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Is Your Cloud Ready for the Chinese Consumer?

February 13, 2013 By Kevin Conway and Mark Smith
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When it comes to reaching Chinese consumers online, global e-tailers have a real challenge on their hands: navigate the complexities of hosting their content within the country's borders or gamble on the web experience by hosting their cloud infrastructure elsewhere in the region.

Either way, getting digital marketing messages to this coveted audience can be quite an undertaking. Compound this job with the move toward new and evolving cloud technologies, and it can become downright overwhelming.

No doubt, China's massive market is one that wants to be reached online. A recent Ipso China study, for example, found brand websites influenced the purchasing intent of nearly half of Chinese consumers.

Many online retailers don't need to conduct research to tell them the demand is there. They saw it on Nov. 11, when e-commerce sites generated more than $4.6 billion in sales during China's Singles Day, a gift-giving event spurring e-commerce demands akin to Black Friday here in the U.S.

Online retailers, understanding they have but just a handful of seconds to make a connection with consumers, pour resources into ensuring solid web performance that benefits the end-user experience. Yet in China, dragging internet speeds and spotty interconnectivity weigh heavily on this experience.

For brands hosting their content in the cloud, latency can also pose a challenge. Some e-marketers try to bypass the latency issues by physically hosting content within China, only to find a bureaucratic maze waiting for them when securing a local hosting license.

Providing positive web performance in China doesn't have to be this complicated. Here are a few ways online retailers can navigate hosting complexities and still offer a satisfying shopping experience:

  • Keep tabs on speed. Slow-loading or no-loading sites will drive shoppers anywhere in the world to look elsewhere. Keep tabs on your site speed with tools that monitor the networking, application and other variables that can impact web performance.
  • Gauge the influence of third-party content. The performance of modern web applications relies on a complex interaction of components that often aren't completely assembled until they're in the customer's browser or device. End-to-end performance visibility helps guard against inadvertent blind spots.
  • Consider virtual hosting. With virtual hosting, content can be cached within China's borders and distributed as needed through in-country content delivery networks. Savvis, a provider of enterprise cloud infrastructure, recently launched a virtual hosting service that allows online retailers to reach Chinese consumers by locally caching web content housed in regional data centers.
  • Set standards on security. Payment security is a must for meeting your customers’ expectations and maintaining your reputation. Double-check with your cloud provider to ensure their data centers meet your rigorous standards and help you comply with industry regulations.
  • Speak mobile. A recent UN Broadband Commission report found Chinese internet users will surpass English-speakers by 2015, but for many marketers in China mobile is the universal language of consumers. Demonstrate you speak that language by optimizing your sites and apps so consumers can engage with you, no matter what device they use. See if your cloud provider offers support and access to partners like SiteMinis that can help transform your site to suit the mobile environment.

For global brands looking to grow their consumer base, there's perhaps nowhere more lucrative than China. Making sure that audience gets your message can be a challenge, however.

Though any number of factors, from browser type to network connection, can have an influence on web performance, online retailers have options for using the cloud to bring their content to consumers. Talk to your hosting company or service provider about its options for getting your sites into China — and maintaining performance once you're in.

Mark Smith is managing director, Asia, and Kevin Conway is global director, consumer brands, both for Savvis, a CenturyLink company.
 

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