If you have a beauty Brand, selling health products or market a fashion brands you ask yourself, should I sell to consumers directly or to business (Dealers, retailers, Distributors)?
Good First question , we will try to reply in this article
What B2B and B2C marketing have certainly in common is that they both have to go digital in China.
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The 2021 Chinese e-commerce revenues reached more than US$1500 billion, a year-over-year increase of 15%.
Covid 19 has only accelerated the trend. Sporadic outbreaks across China and an unforeseen end of strict restrictions should push the trend further.
Different targets imply different strategies. But what are the biggest differences when it comes to marketing toward a B2B buyer or a B2C buyer?
Driven by emotions vs Driven by value
To simplify at ecommercechinaagency: B2C consumers in China tend to be driven by emotion. By the desire for social recognition acquiring a good, by trend, by conviction. Storytelling and influencers are major factors in their decision-making.
Joined by the whole customer journey experience
Let’s take the example of a young 30 years old Chinese lady, with high income who want to buy honey. She has plethora of choice on the market, how will she choose?
She will tend to choose the most luxurious product to affirm its high social status (social recognition). In that case the price, the packaging, the storytelling and the values the brand diffuses will impact her choice.
Value, logic, ROI, and finance drive on the other hand the B2B buyers. They are looking for value, and knowledgeable content and are influenced by facts, logic, and rationality.
They have one point in common, both B2C and B2B buyers are savvy.
They both will look for info about your companies online before considering buying. And as both types are not adventurous (B2B even less). They will check if other buyers bought from you and what they say about you on forums, and sales reviews. They will also check what the media say about you. Chinese buyers are influenced by the word of mouth, and your online reputation is decisive in their purchase decision.
If a factory manager needs to buy a new packaging assembly line, he will carefully take time to compare the offers. He will compare technical specs, the price, the delivery time…He will not be sensible to the storytelling of the suppliers, will not buy in a compulsive way. He will take time to gather solid proofs to validate the purchase, after all if anything goes wrong it will be its responsibility. He will be extra cautious.
Buyers’ journey lengths
A B2C purchase decision is most of the time simpler as it implies only 1 to 2 people. It takes only of few hours, days, or weeks before the buyer takes its decision. The marketing should be product-driven, and attention-grabbing made to push the buyer to take a decision quickly. (Livestream promotion, O2O promotion, Buzz, social media, games, vouchers, shopping festivals, KOL…)
The lady who buys its honey will not have to validate its purchase with any other people than herself. Its ego will largely drive its choice. If a famous classy actress promotes the honey, she may identify to this actress and want to buy this honey.
B2B : dealing with people in Business first in China
B2B = Guanxi , realtionship between People or your network.
It implies generally a group of people, and marketing should reach each of the people involved in the purchase decision. The marketing should be relation driven as numerous back and forths between the different parties involved. It should help nurture the prospects as it faces a longer sales cycle taking months to years.
The bigger challenge for the production manager who needs to buy its packaging assembly line will have to convince and share info with many actors within its company. Having easily shareable info will help him into its purchasing purchase. E.g.: easily shareable e-brochure on WeChat.
Differences in communication in China (be careful)
As B2C involves a wider audience, communication should be easy to understand, more visual, and attention-grabbing. Playing on emotions with good storytelling. Eye-catching with attractive photos and videos, and working with celebrities/KOL/KOC…are legions.
Engaging with B2C consumers is vital, the more you engage, the more you are visible, and the more people will consider buying your brand. With dozens of social media apps adapted to target B2C consumers, it opens widely the field of possibilities. Depending on the products, and your target (age, education, location, social class…), it’s important to choose the right ones to reach effectively the right population.
How to communicate in B2B in China?
B2B marketing communication should bring insightful, useful content to the buyer. B2B are expecting you to share your expertise and knowledge. Sharing product specs is the basis. Having a top expert in your company sharing advice on how to use your products, and sharing infographics, and videos explaining the way your product works…is a non-neglecting way to retain professional buyers’ attention.
Social Media, B2C or B2B in China?
As for social media, their use is not as critical as it is for B2C consumers, nevertheless, they might not be underestimated. If you have to choose one, WeChat is the one you should incorporate into your marketing strategy. When getting in touch with you, most buyers will look if you have a WeChat account. They will first go to your website and check if you have a WeChat QR code.
It is a perfect medium to exchange with them as the use of e-mails is slowly approaching 0. The perfect way to nurture them is by sharing posts replacing the classic newsletter, having an integrated easily shareable brochure…
As B2C behaviors tend to rub off on B2B’s, we see now an increasing number of B2B companies using traditionally B2C social media. Like Douyin (Tik-Tok) to communicate with a certain type of B2B audience (very young ones).
“China for China”
For both B2B and B2C you should focus communication on “China for China”. As more and more buyers have a preference for local products and foreign products adapted to the Chinese market. But you should also be cautious when communicating about “sensitive” topics. Info might not be accessible on the Chinese internet when you communicate on some topics abroad. But official media controlled by the government would not hesitate to spread the word if you share some controversial thoughts. This is what happened to the fast fashion giant H&M.
They have been banned from the Chinese internet for 16 consecutive months (Brick and mortar shops invisibles on Baidu maps, Tmall store closed…), after H&M claimed they won’t source cotton from Xinjiang. It is not only happening to foreign companies: Li-ning number 1 Chinese sportwear brand recently receive severe backlashes after launching a new line of clothes strangely similar to the outfit wore by the Japanese soldiers who invaded China in the 30’s.
Marketing in China requires constant care
In a country where the lines move as fast as the speed of light, marketing in China requires constant care, attention, and adaptation if you don’t want to be lagged behind. It’s constantly like jumping on the bandwagon. And despite the differences seen above between B2B and B2C marketing, you should never underestimate its importance in this ultra-digitalized era.