In this article Anita Chan asked from China Experts outside of the travel & hospitality industry to share their perspective in reaching the Chinese market.
As an ex-hotelier and now assisting hoteliers to establish China Visible online branding presence in China, I always love to interact with China Experts outside the hospitality industry. First, they can always see things clearly from the users’ perspectives. More importantly, they are not bound by hotels mindset like system restrictions, operations efficiencies, etc. And to be honest, compare our industry to other industries, we are way behind in even just “doing it right” and far from using an innovative approach.
This is why I am writing this article. I have asked a few of my China Experts friends to help me out. They are all very well-known in their respective industries. I asked them to give me a paragraph on what they see other industries are doing well (and we are not) so we can all learn from these key takeaways.
First, let me start with Fionn Wright. Fionn has interviewed 50 entreprenuers and influencers who have already proven themselves in the China market under his #YourChinaDream Virtual Summit project. I am humbled to have been interviewed by Fionn and I am keen to learn from the others from other industries. As a Chinese TV personality, Fionn now focuses on coaching entrepreneurs and executives to make their mark in China.
Key takeaway from Fionn Wright
“The top universities around the world have known for decades not only to tailor experiences for their students but for prospective students of all ages. Imagine walking into the campus of Harvard as a wide-eyed teen dreaming of a future where this is your home. Chinese are willing to pay for unique experiences. Experiences are the future, stories are the path.”
“Hotels have the high-touch environments to create mind-blowing experiences for their guests but often only focus on marketing their rooms or location. The days of Chinese Tour Groups is not over but there is a growing wave of younger sophisticated tourists looking for unique experiences they can boast to their WeChat Moments, a once in a lifetime experience none of their friends have had. Let them tell your story for you. But make it easy for them, give them an experience worth writing home about. Beautiful locations are great, but life-changing experiences are gold.”
Next, we have William Bao Bean, the General Partner of a US$400m venture capital fund known as “the Accelertor VC”. William is not a total stranger to hospitality industry as he was responsible for Asia Internet, China Tech and coverage analyst on IPOs including Alibaba, Kingsoft and eLong (Expedia).
Key takeaway from William Bao Bean
“I recently moved to a new house in Shanghai and going home I fed the address of the housing compound into the Didi car service. On reaching the compound I would direct the driver to my unit inside. But after two weeks the Didi platform learned that I loved inside the compound, not at the front gate, and would direct the driver to my door. This is an example of how machine learning and artificial intelligence is driving personalization. Companies such as OCheng, founded by Anthony Xu a member the founding tech team at Alipay/Ant Financial, is leveraging machine learning to personalize each marketing message that fans of brands on WeChat receive driving 1.6-3.5x sales lift.”
“The travel and hospitality industry can learn from mobility and social commerce software companies how to leverage machine learning to drive better service through personalization.”
Then, we have Dr. Mathew Mcdougall, CEO Reach China. Matt’s special interest involves connecting western brands with Chinese consumers, working with cross border exporters and linking with strategic Chinese partners. Matt is a frequent spokeperson on marketing technology and has spoken at Ad-Tech, SES Conference & China Retail Showcase, etc.
Key takeaway from Dr. Mathew McDougall
“It’s clear that Chinese consumer brands recognize the value of user-generated content and are embracing social influence within their social media programs. When contrasting this to the practices of hoteliers, many simply post messages without a clear focus on creating communities that are actively engaging.”
“Specifically, Hoteliers need to appreciate how other sectors in China are reinventing the online recommendation system and transforming the social commerce landscape. For example, every product detail page on Jingdong (JD.com) has a forum where people can post questions, discussion topics and even pictures of the product they bought. No longer can brands simply push out information -- they must create real, and engaging interactions amongst their followers.”
Of course, we cannot miss out the very important influencers marketing perspective when we discuss China. Elijah Whaley, CMO @ Parklu, is a content producer, marketer and passionate advocate for influencer marketing innovation in China. Elijah co-founded the beauty influencer brand Melilim Fu, making her a top 5 ranked beauty influencer in China.
Key takeaway from Elijah Whaley
“PARKLU is finally starting to see an increase in long-term commitments between brands and social media influencers. Long-term sponsorship relationships allow brands to become more synonymous with an influencer in the eyes of followers. Brands that negotiate long-term contracts often use influencers for promotion and as content creators for branded channels.”
“Ultimately, it’s about finding new and novel ways to connect with customers while staying top of mind with quality social content.”
Last but not least, we have Thomas Graziani, co-founder at WalktheChat. WalktheChat is a cross-border e-commerce platform helping foreign businesses sell to China via WeChat, Weibo and other Chinese social networks. How “popular” is WalktheChat? My MD in Wuhan who already is very experienced will read every articles published by WalktheChat and learn from Thomas & his team.
Key takeaway from Thomas Graziani
“One of the big areas of improvements for many hospitality clients is about leveraging data. If a client has been staying several times at your property, how can you notify your customer service reps about it so that they have this information when answering questions? If a prospective customer is talking to you, do you know which piece of content he or she has been reading on your WeChat account or website? And when sending out a push notification to your followers, do you segment it based on their gender, location and favorite target destinations?"
“Companies in the social commerce space would be the best example. For instance, Pinduoduo collects data about users during their first 48 hours of activity and use this data to send them specific offers based on what they've been looking at/buying.”
SPECIAL THANKS to all of the above contributors.
彩蛋 Post-credits surprise!
Key takeaway from Anita Chan
“The keyword is “ME” – Mercedes Me. Quoting directly from the Mercedes-Benz press release, the venue delivers “an integrated and personalised customer journey.” There is a restaurant, bar and WeChat-photo-friendly designs. Using special on-site tech, visitors can also digitally dream up their personalised car.”
“Up till now, I do not see real personalisation happening in the hotel industry. Hoteliers are already proud if they have a pillow menu, a newspaper selection menu that their guests can choose before their arrival. Forgive my arrogance. But really is this the best we can do? How can we create an integrated and personalised customer journey like Mercedes ME?”