E-Commerce Guidance for the Chinese Market - Analytics, SEO, App Store, Customer Care & System Architecture
China is now the biggest e-commerce market in the world. There are many aspects of the Chinese market that are different from those in other countries or markets in the world. If you are thinking of entering the Chinese market, there are specific considerations for companies that are going to implement or roll-out their e-commerce platforms in China.
Table of Contents
Website Analytics Tools
Typically, Google Analytics is used for web analytics. However, since Google cannot be accessed in China, Google Analytics cannot be used for Chinese e-commerce sites. Instead, Baidu Analytics is widely used for local websites and mobile apps.
For mobile app analytics, Baidu Analytics provides an SDK that integrates with IOS, Android, and WeChat Mini Programs. The SDKs are usually kept up-to-date with changes to the mobile operating systems. Functionally, it provides many basic and advanced functions such as user trends statistics, user profile statistics, mobile equipment statistics, online users or recent visits, page visit statistics, page route statistics, user behavior thermodynamic diagram, usage habits (frequency, time, time interval), certain customized user event report, real-time report based on multi-dimensions, customized report, conversion rate statistics and more. You can find more details on https://mtj.baidu.com (note: the website only supports the Chinese language).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
In China, Baidu.com is the most popular search engine. Together with So.com, they account for more than 80% of market share searches. When considering SEO for your site, you should ensure they align with the practices that work for Baidu.com and So.com. Typically, these practices are roughly the same as Google's SEO, with the following differences:
- Google crawls your pages much faster than Baidu. For Baidu, there is a certain review period, which is unknown by the public. It could be several days or weeks or even several months. Google extracts the keywords of one page and evaluates the quality of the page content and the numbers of page links from other pages, whereas Baidu considers more from the whole website rather than which page it belongs to. IIf the website is young, then the weighting may be very low. Therefore, your website might not show up quickly in the search result, once you launch your website.
- Baidu can have difficulties recognizing the original content source. For example, when searching an article through a keyword, if a high-quality article is reproduced in another more popular website, the ranking of the latter one is often higher than the former, original one. Baidu pays more attention to where it is, but Google pays more attention to where it comes from.
- Baidu gives more weight on frequent content update behavior. This means if there are two websites, one which updates frequently, its ranking will be higher than the one without an update.
Even though there are a few differences between Baidu search and Google search, if your website adheres to recommended SEO practices, it will still get a great ranking from both Baidu and Google.
For iOS users, they will continue to use the same Apple App Store, with the regional restrictions (that is some apps available in the United States might not be available in the China App Store and vice versa).
For Android users, because Google is not accessible, the Google Play Store cannot be used either. For Chinese users, there are plenty of Android application stores. The top three are Sj.qq.com, Sj.360.cn and Shouji.baidu.com. Apart from these third-party Android App Stores, each mobile phone manufacturer has their own Android App Store, which is installed by default with the mobile phone. Examples include phones from Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo. When a company launches an app, the app is unlikely to be available in all the stores, due to the complexity of managing multiple stores. Most prefer to choose a subset of Android App Stores, starting with the most popular.
The online chat tool is very common on an e-commerce platform. It provides online customer service, which helps customers solve their questions quickly. Some typical scenarios where online chat tools are used in China include:
- Provides customer support to place orders, which means the customer service representatives are there to help provide answers to customers' questions on products, promotions, campaign and loyalty related information. Some companies integrate the online chat tool deeply with their e-commerce and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, which provides smoother user experience and increases operational efficiency. For example, once a customer logs in on an e-commerce platform and begins to chat with customer service, the customer service agent can recognize who the customer is and view the customer's profile information and historical orders in the CRM. They can then provide personalized service and appropriate recommendations.
- Provides support for after-sale services, such as order refunds, returns and exchanges. The after-sale services standards vary significantly by company. Prior to requesting a refund, return or exchange for the first time, most customers prefer to confirm the policies, check the refund calculation, validate how long it will take to process with an online customer service agent. All these factors can make a great impact on a customer's decision.
- It’s the main channel to collect customers’ feedback whether it is a complaint, suggestion or praise. If the chat tool integrates with a ticketing system, then it can automatically create a ticket which will reflect the processing result to a customer on an e-commerce platform.
In addition, customer care is also involved in digital transformation. The customer care team is often the main business user using backend systems. They are also a connection between customers and internal business processes. They stand in a key position facing the customers.
At the same time, the companies in China normally started from offline business and then build online commerce channel. Next, they break the border of channels to integrate internal business process, transform organization to provide standard, integrated and united user experience. In the early stage of a company, the customer care--from either system or organization prospective--is separate. How companies position their customer care center, whether from system integration or business organization points of view, is a mandatory and important topic that companies need to pay attention to, especially as part of a digital transformation
Given China's population of 1.4 billion people, most of which have access to the internet, a key to any system architecture is performance under load. In addition, the e-commerce giants (Alibaba Group, JD Group) are quickly developing which can be challenging for individual businesses to keep up. Your system architecture must have high-availability and be scalable. It needs to support high-concurrent visits continuously without a significant impact on the whole IT architecture.
The use of a local Content Delivery Network (CDN) is also necessary for your e-commerce platform.
This article is one article in a series about e-commerce in China. If you're interested in learning more, we encourage you to look at the other articles in this series. The introduction can be found here.