Chinese Web Users Prize Offline Marketing
Face-to-face efforts are crucial for Airbnb and other foreign Internet companies
By Li Yuan
For online businesses in China to be successful they must be successful offline as well. This is a challenge Airbnb is currently facing as they ramp up their Chinese operations. Companies end up becoming more successful through physical world marketing and support rather than apps or websites. In China, web users are less trusting of new internet services and need more information about them making face-to-face marketing more effective. This is also highly desirable as China's labor costs remain relatively low. " In China, online and offline are equally important for a business, be it sales, quality control or customer management." Says Zhuang Hai. Distributing membership cards, setting up staff through out the city to answer questions, personal selling, and/or having retail sales channels are all ways companies have had success in China. Airbnb may need to invest in hosts in China to upgrade dingy and in poor condition rooms and homes for travelers. Another challenge for Airbnb is to maintain traction in China. eBay is an example of a company that gained a lot of traction, but lost momentum to local rivals. Regulation is key to extending success, requirements can vary from city to city. Airbnb's local rival Tujia.com has memorandums with 200 cities, while Airbnb has only signed 4. Airbnb has acknowledged that China is a difficult market, but they are confident they will be able to succeed in the country.