“If you’re going to San Francisco…” is the opening line to a 1960s song by Scott McKenzie. It is also the perfect segue into talking about Chinese language websites. Why you ask? San Francisco International Airport is the first U.S. airport to launch a Chinese-language version of their website.
The airport recognized its status as a growing hub of travel between the United States and China. U.S. Census data finds that 45.2 percent of the population in San Francisco County speaks a language other than English at home. As of the 2010 Census, there were about 172,181 Chinese Americans living in the San Francisco Bay Area, which equals 21.4 percent of the total population.
The site, pictured below, looks similar to the English version, but it is localized for a Chinese audience. The airlines are listed alphabetically using the Simplified Chinese alphabet, and a social media stream offers updates using Youku (China’s version of YouTube). Most importantly, the site is SEO-friendly and accessible in the People’s Republic of China, as it is hosted behind a firewall in country.
What can you learn from San Francisco International Airport’s decision to localize their website? They identified a need and found a solution. Does this apply to you? Absolutely! Global ecommerce was forecasted to take off this year, in the Asia Pacific region more than ever. According to eMarketer, this marks the first year that this region will surpass North America in spending, with China taking in six out of every ten dollars spent! Another prediction is that China will surpass the United States as the world’s largest ecommerce market by 2016.
So how do you make an effective Chinese website? Here are some tips:
1. Understand the Chinese consumer
What does the Chinese consumer look like? Right now, China is the world’s second largest consumer market. And good news for global marketers; they love foreign brands! This is especially true of new products introduced to China, luxury goods, fashion and apparel, premium cars, and instances where consumers to not trust local brands, such as powdered baby milk.
One challenge in understand the Chinese consumer is brand hopping. This article in The Economist says that brand hopping is common because the economic is constantly growing and changing. Therefore, consumer taste evolves with it. It’s important to recognize this as a challenge, but with such a large consumer base, the reward is too great to ignore! The key is great global marketing – localizing your materials and web content to appeal to the Chinese consumer in creative and attention-getting ways. Speak their language!
2. Don’t get lost in translation
Do a quick search under “Chinese translation fails” and there will be ample results that make you giggle. But when it comes to your own global marketing and website content, it is no laughing matter! When creating content for your Chinese-language website, think about what region you want to reach. Are you looking to reach the People’s Republic of China or Hong Kong? This is important as they use two different alphabets – Simplified (PRC) or Traditional (Hong Kong). Using people who live in your target market to develop or translate content will help in reaching Chinese consumers effectively because they will know about the culture and correct terms to use.
3. Understand SEO in China
As of April 2014, the top search engine in China was Baidu by an overwhelming majority; “Google it” is not a part of the vernacular in China. Just like the Great Wall of China exists along China’s northern border, so does a Great Firewall of China, the Golden Shield, which affects the way people in China access the Internet. This article from Search Engine Land offers great tips, twelve to be exact, to help you succeed with Chinese SEO. Locally hosting a Chinese website will help make it move faster. Also, using a .cn country code top level domain (CCTLD) is required. Localization testing can be done to check to see if your website is SEO-friendly, the content is effective, and all images and text are culturally-relevant.
Twenty-two percent of the world’s Internet users are in China. This number continues to grow. It is important to remember that no two marketing strategies are the same. This is especially true with your website.