4 things you need to know about digital marketing for students in China

China is undeniably going through a wave of change, with a rapidly growing middle class going through a shift in wants and expectations when it comes to education. The Chinese have prioritized high-quality education for a long time. On top of popular countries like America and the UK, Chinese students are also increasingly heading to countries like Australia and Russia.

#1: Chinese Student Behaviour is Evolving

Similarly, just a decade ago most Chinese students studying abroad were made up of postgraduate students. They were more likely to have completed their Bachelor’s locally. Today, the average high net-worth children starting their overseas education is just 16.
In fact, according to a recent report by Hurun, a Shanghai-based research firm, 83% of Chinese millionaires are planning to send their children to study overseas. This is a figure hard to ignore – in 2016, China’s population included 1.34 million millionaires.

#2: It’s not Google, Facebook or Instagram

As a recruiter, you must already be familiar enough with the Chinese market to know that the western media channels will not get you very far. Instead of Google, the popular search engine is Baidu and instead of WhatsApp and Facebook, the most popular social media app is WeChat.
According to Tech in Asia, just being on popular social media networks will get you access to 91% of Chinese internet population. There are also WeChat channels dedicated to students who are planning to study abroad (or already doing so) that advertises Master’s programs.
Other interesting media trends are also on the rise. Live-streaming, webinars and video creation on Youku are some areas that you can keep an eye out for.

#3: Biggest Guides are Not Trendy Influencers, It’s Mothers

Young people in China spend some of the longest time in the world on their devices. However, this doesn’t mean that Key Opinion Leaders or social media influencers are the ones that make the biggest mark in where Chinese students choose to study.
Chinese parents have the biggest say when it comes to where a student studies abroad. They’ll be ones saving up and investing in their children’s future. A smart digital marketing campaign would not just speak to the students, but also the parents to address what they care about. Parents are a tricky group to market to as they often know even less about the process of studying abroad than their children.
Mothers are especially invested in the decision-making process. In fact, “Mother’s chat groups” are so popular there are variations that include ones for Expats, Teacher-Parent groups or for mothers living in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

#4: A Unique Decision-Making Journey

Students from China start looking into the process of studying abroad much earlier than most other international students because families start the planning and savings process years in advance.
According to Chinese private education provider New Oriental, students typically start taking preparatory tests such as TOEFL and IELTS up to 24 months in advance of applying to a university. Students also apply to multiple universities up to 11 months before the programme starts, and out of those that they are accepted to, they will choose to attend the institution with the highest ranking.

What this Means for You

Last year, 608,400 international students came from China – and it’s a growing trend with 10% year on year growth. There is no doubt that the market cannot be ignored. What is also undeniable is that to get their attention and retain it, you’ll need to treat the market as unique consumer segment. The landscape is going to keep changing at an exponential rate, and it’s going to be challenging to keep up.

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