Looking to expand your empire in the Chinese market? Get a head start with these 136 marketing terms in Chinese.
The Chinese market is as dynamic as it is vast. While expanding your brand in the world’s largest consumer market could be an incredibly rewarding opportunity, it can also be a challenging one. Before you get started, you need to craft a detailed business plan and a localized strategy for reaching Chinese consumers. Even if you already have experience launching products all over the world, the Chinese market has many unique features that require special attention.
Fortunately, connecting with Chinese consumers isn’t as difficult as it may sound, and many foreign brands have successfully implemented marketing strategies that resonate with Chinese shoppers. So, before you go all-in on your new Chinese marketing campaign, you should definitely spend some time learning about Chinese marketing terms and customs so you can crush your competition.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the marketing sector in Chinese. From the most common marketing vocabulary words to advanced e-commerce terms, we’ll give you everything you need to craft a successful marketing campaign for the Chinese market. Who knows, by the end of this blog you might want to sign up for your first Mandarin class!
Table of contents
- Most common marketing vocabulary words in Chinese
- Digital marketing and online advertising in China
- Chinese search engines
- Chinese social media platforms
- E-Commerce in China
- What’s a KOL?
- Chinese marketing acronyms
Most common marketing vocabulary words in Chinese
Although marketing in China can be very different from marketing in the West, they’re still fundamentally very similar. At the end of the day, both are looking to convert new clients through strategies that connect with new users, so many of the things you currently do for your marketing efforts in the West will also apply in China. Here are some of the most common marketing terms in Chinese:
|Marketing||营销||yíng xiāo||yng shiau|
|Marketing strategy||营销策略||yíng xiāo cè lüè||yng shiau tseh liueh|
|Online marketing activities||线上营销活动||xiàn shàng yíng xiāo huó dòng||shiann shanq yng shiau hwo donq|
|Offline marketing activities||线下营销活动||xiàn xià yíng xiāo huó dòng||shiann shiah yng shiau hwo donq|
|Market research||市场调查||shì chǎng diào chá||shyh chaang diaw char|
|Advertising||广告||guǎng gào||goang gaw|
|Stakeholders||利益相关者||lì yì xiāng guān zhě||lih yih shiang guan jee|
|Proposal||方案||fāng àn||fang ann|
|Competitor analysis||竞争对手分析||jìng zhēng duì shǒu fēn xī||jinq jeng duey shoou fen shi|
|Project timeline||项目时间表||xiàng mù shí jiān biǎo||shianq muh shyr jian beau|
|Market share||市场份额||shì chǎng fèn é||shyh chaang fenn er|
|Niche market||利基市场||lì jī shì chǎng||lih ji shyh chaang|
|Expectation||预期||yù qī||yuh chi|
|Assumption||假设||jiǎ shè||jea sheh|
|To execute||执行||zhí xíng||jyr shyng|
|Price||价格||jià gé||jiah ger|
|Promotion||促销||cù xiāo||tsuh shiau|
|Trade fair||商品交易会||shāng pǐn jiāo yì huì||shang piin jiau yih huey|
|Coupon||优惠券||yōu huì quàn||iou huey chiuann|
|After sales service||售后服务||shòu hòu fú wù||show how fwu wuh|
|To purchase||购买||gòu mǎi||gow mae|
Key concepts about digital marketing in China to understand
Planning a winning marketing strategy in China can look very different from anywhere else in the world. While Mandarin Chinese is one of the top languages for business, you need to go beyond the most basic marketing terms if you hope to make an impact on Chinese consumers. Here are five unique concepts about digital marketing in China that you need to be aware of for a successful marketing campaign:
This word literally means to sink, but in digital marketing, it means to go after lower-tier cities. Most big companies operating in China — especially Western ones — devote most of their resources to first and new first-tier cities, as that’s where people have the most disposable income and often the most sophisticated taste. However, this makes these cities incredibly competitive and hard to break into, often requiring companies to spend far too much money on advertising.
Deciding to “xiachen” is to go after the considerable and rapidly-developing market in lower-tier cities. While this population might not have as much money to spend, it does have a less stressful work schedule and more time off for entertainment or consumption. It’s also important to note how massive China’s population is. Even if you ignore the population of all 19 first-tier and new first-tier cities, you’re still left with about 85% of China’s population. So, if you’re expanding into the Chinese market, you can’t forget to xiachen!
Private Traffic (私域流量)
The ideal kind of traffic for any digital marketer is the kind with consumer intent and that you don’t have to pay for. This is the kind of traffic being chased after by 私域流量 (sī yù liú liàng). The Western equivalent of this would be traffic generated through a blog or an email newsletter, although people in China don’t use email or visit websites that often.
