The 123rd China Import and Export Fair, widely known as the Canton Fair, has concluded by a total export volume of 189.197 billion yuan (US$30.08 billion), a 3.1 percent increase from last year's spring session and the highest total for the spring exhibition in four years. This is a perfect shop window for many smaller manufacturers and distributors, with buyers eager to engage innovative new suppliers and expand their supplier base.
This article shares how quality brands may leverage on digital marketing to replicate the same effect of the Canton Fair to showcase their competitive edge and win new markets.
Introduction to the Canton Fair
Let’s start with a brief introduction of this fair. The Canton Fair started in 1957 but started taking off after 1978 when China began economic reforms that liberalised its economy and encouraged foreign trade.
Held from 15 April to 5 May 2018, the Canton Fair is regarded as China’s largest trade show and held biannually in Guangzhou. As China became a global manufacturing powerhouse, the Fair became an important shop window for global buyers seeking quality Chinese suppliers.
Based on my observation, there are four characteristics of the Canton Fair trading environment:
(1) Quality, not brand, matters. If buyers wanted to see only big brands, there are other exhibitions that offer better big brand exposure. Buyers are seeking innovation and to broaden their supplier base.
(2) Highly motivated buyers. These buyers are motivated as their company had spent thousands of dollars to get them to Guangzhou and tasked them to discover profitable products at this fair.
(3) Foreign exhibitors are seeking to sell to the Chinese market. To meet this demand, the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) to be held in Shanghai in November 2018.
(4) Not all about Price. Very few buyers start a conversation by asking about price immediately. They tend to start by asking who are the target users and what is the value proposition versus similar products. In my opinion, better designed, quality and innovative products are more likely to trigger buyers to initiate conversations.
How to leverage a “Canton Fair” through Digital Marketing
So how can brands highlight design, innovation, and quality of their products through their website and digital marketing? After all, it isn't possible to exhibit at Canton Fair every day. The short answer: Build a digital presence to showcase your brand’s superior qualities and promote it to the right target audiences.
Serious Content for Serious Buyers:
As mentioned earlier, one of the greatest features of the Canton Fair is to funnel the serious buyers towards your product. In a digital setting, your brand should target to get website visitors to spend more time learning about your product and getting convinced that it is the right fit for their needs. Simply put, only the visitors who spend more time learning about your product are likely to buy and it is your brand's job to provide the right type of engaging content to make it worth their while.
- Minimalist Description of Key Features on Landing Page: Less is often more as a crowded webpage often overwhelms website visitors. It is far better to list the key features of your product and ask your visitors to explore.
- Carousel Display of Pictures: This interactive feature allows visitors to choose the pictures they wish to see and looks professional. For example, Apple iPhone displays its sleek shape against a light gray background as shown below.
- Develop emotional content with a theme that resonates with its target audience, e.g. freedom for younger segment.
- Multi-media Hot Topic marketing, e.g. festival marketing. An example includes Apple “3-minute family reunion” video for Chinese New Year. Short videos that engage audiences will also boost the SEO visibility of your website.
- Multi-media Display of your product, e.g. user stories, short videos. It is no longer enough to publish product specifications. It is essential to display how existing customers are using your products through more interactive user stories and short videos.
- For example, Lenovo Mirage Solo Daydream VR Headset incorporates pictures, videos, and user ratings on a single page to allow website visitors to interact with its product and get engaged emotionally to raise the chances of conversion.
- The Canton Fair invites a world-renowned panel to recognise innovative products with Design Awards. Likewise, it is possible to build a buzz for your products by reaching out to independent media that are likely to review your product.
- You may then tell your website visitors that your product has been reviewed and provide a backlink. As you can imagine, third-party reviews are more convincing to potential customers relative to your brand's own promotional materials. In addition, because Lenovo Mirage Solo Daydream VR Headset was reviewed by the Android Authority as one of the "Best of CES 2018", this product will now appear for "Best of CES 2018" searches and enhance its search engine visibility.
The Canton Fair is over, but your marketing efforts shouldn't take a break! Even if your brand is seeking B2B partners to distribute your products in China or abroad, developing compelling B2C content that resonates with your target audience is likely to attract potential partners to approach you. Of course, you need to indicate on your website that your brand is seeking distributors and invite interested parties to get in touch.