China, as number two in the world economy, has always had its own distinctiveness, especially when it comes to digital culture. The provision of internet services only started late in 1996, and by 2000 the total share of internet users was only 1.8% of its total population. Today, the number of internet users has exceeded over 800 million users, making China the country with the most internet users in the world.
Since then, technology and internet companies are quickly growing non-stop. The use of WeChat and Alipay increased from single-purpose apps to a wide range of different functions, from chatting with friends, renting a bike, paying for a taxi, buying train tickets, booking a hotel or grabbing movie tickets, to topping up your mobile, paying your electricity bill, ordering food delivery, shopping online or even sending gifts to your friends and family. All of these can be accomplished by just using one single app. Paying cash is no longer state-of-the art in the urban cities of China. In fact, not using digital payment methods leads to social exclusion, as nowadays, most services in China are online, while some are exclusively online and merely accessible by apps.
Furthermore, the craze for QR codes is also an integral part of daily digital life in China, where also beggars and street performers present a QR code to receive donations. Even the coffee culture, which is enjoying growing popularity and began with the entry of Starbucks into the Chinese market, is not immune to digitalization. With Starbucks in China, the orders can be received through the company’s Wechat mini-program, so with the app, customers can order and pay, with the options of picking up the order at a nearby store, or to have it delivered to an address.
KFC in China is stepping up their game even more with food delivery service by robots and drones, or (with another more traditional option) by humans through the delivery services Meituan and Ele.me.
Whereas Alibaba's Hema grocery supermarkets, with operations in over a hundred cities in China, customers use their phone to scan a QR code at their table and begin ordering from the menu all through the Hema app. From the dish preparation that requires a preparation by humans, then are delivered to tables by the robots, hence, it is providing a frictionless customer experience.
Design in red and gold is not enough.
Before you enter the Chinese market, what could be your first impression of it? It is surely not enough to just translate your brand’s content into Chinese and change every color to red and gold to thrive in the Chinese market. For a better approach, and without losing the brand’s own DNA, the design of your brand needs to be adapted to the Chinese culture, and not just variated by colours.
An important key factor here is the mobile accessibility: According to eMarketer.com, in 2018, from the total of over 840 million internet users, 80% of them are accessing the internet from their smartphones.
Whilst CNNIC said, when it comes to online purchase, 95% of Chinese users prefer to access the Internet from their mobile devices, it goes without saying that Chinese netizens consider smartphones as their primary device.
On average, Chinese people spend 3 hours daily on their smartphones for different purposes: ordering meals, hailing a taxi, paying transports and of course, online shopping. For this reason, it is crucial for brands to have an adapted design that delivers the right message through the right device, to the right audience.
Chinese users prefer a greater level of content details, especially on e-commerce platforms. This is partially due to two reasons. First, Chinese educational training is reading and writing. A better content description gives the users a better understanding. Second, customers want to make sure that they are not buying pirated goods. A brand needs to provide the necessary amount of information in order to let the customers feel safe and confident to make their buying decision.
A key element for convincing potential customers is a page section which highlights origins, ingredients and manufacturing dates. Good content is completed by nice and clear images, to make customers feel welcomed and to encourage them to purchase. The visuals for holidays and campaigns are crucial and essential to reach the sales targets.
To create a plentiful interface, gradients are used in the background and buttons placed to soften the vivid colors for readability. When it comes to scenarios, they are more emotional compared to western web photos, and store images usually show a lot of storytelling and entertainment.
Compared to the past, designing in China has become more exciting because it now allows more room for designer creativity and innovative functions which combine not only e-commerce but also social media channels. In some respects, China has become the leader for several new trends in the design world.