As such, the biggest driver of 私域流量 (sī yù liú liàng) traffic in China is WeChat, which almost everybody uses. Companies will use WeChat accounts, groups, and mini-programs to create private consumer communities. Here, people will shop for products from a trustworthy community — and you won’t have to spend a dime to market to them.
One of the most impactful developments of social media recently is the surge in the popularity of live streamers. In China, however, this phenomenon has been incorporated into e-commerce platforms like Taobao and JD. Internet celebrities and influencers, commonly referred to as KOLs (more on this later!), will go on a live stream to promote a product or brand. This would be close to the equivalent of QVC or a network television shopping channel in the U.S.
The beauty of it being online, however, is that users have the opportunity to engage directly with the live streamer. This encourages interactions and viewers hope to be acknowledged by the live streamer, who is usually someone they look up to or admire. Another benefit, of course, is that viewers can click directly on the video to purchase the products being advertised. Given the prevalence of digital payment methods like WeChat Pay and Alipay, it also means that users don’t even have to look for their wallet to complete their purchases. It’s a win-win!
Because of these reasons, livestream shopping has become one of the biggest revenue drivers for e-commerce giants, with just the two top streamers making more than $9.1 million RMB in sales on Alibaba in just one day. This has turned it into the fastest-growing sales sector in China over the past few years, registering triple-digit yearly growth since 2019. This makes livestream shopping one of the most attractive options for companies looking to expand in China. However, keep in mind that it still only represents around 10% of the total e-commerce sales volume in China, so you don’t want to put all your eggs into this basket.
Foreign brands used to signify quality and luxury among Chinese consumers. However, with China’s economic rise and a renewed sense of nationalism, domestic brands are starting to reinvent themselves as trendy and high-quality. In recent years, the traditional has become the new modern, and Chinese brands are managing to appeal to the younger generation of shoppers by incorporating more traditional Chinese symbols and ingredients.
For example, Chinese skincare brands have been able to outcompete foreign brands by incorporating ingredients found in traditional Chinese medicine. Clothing brands have been able to find success by incorporating elements of traditional Chinese culture into modern designs. For example, Italian fashion house Gucci made headlines with its 2023 Year of the Rabbit collection, which implemented the Chinese Zodiac of the rabbit into its designs.
While Gucci’s success story shows that Guochao isn’t just for Chinese brands, foreign brands do need to work very closely with a team of Chinese experts to ensure that their designs land with Chinese consumers. Launching a product that comes across as offensive could result in online backlash, which could permanently ruin a foreign company’s reputation in China.
The Great Firewall (防火墙)
You’ve probably already heard that certain websites and applications are restricted in China. The Great Firewall refers to these limitations that render many popular websites and applications unusable in China, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, Twitter, and other popular Western apps. This means that you’ll have to get acclimated to Chinese social media platforms if you want your brand to succeed in China.
Digital marketing and online advertising in China
Ready to start your winning digital marketing strategy in China? Then you’ll definitely want to get acquainted with the following terms about doing marketing online in China:
|Conversion||转化||zhuǎn huà||joan hua|
|Content strategy||内容策略||nèi róng cè lüè||ney rong tseh liueh|
|Technical optimization||技术优化||jì shù yōu huà||jih shuh iou huah|
|Email outreach||邮件推广||yóu jiàn tuī guǎng||you jiann tuei goang|
|Popup window||弹窗||tán chuāng||tann chuang|
|Buyers journey||买家旅程||mǎi jiā lǚ chéng||mae jia leu cherng|
|Market positioning||市场定位||shì chǎng dìng wèi||shyh chaang dinq wey|
|Fierce competition||激烈竞争||jī liè jìng zhēng||ji lieh jinq jeng|
|To publish||发布||fā bù||fa buh|
|A post||帖子||tiě zi||tiee tzy|
|To edit||编辑||biān jí||bian jyi|
