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How to Stand Out From the E-commerce Crowd in China

  |  April 25, 2012   |  Comments   |  

In contrast, online and offline retailers in Hong Kong and international brands have been smart about targeting customers.

In view of the recent rapid expansion of e-commerce sites in China through public financing, many have been networking overseas to develop global businesses and expand quality database. However, growth has gradually decelerated declined in recent years, following the high-speed penetration of e-commerce earlier. Inevitably, 2012 becomes the most challenging and competitive year for e-commerce in mainland China.

What makes an e-commerce site stand out from the crowd? Global brands have started noticing the shopping power of the world's most populous country, with an array of brands opening their online stores on Taobao Mall. A growing number of online retailers are continuously working with massive customer databases in China - we are here talking about millions of contacts. As a result, the time and effort to execute any kind of marketing or customer targeting is extraordinary huge.

Customer Lifecycle to Raise Customer Loyalty

Comparatively, numerous online and offline retailers in Hong Kong and international brands from fast-moving consumer goods industry, usually with customer database not more than one million, are precisely planning strategic marketing campaigns and targeting customers. They classify the right clusters of customers, such as active group, sleeping customer, forward-to-friends lover, VIP members, and general members according to different behaviors. The segments will be further matched with the customer lifecycle, following corresponding integrated online and offline activities. It is proven to bring effective and responsive results.

Customer lifecycle is worth giving some thought to in order to raise customer loyalty. First-time customers are mostly trying to buy. If they have a positive experience throughout all touch points, from new member welcoming, targeted product offers, regular eDMs, to customer service surveys, they are much more likely to turn into a loyal customer.

This is one reason why online retailers looking to tap into the China market often resort to tactical promotional activities. In favor of efficiency, they tend to give up too quickly on inactive members or sleepers and ultimately fail to leverage the full value of a customer throughout his or her lifecycle with the brand. But many online retailers in China are too single-minded and sales driven.

In contrast, approaches adopted in Hong Kong are much more mature and foresighted. Hong Kong retailers are generally dealing with a much smaller database, about one-tenth of what their counterparts in China are working with, which makes targeted marketing more feasible.

Consumers shopping online for the first time hold the potential for becoming a brand's loyal customer base. It is important to distinguish between user types on online and offline platforms by focusing on different consumer psychology and characteristics.

Tactics to Manage Active Followers and Inactive Sleepers

Allowing consumers to achieve the effect of feeling at home and brand loyalty, marketers should make use of the whole customer lifecycle. That includes launching welcoming programs after acquiring prospects that include a series of targeted and personalized product promotions, new product notifications, and periodic branding eDMs to convert prospects into VIP customers. Marketers should also undertake creative activities to stimulate sleeping customers. Campaigns should be followed by nonscheduled brand and service surveys to achieve customer engagement.

Through real-time tracking capability, reports of real-time click-through rates, page views, follows, and feedback can be retrieved after releasing promotion campaigns. Therefore, marketers can understand which parts of the email caught the most eyeballs for better brand monitor and promotion quality. However, the China market remains to be improved in view of the online campaigns narrowly focusing on over simplified product categories. This level of tracking and targeting is still very uncommon in China, but in reality it is feasible with automated technology support.

Wise Selection of Integrated Media Platforms

Smart and shrewd consumers understand and appreciate the efforts of brands and e-commerce on trying to get to know them individually concerning their needs and preference. The success of e-commerce and online retailers is not dependent on single medium, but also a wise selection of media platforms based on advanced segmenting and targeting customer groups.

Despite the ever-changing business environment, the core value of marketing remains unchanged: By heart to pursue quality instead of quantity, and the genuine needs to achieve two-way interactive communication.

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Francis Kwok

Francis Kwok is the founder and CEO of Radica Systems. Radica has become a leading e-marketing solution provider in six markets in Asia Pacific under his leadership. He has worked closely with Chanel, Mercedes-Benz, Global Sources, CTrip, BenQ China, Li Ning Company, and others, and works to enable enterprises to develop highly effective e-marketing campaigns with advanced personalisation technology.

With numerous experiences in the domain, Francis is also a regular author and guest speaker in Asia. Currently, Francis holds an executive position at the Hong Kong Association of Interactive Marketing. He is also a council member of iProA (Internet Professional Association) and a business adviser of SUCCESS of Hong Kong Trade and Industry Department.

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