Doing business with the closest China: how to engage Chinese audiences in Italy
There is a lot of talk by Italian companies about the opportunities offered by China: a huge country that appreciates Made in Italy products, especially luxury products, but where conquering your own space is anything but simple. Less is said, however, about the possibilities offered by the market for Chinese citizens living in Italy and on how to position one’s brand in a community poised between tradition and innovation.
The Chinese in Italy: a thriving and culturally intriguing market
Although the absolute numbers may not seem striking (according to ISTAT figures there are around 330,000 legal Chinese residents in Italy), the Chinese community is one of the most structured and economically active in Italy, especially in major cities such as Rome, Milan and Prato.
It is a deep-rooted presence in the territory, capable of structuring itself at a socio-cultural level while maintaining many of the local traditions of the country of origin, but also blending with local customs and, above all, with our economic fabric.
Moreover, the Chinese public in Italy has maintained a close link with the motherland, so much so that they often launch import-export and trading activities capable of spanning both the territory of origin and that of residence.
For all these reasons, winning the attention of the Italian Chinese can mean the opening of new business frontiers for local companies, provided they understand how to move in this ‘new’ market segment.
Chinese holidays, a gateway to new audiences
The first step to take is to study Chinese culture, with its traditions and festivities, as the latter might in fact provide the ideal opportunity to start making oneself known and interacting with the target audience.
Traditional festivities are also particularly felt by the Chinese community in Italy, as they are occasions for meeting and rediscovering one’s origins, pride and consumption. In short, they are perfect opportunities to launch products or campaigns aimed at Italian Chinese.
Among the most important ones are certainly the Qixi Festival, or Chinese Valentine’s Day, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, and celebrates love through a romantic legend; the Moon Festival, which brings the whole family together and opens the autumn season, with home dinners and many side activities; the Golden Week, which starts in early October and ends on National Day, when millions of Chinese people revive national pride and ancient traditions; Single’s Day, a commercial event similar to Black Friday but much, much bigger, with over 25 billion dollars spent by the Chinese.
Knowing the context means having the basis to develop a real strategy to reach and connect with Chinese audiences in Italy, thanks to the web and not only.
A multi-channel strategy between online and offline
The approach, if one aims for success, can only take into consideration an ecosystem of different channels, which makes online and offline, social networks and public relations interact, exploiting the full potential of the platforms most used by Chinese audiences, with the right style and cultural background.
How to approach this target market?
- Structure collaborations with local media and build your own spaces on Chinese digital channels.
- Develop targeted activities with Chinese key opinion leaders residing in Italy.
- Organize a public relations and events strategy with the Chinese community in Italy.
- Promote live streaming events and initiatives on Chinese digital platforms.
From WeChat to classic PR activities
But what are the channels that absolutely cannot be missing in a well thought-out strategy?
Certainly, one cannot overlook WeChat, a real linchpin not only of the Chinese public’s digital life, but also of the online business of many local and foreign companies, which exploit its various functionalities: from showcase to e-commerce, from social network to space for dialogue and customer assistance.
Structuring a presence on WeChat is in itself a comprehensive process, since it is necessary to decide what kind of functionality to develop, what brand identity to communicate, and what kind of content to produce in support of each specific activity.
This and other social channels, such as Weibo, Douyin and WeChat Channel, Little Red Book, are also ideal spaces to develop influencer marketing strategies by leveraging key Chinese opinion leaders active abroad, so as to encourage identification with the target audience and speak to them through familiar faces and voices.
For these activities to work, it is essential to carefully select the most-followed profiles, but also those most in line with one’s own brand, create a brief and verify that the production of content respects it. Clearly, each KOL has specific expertise and costs.
Finally, there are the PR activities, ranging from organizing public events to engaging with the Chinese community in one’s area of interest. In order to support this segment of the strategy, but also to offer exclusive content to younger audiences, it is worth taking advantage of online streaming platforms, which have been booming in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most interesting sectors for Chinese audiences in Italy
But what are the sectors (and products) that most interest Chinese audiences in Italy? It is difficult to give a clear-cut answer to this question, but what is certain is that fashion, design, beauty and retail are the areas where there seems to be room for growth, especially if they are draped in the exclusivity of luxury brands.
And what about the others? No door is closed, quite the contrary, but creativity and careful business development are required.
Once every strategic and organizational aspect has been studied ‒ a stage in which the skills, experience and vision developed by Retex specifically for the Chinese market can help companies achieve their business objectives ‒, one can begin to act aware that, in order to face contemporary challenges, an innovative and conscious approach is needed.