|To like (a post or comment)||赞||zàn||tzann|
|A comment||评论||píng lùn||pyng luenn|
|To reply||回复||huí fù||hwei fuh|
|To share||分享||fēn xiǎng||fen sheang|
|A video||视频||shì pín||shyh pyn|
|A notification||通知||tōng zhī||tong jy|
|To follow (people)||关注||guān zhù||guan juh|
Chinese search engines
As you already know, Google is blocked in China, so consumers use alternative search engines for browsing the internet. The most common search engine is Baidu, which is China’s equivalent of Google. In fact, Baidu is the sixth-most visited website in the world, with 677 million monthly users. Here are a few other common search engines in China as well with some helpful vocabulary:
|Baidu||百度||bǎi dù||bae duh|
|Sogou||搜狗||sōu gǒu||sou goou|
|360 Search||360搜索||360 sōu suǒ||360 sou suoo|
|Weixin Search||微信搜一搜||wēi xìn sōu yī sōu||uei shinn sou i sou|
|Shenma||神马||shén mǎ||shern maa|
|SEO||搜索引擎优化||sōu suǒ yǐn qíng yōu huà||sou suoo yiin chyng iou huah|
|Keywords||关键词||guān jiàn cí||guan jiann tsyr|
|Organic traffic||自然流量||zì rán liú liàng||tzyh ran liou lianq|
|Referral traffic||推荐流量||tuī jiàn liú liàng||tuei jiann liou lianq|
|Search intent||搜索意图||sōu suǒ yì tú||sou suoo yih twu|
|Ranking||排行||pái háng||pair harng|
|Search volume||搜索量||sōu suǒ liàng||sou suoo lianq|
|Backlink||外链||wài liàn||way liann|
|Internal link||内链||nèi liàn||ney liann|
|谷歌||gǔ gē||guu ge|
|Bing||必应||bì yìng||bih yinq|
|Homepage||主页||zhǔ yè||juu yeh|
|Sitemap||网站地图||wǎng zhàn dì tú||woang jann dih twu|
Chinese social media platforms
Just as most Western search engines are blocked in China, most social media platforms are also restricted. That means that most users in China rely on Chinese social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo, most of which aren’t very commonly used outside of China. So, if this is your first time advertising in the country, you’ll definitely want to set up accounts on China’s social media ecosystem.
|Social Media||社交媒体||shè jiāo méi tǐ||sheh jiau mei tii|
|微信||wēi xìn||uei shinn|
|微博||wēi bó||uei bor|
|Little Red Book||小红书||xiǎo hóng shū||sheau horng shu|
|Douyin||抖音||dǒu yīn||doou in|
|Baidu Tieba||百度贴吧||bǎi dù tiē bā||bae duh tie ba|
|Youku||优酷||yōu kù||iou kuh|
|Kuaishou||快手||kuài shǒu||kuay shoou|
|Tencent QQ||腾讯QQ||téng xùn QQ||terng shiunn QQ|
|Bilibili||哔哩哔哩||bī lī bī lī||bi lhi bi lhi|
|Dianping||大众点评||dà zhòng diǎn píng||dah jonq dean pyng|
|JinRi Toutiao||今日头条||jīn rì tóu tiáo||jin ryh tou tyau|
|Douyu||斗鱼||dòu yú||dow yu|
|Yizhibo||一直播||yī zhí bō||i jyr boh|
|Douban||豆瓣||dòu bàn||dow bann|
|Baijiahao||百家号||bǎi jiā hào||bae jia hao|
E-Commerce in China
The e-commerce market in China is massive, having exceeded $3 trillion in transactions in 2022 (that’s trillion with a t!). That represents almost one in every two transactions worldwide, making this by far the largest e-commerce market in the world. If you’re looking to crack into this behemoth of a market, then you’ll definitely want to get started with the following e-commerce vocabulary words in Chinese:
|E-commerce||电子商务||diàn zǐ shāng wù||diann tzyy shang wuh|
|Sales volume||销售量||xiāo shòu liàng||shiau show lianq|
|Customer||顾客||gù kè||guh keh|
|Buyer||买方||mǎi fāng||mae fang|
|Seller||卖方||mài fāng||mae fang|
|Agent||代理商||dài lǐ shāng||day lii shang|
|Retail||零售||líng shòu||ling show|
|Wholesale||批发||pī fā||pi fa|
|Deal||交易||jiāo yì||jiau yih|
|Credit card||信用卡||xìn yòng kǎ||shinn yonq kaa|
|Model||型号||xíng hào||shyng haw|
|Wholesale price||批发价||pī fā jià||pi fa jiah|
|Retail price||零售价||líng shòu jià||ling show jiah|
Most popular e-commerce platforms in China
Although some Western e-commerce platforms operate in China, the vast majority of Chinese consumers shop on Chinese apps like Taobao and JD. In fact, Amazon recently announced it would close its Chinese app, marking another important milestone in the e-commerce giant’s retreat from the Chinese market. If you’re curious to know what apps Chinese people use for shopping or if you want to become a proficient seller, here are the apps you need to download immediately:
|Taobao||淘宝||táo bǎo||taur bao|
|JD||京东||jīng dōng||jing dong|
|Douyin||抖音||dǒu yīn||doou in|
|Pinduoduo||拼多多||pīn duō duō||pin duo duo|
|TMall||天猫||tiān māo||tian mhau|
|Xiaohongshu||小红书||xiǎo hóng shū||sheau horng shu|
|Alibaba||阿里巴巴||ā lǐ bā bā||a lii ba ba|
|Vipshop||唯品会||wéi pǐn huì||wei piin huey|
|Dianping||大众点评||dà zhòng diǎn píng||dah jonq dean pyng|
|Meituan||美团||měi tuán||meei twan|
