The 300,000,000 user opportunity! Been thinking about the next gig for some of my consulting clients. Where can you find the growth that we used to enjoy back in the early days of the internet? The answer (as ever these days) could be China. Cracking this market and it?s ?Golden Shield? will be essential for growth over the next 2 decades. When it comes to selling online to China the basic theory goes: ?Never assume anything about how the Chinese online markets work. And don?t try to replicate what you?ve already done in the West.? The growth of Anglo-Chinese digital marketing agencies with offices in both the East and West can claim substantial and up-to-date insider knowledge spanning both cultures. Of course, the sheer scale of china's digital market is widely known: an estimated level of US$300bn in online sales were achieved in 2013 (up from US$210bn in 2012) 2014 is set to blow that away despite a slowing economy online is still growing, with 300m registered online consumers it?s a market you?d want to get into. How do you tap into the Chinese market? The good news is that Western and specifically heritage (British) goods have a strong advantage over other countries. The Chinese really appreciate their association with cultural heritage and quality and UK companies can play to that. But Chinese consumers still insist on validating any company and its products through social media. The idea is that in China Peer-to-peer recommendation is much more valued than among western consumers. It relates closely to the ancient cultural preference for collectivism and the resulting oft-cited guanxi system of working through close networks of relationships to ensure quality, a trait that is being leveraged in the west by a growing number of companies and their know your customer / social media recommendation policy. It also explains why, for instance, research shows Chinese urban consumers, albeit fast adopters of new media technology, get annoyed with mobile phone ads after three views. For Twitter and Facebook, which didn?t catch on in China, they have their own versions Weibo and WeChat. Not simply monetizing thorough Ads they have developed a position where consumers also buy, often large amounts, of product through them. Conversely for the B2B community, it?s Linkedin that has taken the lead in this growth area! To get into the mind and wallet of the Chinese growing consumer class western exporters must appreciate social media in China goes far beyond brand awareness. Tmall - where you need to be to sell in China. Linking all this together are the market sites. Tmall is the leader, a virtual B2C department store (including different ?floors?) along the lines of Amazon Market BUT MUCH BIGGER: on ?Singles Day?, the chinese equivalent of thanksgiving sales (the biggest shopping day of the year). On the 11 November last year, Tmall received 250m UNIQUE visitors!!!. Earlier this year Apple set up its stall in Tmall alongside many other international mega-brands and local sellers. Indeed its considered an effective entry point for new customers goods exporters and Tmall?s recent first-ever English language guide http://about.tmall.com/?spm=3.6635901.0.0.d9BImx#place shows its very keen to encourage them. Where credit cards and paypal are unpopular in China, transactions go through the highly efficient and dependable payments system run by Tmall?s owner, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Is there an alternative to Tmall? B2B exporters, and indeed many B2C players wanting to show more than Tmaills format allows, will want to set up their own website. Alongside the general benefits of localisation, hosting inside China is recommended. Among other things, the government's ?Golden Shield? often filters against undesired foreign content slows sites down to a crawl, even if you are squeaky clean. SEO in China? Google who? It?s all about Baidu Google search is a virtual non-starter: Baidu is the default search engine for 80% of users but be aware it?s much sophisticated. It?s essential to understand its deficiencies and work your SEO efforts around them. What works in the US won?t work in China, and vice versa. The basic design of the websites themselves shouldn't be too fancy. The most common browser used in China is one most users elsewhere have upgraded years ago, the worst of all IE?s Internet Explorer 6!. IE6 doesn?t cope well with flashy imagery and much more than a basic site which is why web design is pretty undeveloped in China, but that?s not to say it?s simple, creating a site to run well on IE 6 is an art in itself. Finally the lack of western style marketing and infomercials sits well with Chinese customers who have a much greater demand for trust-and-relationship-building information. For instance, pay-per-click advertising works well for B2B but potential customers will want pages and pages of content - it may not be pretty but it engages - and even then to convert they will still really want to know who you are.