With the rapidly growing Chinese economy, a population of 1.3 billion people and 700 million internet users, the Chinese market is one of the most influential markets to target. But stop and think first, when targeting any foreign market you must understand the different digital marketing platforms available and nuances in consumer behaviour.

Search marketing in China

Search is one of the most popular Internet services in China and should be at the heart of all digital strategies.

The Chinese market is populated by technologies and services not commonly recognised in the Western World. In the UK, Google has ‘woven itself into the core fabric of internet usage’ and now accounts for 92% of UK internet searches, whereas Baidu is the main search engine in China holding 70% of the market share.

Although 90% of Internet searches take place on Baidu, Qihoo 360’s market share grew in 2013 illustrating the growth in its popularity.

Baidu also offers the equivalent to Google Analytics and AdWords as well as contextual ads, similar to Google’s Display Network. In China, 95% of a user’s time is spent on content rich websites and with 60 million web pages indexed by Baidu, this is considered an effective advertising tool to reach the Chinese market.

Social media marketing in China

Social media also proves hugely popular in China with 91% of Chinese Internet users signed up to a social network. On average, 46 minutes of every day is spent on social networks and Chinese users are reported to be heavily influenced by what they read online. Although there are strict government restrictions over Facebook and Twitter, these are still accessed via Virtual Private Networks (VPN). Despite this, local networks tend to be more popular and take precedence over Western networks:

  • Sina Weibo: Sina Weibo is the most popular social network in China accruing over 500 million users and 280 million reported active users
  • Pengyou: part of the Tencent QQ network, this local alternative to Facebook has 259 million users and allows users to connect with both friends and brands
  • Tencent Weibo: this channel is gathering traction in the marketplace with 230 million active users
  • Ren Ren: having launched its app in 2013, the network has built up a following of over 194 million users primarily consisting of students, teens and those born in the 90’s
  • Kaixin: similar to Ren Ren, this has 113 million users and has a majority user base of generation Y and white-collar workers
  • YouKu: this local alternative to YouTube, racked up 1.3 billion viewing minutes in 2013 and is on a trajectory of continued growth within the Chinese market.

Mobile web marketing

As witnessed in other countries across the globe, mobile web has taken off in the Chinese market. This market is vastly lucrative and confidence in m-commerce (mobile ecommerce) is stronger than in many Western markets, with m-commerce transactions reaching a massive $27.5 billion in 2013. This in combination with desktop usage falling 15% in the first nine months of 2013 illustrates a strong argument for optimising for mobile web users to market effectively to the Chinese online audience.


When looking to target the Chinese market, the most appropriate platform is dependent upon the audience you wish to target and the message you’re trying to communicate. However, there are a few general tips to help you on your way to success:

This is just the tip of the iceberg when considering marketing online to the any international market. We’ll continue to look at a number of other countries and how local platforms and user behaviours influence digital marketing best practice.