|Amazon China||亚马逊中国||yà mǎ xùn zhōng guó||yah maa shiunn jong gwo|
|Suning||苏宁||sūn níng||suen ning|
|Dangdang||当当||dāng dāng||dang dang|
|VMall||华为商城||huá wéi shāng chéng||hwa wey shang cherng|
Double Eleven Shopping Holiday (双十一)
Anyone who grew up in the West could easily imagine that Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) is the biggest shopping holiday in the world. However, China’s Double Eleven shopping holiday takes the prize. Called 双十一 (shuāng shí yī) in Chinese, which literally means “a couple of elevens,” as it falls on 11/11 every year. This holiday was developed in the 90s as a way for companies to market to single people. That’s why it’s also commonly referred to as Single’s Day in English, alluding to the original intent of marketing to single people.
However, this holiday has exploded over the past decade, thanks in part to Alibaba’s efforts to turn this into a weeks-long shopping extravaganza. Now, Double Eleven deals start popping up in late October and run through the third week of November, with countless opportunities for shoppers to enjoy great deals on virtually any item available on TMall and almost any other e-commerce platform, including JD, Suning, and more.
This has now become a massive revenue driver for companies, both local and foreign. In 2022, Vitamix ran a Singles' Day video campaign that was viewed by over 100 million people — that’s almost as many people as watching the Superbowl!
So, if you’re looking to start selling your products on Chinese e-commerce platforms, then you need to put Double Eleven on your calendar and plan for it way in advance so you can outperform your competitors!
What’s a KOL?
One of the biggest tools foreign brands can use to connect with and build a strong reputation is a KOL, which stands for Key Opinion Leader. The concept of KOLs in China is somewhat unique, although still loosely related to that of influencers in the West. You’re probably used to influencers selling products and doing paid partnerships on social media, but a KOL isn’t just an influencer.
KOLs in China always have some topical authority on the products they promote. For example, a famous doctor might be a KOL for pharmaceutical brands. A successful hairstylist may be a KOL for haircare products. A certified fitness trainer may be a KOL for fitness products. You get the gist.
There are typically three tiers of KOLs: celebrities, bloggers, and influencers. The first tier includes A-list celebrities who can command authority on certain topics. The second tier is for bloggers who have dedicated their careers to becoming experts in a specific field, like handbags or perfumes. These people are experts in the field and their followers deeply respect their opinions. The third tier includes social media influencers, who can persuade their followers to make a purchase but aren’t necessarily seen as an authoritative source on a particular field.
This means that finding the right KOL for your brand is essential, as you can’t simply go off of follower counts and impressions — you need to make sure that the KOL is the right fit for your brand. Finding a suitable KOL can be a very strong way to enter the Chinese market, as you’ll have a reliable and reputable ally with a loyal following to help introduce you to Chinese consumers.
What’s a KOC?
If you’ve heard of a KOL, then you might have heard of a KOC. This acronym stands for Key Opinion Consumer, and they’re often included in KOL marketing campaigns. As its name suggests, a KOC is simply a consumer who can influence other consumers. These are key people who have no more than a few hundred followers yet can still have an impact on your products and marketing campaign.
Including KOCs in your campaigns in addition to KOLs has some distinct advantages. The most obvious one is that KOCs, given their small size, aren’t generally paid, so you’ll be able to include many of them without blowing up your budget. Second, KOCs have a higher degree of perceived authenticity. Since consumers know that KOCs aren’t paid, there is less at stake for leaving an honest review.
Working with KOCs can be as easy as identifying consumers who’ve already made a post about your product or have tagged your brand account on any of their publications. You can then reach out and ask if they’d be willing to make an extended review or simply leave a review on your website. Alternatively, you can contact KOCs and offer to send free products in exchange for a brief review.
