • Retail Industry: SMEs can send items to KOLs to be reviewed so that they can advertise the brand in different ways, from pictures to creative videos. Different niches market will require different ways to present the products;

  • Education and parenting sector: SMEs can also work with KOLs focused on family-related topics. “Mom” thought leaders who share with other mothers and inspire them to use certain products or services can be the lead for the SME to promote themselves and get recognition;

  • Hospitality sector: In the area of hospitality, the easiest way to use KOL marketing is by inviting the thought leaders to the café, restaurant or hotel. They can then document their experience through pictures and videos or even livestream their stay and share it with their fan base. It can be either a short visit in the desired location or the participation to a bigger event. Organisations can also invite KOLs on a trip where they work with different brands and share their journey with their fans. Earlier this year the KOL RachelRach visited Copenhagen and shared her trip online in this cool video. There are many advantages in the hospitality sector to work with KOLs and it is an important marketing tool in other parts of the world to invite influencers for a complimentary stay.

 

Some final advice for SMEs 

Always keep track of market and consumer preferences changes

The Chinese market can’t be narrowed down and the complex market is diverse and constantly changing. EU SMEs must understand that there is no universal key to success in China and the methods that worked for one company might not work for their own SMEs. Therefore, it is important to constantly keep up with the changes in the market.

Research and understanding of ecosystem and market

EU SMEs should conduct proper research in order to understand the surrounding market and ecosystem in which its business is located. Furthermore, it is important not only to  acknowledge the digital platforms in China but also to know how to use them as a marketing tool, as well as the understanding of the consumer behaviour and needs.

Choose the right KOL

If understanding the market is one key factor, choose and work the right KOL in the right niche market and with the right audience is also crucial. Agencies in China can help the SMEs to find the perfect match and can support them in finding a KOL with real fan base and engagement.

Have a long-term focus

The campaigns with KOLs need to focus on long-term success and not only on a short-term push for the SMEs. The focus should be on a long-term marketing strategy to break into the Chinese market and establish brand recognition and trust. One or two campaigns might give the SME a quick head start. However, it is important in the long run to have established campaigns and relationships with KOLs.

Rasmus Gregersen