You have ordered your company website be translated into other languages. You’ve included Chinese in the list, but as time goes by, it’s a puzzle why your Chinese website version doesn’t perform compared to other global instances of your website.
In other articles, we’ve discussed ICP licences and hosting in China along with Chinese website speed and performance and Chinese website localisation issues. Take a look at those articles if you’ve not read them to give a background overview. A virtual office is something you may consider if you have no legal presence in China but you understand the need for providing trusted routes for potential Chinese customers to take to buy your products and services.
It’s about trust
Firstly, China is a country where institutions and companies are inherently not believed. So companies compete by delivering on service.
A quick wander around a Chinese-run website shows pop-ups firing up, with chat windows encouraging you to get in touch. In the West, you may find it intrusive. In China, it shows you are available and not just going to disappear once any sale is made. It improves trust. It implies you’ll be available post-sale as well.
This web behaviour is not limited to gimmicky sites or business-to-consumer sites. As well as retail, legal, corporate, manufacturing, service sector will usually be ‘in your face’ about the ease for the customer of getting in touch. Many Western businesses, especially in the B2B space don’t get this.
Secondly, consider your own activity – how you react to websites on the web. You’re interested in a company’s products or services but the website is peppered with titles, buttons and paragraphs in a foreign language, maybe in a different script and the only contact information on the contact page is in a foreign language. You would need to be pretty fluent in that language and with that culture to take the plunge.
If you shop on eBay, are you more comfortable spending money with a seller based in your country with a returns policy and a great star rating or with a seller based on the other side of the world, with limited information in English and no returns policy?
”But English is the global language”, we hear you say. True, but to actually engage with an English language website, your fluency needs to be high and you need to feel comfortable in dealing culturally with a nation far away. We have speakers of other languages in our offices. You always take your mother tongue first – it’s so much easier.
In not providing contact details along with a website fully ‘in country’, you’re limiting your market massively. You limiting your potential customer’s ability to feel you’re there for them in an environment they understand how to deal in.
Of course, you can set up a legal entity in China and employ Chinese staff. But you are reading this because your company is not ready for that commitment and expense. You can work with your Chinese partner if you have one. Be careful you don’t get into hot water if the relationship breaks down in future and make sure you own the assets you need to own…..
If you need a permanent Chinese employee, someone who is there not only to pick up the phone but also to undertake visits, face-to-face meetings etc. but aren’t ready to take the plunge with Chinese incorporation, then certain organisations may help. In the UK, the China Britain Business Council offer a service where they employee someone for you, but this person is essentially yours to represent you full time as you wish. Other China-specific organisation may offer something similar in your country. With these services, you still incur all the costs of salary, office expenses, equipment purchase, employment regulations and tax. It’s not cheap for market entry unless your budget is large.
A virtual office usually offers an in-country address, email handling and response, a manned phone number in business hours and can also include manning chat windows and social media accounts for a fixed retainer per month with a short term contract. It can provide trust in a cost-effective manner and for market entry, it’s a bit of a ‘no-brainer’.
Backbone IT Group provides specialist digital services for the China market, including web localisation, hosting and development. Our virtual office service helps many companies bridge the gap to potential customers and proves the trust needed for an initial Chinese market entry strategy. Get in touch.