Understanding how to engage with Chinese in Australia

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Understanding how to engage with Chinese in Australia

Target your marketing to a profitable, growing cohort; Chinese Australians. Head of Cross-Cultural Insights, Isabel Zhang discusses the key tips to consider when engaging with the Chinese in Australia.

There’s a lot of talk about the opportunity for Australian businesses to export to China (and rightly so, the export opportunity was 110.4 billion in 2016/17). However, often overlooked is a huge opportunity for businesses to engage with the Chinese community here in Australia. People with Chinese ancestry represent a large and growing audience. According to the 2016 census, there are 1.2 million Chinese people living in Australia, up from 557,000 in 2001. That’s a 115% growth rate and it’s unlikely to slow down. In addition to sheer size and growth, the spending power of Chinese migrants has been well documented. All summed up, this is not an audience that businesses can afford to ignore

Marketers are missing the mark

Engaging with the Chinese community in Australia is easier said than done. It requires a tailored approach based on a keen understanding of their unique needs.

A study conducted by Bastion Insight showed not many companies are getting this right today. Only 39% of Chinese migrants agree that Australia companies ‘understand their needs’, yet 66% of Chinese migrants state that they “would prefer to buy brands that show they understand the Chinese community”.

So, how can businesses get this right? Below are three key tips to consider when trying to engage with this segment.

Invest in Research

Full disclaimer, I work for a research company.  So, yes this tip is self-serving, but it is the truth. To engage with this audience you need to have a deep understanding of Chinese migrant’s needs in the context of the products and services you offer.  Gather as much research and become knowledgeable about your Chinese customer’s background. This is critical to help craft an effective data-driven strategy.

This sounds easy enough, but conducting research with the Chinese community can be challenging. Chinese migrants are not easy to reach via traditional market research (underrepresented or not represented on online research panels). Further, there are varying levels of English language proficiency, and most Chinese migrants do not speak English at home. To really understand this segment research needs to be conducted by native speaking moderators and surveys need to be translated into Mandarin.

Finally, experienced researchers who understand this segment know that the integration of cultural context is important in every stage of the research process. They understand that the Chinese interpret some concepts differently than others. They also know how important it is to dig deep into the insights to uncover behaviors, mindsets, and attitudes worth noting and those that are particularly sensitive. Dolce & Gabbana may not have thought it was important to understand the changing cultural landscape but it appears to have been an expensive mistake. Reuters reported that the brand may lose as much as half a billion dollars in revenue following an outcry over racially offensive posts on their social media accounts.

In order to accurately represent the voice of the Chinese migrant consumer, marketers should be asking if the research fully captures the truth of this segment. Ask the following questions:

  • Is the data fully representative of the Chinese migrant population?
  • Does the survey translation capture meaning and nuance correctly?

Identify unique channels

If we want to engage the Chinese community we need to be reaching them through the right channels. There are three ways to think about this. What media are they consuming, what touch-points do they use and how do they buy products/ services in my category?

For example, a recent study about travel by The Golden Voice community found that 39% of Chinese migrants use Chinese travel sites when researching holidays vs. 16% that use English travel sites. This same study found that over half (59%) are “much more likely to buy from a shop that offers WeChat pay”. Both of these examples demonstrate the importance of tailoring your channels (both media and payment) to better cater to the Chinese community in Australia.

Demonstrate cultural knowledge

The majority of the 1.2 million people living in Australia with Chinese ancestry are 1st generation migrants – only 25% were born in Australia. Chinese heritage and traditions are still a big part of their identity. At a basic level, companies need to cater to this via in-language communications. We’ve found 82% speak a language other than English at home with Mandarin (46%) the most popular, followed by Cantonese (22%). This is supported by 51% of Chinese migrants stating that they would “like to see more Australia companies communicate in Mandarin”.

Beyond creating in-language communications companies can also include references to Chinese culture (e.g. use of Red or Gold) and recognise cultural events (e.g. Singles Day or Lunar New Year). 49% said they like it when Australian companies celebrate Lunar New Year. It doesn’t have to be an overt message but can simply act as a nod of understanding of Chinese Culture.

Addressing Missing Gaps

We go to where they are. We host our Golden Voice community, a one of kind research platform focusing on Chinese Australians, through WeChat platform. Everything is conducted in their native language, Mandarin. This is to ensure we uncover the cultural truth in the most authentic way.

Interested in learning more about marketing to Chinese Australians? Read our blog; How to Create an Effective Chinese New Year Campaign.
Want to hear more from Bastion Insights Head of Cross-Culture, Isabel Zhang? Read about her leader journey in A Leader Among Us.

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