Vocabulary words about KOLs & KOCs
The world of KOLs and KOCs is very vast, and there are many terms that you’re likely to encounter as you delve into it. Here are some of the most common vocabulary words about KOLs and KOCs in China.
|Top-tier KOL||头部 KOL||tóu bù KOL||tour buh KOL||A major KOL with over a million followers.|
|Mid-tier KOL||腰部 KOL||zhōng bù KOL||jong buh KOL||A KOL with 10,000 to 100,000 followers.|
|Microl KOL||尾部KOL||wěi bù KOL||woei buh KOL||A microKOL has a smaller following base but higher engagement rate and fewer fake or inactive followers than larger KOLs, making them worthwhile.|
|PGC (Professional Generated Content)||专业生产内容||zhuān yè shēng chǎn nèi róng||juan yeh sheng chaan ney rong||Professional content generated by an agency, as opposed to organic content made by the KOLs.|
|Water army||水军||shuǐ jūn||shoei jiun||Fake followers.|
|Zombie fans||僵尸粉||jiāng shī fěn||jiang shy feen||Fake followers.|
|Planting grass||种草||zhòng cǎo||joong tsao||Sharing and recommending something for someone's liking|
|Pulling grass||拔草||bá cǎo||bar tsao||Persuading others to refrain from their buying impulse|
|Growing grass||长草||zhǎng cǎo||jaang tsao||Building up interest for a product.|
|Niche||小众||xiǎo zhòng||sheau jonq|
|Sales king/queen||带货王||dài huò wáng||day huoh wang||A KOL that is extremely effective at selling product.|
|Play the meme||玩梗||wán gěng||wan geeng||Incorporating memes into your strategy.|
|Celebrity||明星||míng xīng||ming shing|
|Big social media influencer||大V||dà V||dah V|
|Internet celebrity||网红||wǎng hóng||woang horng|
|Brand cooperation||品牌合作||pǐn pái hé zuò||piin pair her tzuoh|
|Fan economy||粉丝经济||fěn sī jīng jì||feen sy jing jih|
|Passer-by converted into a fan||路转粉||lù zhuǎn fěn||luh joan feen|
Chinese marketing acronyms
You’re probably familiar with English marketing acronyms like SEO, PPC, KPI, CTR, and more, but what about Chinese acronyms? Perhaps you’d be surprised to learn that they also use acronyms for English terms, but maybe not the ones you’d expect. Here are the most common Chinese marketing acronyms:
|10w+||10 wan plus||Stands for 100,000 and more, and is used to refer to the goal of reaching 100,000 or more followers on social media, which is usually seen as a benchmark for being influential.|
|C2M||Customer-to-manufacturer||Used to refer to companies that make products based on consumer feedback.|
|CP||Couple marketing||Using couples to take advantage of their relationship to promote a product. The idea is that the chemistry within the couple will bleed into the reputation of the product being advertised.|
|D2C||Direct to consumer||Companies that cut out the middleman and sell directly to consumers.|
|G2C||Global to China||Used to describe sales tactics aimed at capturing the Chinese market, like accepting Chinese payment methods and marketing on Chinese social media apps.|
|H5||Hypertext Markup Language 5||You’ve heard of Hypertext Markup Language before — that’s what HTML stands for. H5 refers to the current version of HTML used by most websites. However, this acronym usually refers to fancy landing sites that incorporate state-of-the-art technology to maximize the chances of converting visitors.|
|KOC||Key Opinion Consumer|
|KOL||Key Opinion Leader|
|MCN||Multi-Channel Network||Refers to companies that manage multiple KOLs, almost like talent agencies.|
|O+O||Online plus Offline||Used to refer to a marketing strategy that includes both online and offline tactics.|
|O2O||Online to Offline||Refers to marketing strategies that encourage customers to visit a physical location. For example, restaurants may offer coupons online that are only redeemable for dining in.|
|SNS||Social Network Sites||Refers to Chinese social media apps, like WeChat and Weibo.|
Further your career with these Chinese marketing vocabulary terms
Whether you’re looking to become the newest e-commerce mogul in China or simply want to grow your business with some extra sales, getting a handle on these marketing terms is the best place to start. Penetrating the Chinese market can be a daunting task, but understanding what we’ve covered in this blog will help you cover the essentials. From the unique world of e-commerce to what goes on behind the Great Firewall, you’ve now got a glimpse into the thriving marketing environment of China.
To get more unique insights into the Chinese language and life in China, make sure to visit our Mandarin Chinese blog. We can help you craft the perfect resume in Chinese, express your love in Chinese in over a hundred creative ways, and even clarify the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese. And the best part? Every blog post is free, and we regularly upload new articles to keep your Chinese skills growing.