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China Digital Conference brings experts on China’s online market to Melbourne and Sydney. It’s kind of a big deal.

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It’s no secret that China has a rapidly growing business marketplace, attracting Australia’s (and the worlds’) attention.

More than 10 China online experts, including executives from Alibaba, Tencent and China Telecom, shared their insights into the latest development and trends of China online market.

Organised by Australian Business Forum, the conference attracted business owners and marketing managers from Australian SMEs that are embracing the growing online marketplace in China.

This whole internet thing is kinda big in China

“591 million internet users; average 21 online hours per week; 271 million online shoppers,” said Mark Tanner from the Shanghai-based digital agency China Skinny, shared some impressive numbers at his opening speech.

He emphasized the importance for companies to build their online presence in China, since “38% of the brand awareness is created online and 48 per cent purchase intent is made on company websites.”

One search engine fits all (in China)

Dean Capobianco from China Search International, Baidu’s largest international reseller, introduced the advertising solutions on China’s most popular search engine. With Google missing from the China market it is crucial for any business in China to look at Baidu to optimize their online exposure.

(Anti) social media presents challenges

China has its own complex social media landscape, with Facebook and Twitter both banned. It requires a strategic approach including localizing the products and messages.

According to Ashley McVey, the social media expert from Next Digital Group, social media has changed Chinese consumers’ shopping behaviours as “Chinese consumers are increasingly opting for quality goods at higher prices and adopting online shopping and social media to gather product information.”

“43 per cent of Chinese Netizens are interested in products shared by friends on social networking sites, and 38 per cent of Chinese Netizens take shopping decisions based on recommendations on their social networks,” added Ashley.

Mark Tanner shared a similar view by appointing that “95% Chinese Netizens trust a brand more if they’ve seen it on social media.”

Opportunities for Aussies

Tony Shu, the Australian Representative of Tencent WeChat, one of China’s most influential social media networks, shared a couple case studies on how WeChat helps Australian businesses to increase their brand awareness, showcasing the fact that WeChat is in the process of globalizing and switching its focus from individuals to businesses.

According to Tony, WeChat has created certain opportunities for some types of businesses to expand into the Chinese market in a less complicated way.  For example, retailers can now establish e-stores on WeChat to receive orders from China, directly.

China Telecom announced its launch of Yixin, a similar instant messaging tool as WeChat but targeting mainly at university students. According to Roy Ng, the speaker from China Telecom at China Digital Conference, the new Yixin will “complement China’s existing social media landscape” rather than bringing further competitions. “Since China has a huge online market, we saw the opportunity to introduce a new social media tool,” said Roy.

The e-commerce session at China Digital Conference generated interest, in part, thanks to the perception that China’s e-commerce market is growing at a significant pace and will surpass the US’s to become the world’s largest market by 2015.

According to Bing Liu, Trade Commissioner of Austrade Shanghai, “by 2015, e-commerce will account for 80% of all retails in China.”

At the conference, Bing introduced Austrade’s initiatives to help Australian businesses start e-commerce activities in China, such as establishing “Australian Malls” on China’s most popular online malls, JD.com, Tmall and YHD, which will operate as “base camps” for Australian e-stores.

Michael Lee from China and world’s largest e-commerce platform Alibaba.com, told about Alibaba’s legend of $5.75 billion sales on a single day – November 11th, Chinese Single’s Day invented by Alibaba. This was only to prove the dramatic potential of China’s online shopping capabilities.

As an insider, Michael shared some tips for e-commerce success in China, including presence on established platforms, understanding of local shopping behaviour, utilising social media, consistent service and various payment methods. David Simms from NAB, strategic partner of UnionPay in Australia, added on the importance of adapting UnionPay as a key payment method for Australian businesses.

Last but not least, the young social influencer William Chen from China Key, made the audience realise that “when everyone is looking for opportunity in China, the opportunity may already be lying in front of you, here, in Australia.”

His presentation brought everyone’s attention back to Australia, a market with 700,000 Chinese tourists, 170,000 Chinese international students and 600,000 Chinese social media users.

A confident conference…

“The inaugural China Digital Conference has proved to be a success by attracting a right mix of people and looking at a relatively new but essential topic for Australian SMEs. We were proud to have speakers from China digital giants Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and China Telecom to share their expertise to Australian local audience.” said Ray Evans, CEO and Founder of Australian Business Forum,

“From the feedback of our delegates, the Conference has brought valuable insights and added a new dimension to their China strategies. We’ve perceived the need from Australian SMEs of understanding China’s online market, which will be a driver for us to make China Digital Conference an annual forum.”

Want to know more?

There are more China Digital Conferences planned for 2014, including:

  • Melbourne: 27 March, 2014
  • Sydney: 28 August, 2014
  • Guangzhou, Shanghai: 26-30 May, 2014
  • Shanghai: TBD October, 2014

For the full scoop, check the Australia China Business Week website.

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