The Internet for Small Business with China (Part 1)

The Internet represents an enormous opportunity for everyone who dreams of doing business with China. This massive, populous, and influential nation had over 80 million Internet users by as early as 2003, with a 30% growth expected in 2004. Electronic commerce has been estimated by experts to cross $20 billion a year.

Though many Chinese enterprises have their own web sites in English, the concept of Internet marketing is relatively new. However, the potential is very clear: the China Internet Network Information Centre has found that more than 63% of browsers click on Internet advertisements, while over a third of them are willing to receive advertisement mails. The World Trade Organization has observed that China is amongst the pioneer nations to offer tariff free imports for all goods covered by the ITA agreement. Thus, conditions are ripe to convert awareness campaigns in to cash!

Internet marketing inherently levels the playing field for any David struggling to fight Goliaths of the business world. Prospects of small enterprises using the World Wide Web to grow exponentially, fire the imaginations of business people worldwide. However, a host of language, cultural, and regulatory barriers can make actual entries in to this fascinating nation daunting. Large corporations have established major facilities in Shanghai and the other cities of China: how should small business owners proceed to exploit this massive opportunity?

Turn Cultural Differences in to Internet Business Advantages

Research has always been integral to best marketing practices, and the Internet is no exception in this respect. The virtually non-existent entry barriers to the medium may tempt wannabe tycoons to jump in to ventures with sketchy plans at best, but experienced players know that there are major gains to be won by understanding segments and clustering them creatively. Since the nuances of Chinese culture are rarely appreciated in other countries, understanding browsers from that country, and the conditions in which the Internet operates in China, are pre-requisites for competitive advantages. China is not alone in allowing culture to influence its Internet conventions-such trends have been observed in many Islamic nations as well.

You can imagine that a country, which stretches all the way from Tibet to the sea off Japan, and from the southern reaches of Mongolia to the northern tips of Vietnam and the Koreas, would not be homogenous in preferences and habits. Therefore, Internet Marketers need to target their potential customers as sharply as possible. Thinking of the whole country as a unit is a common failing when designing offers and graphics of web sites. Software can take care of translation needs, but your mind is still irreplaceable when appreciating cultural influences on thinking and purchase behaviors. Web site graphics, created with international audiences in view, may also be entirely inappropriate for China: both black and white, for example, are colors of mourning, while red denotes joy.

The Internet for Small Business with China (Part 2)