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For brands working to connect with Chinese tourists in the midst of their vacations, mobile internet is the way to go. According to a new report by Ctrip, travelers’ internet “addiction” goes beyond their intense preliminary research—it remains strong while they’re on the road.
The report notes that Chinese travelers are determined to access mobile internet even when traveling to countries with limited public WiFi. This is common knowledge for many airports, shopping malls, and boutiques worldwide, a growing number of which are providing free WiFi to push offers and promotions to Chinese visitors. (Whose first move when entering a store is often to check for WiFi. Because what is the point of overseas travel if you can’t brag about it on WeChat?)
Soft-plugging its own “pocket WiFi” service, Ctrip points out that many travelers look to avoid expensive international roaming costs by renting mobile WiFi hotspots before jetting off. Since March of last year, Ctrip has offered free WiFi service to Chinese travelers booking package or semi-self-service tours to more than 100 countries. On the group trips, tour guides carry WiFi hotspots, and rental costs for WiFi equipment range from about 40 to 70 RMB a day.
According to Ctrip’s data, to date more than 1 million Chinese tourists have opted for the service. Traveling pocket WiFi users are 58 percent male, while half are aged 30 to 39 and 27 percent are between the ages of 18 and 29. The top foreign countries where they’re using it are the main countries visited overall by Chinese group travelers—Japan, South Korea, and Thailand.
The report also finds that 90 percent of pocket WiFi users are staying in touch with friends and relatives via social media such as WeChat. (Which makes it even more of an imperative for companies with significant Chinese tourist traffic to boost their WeChat CRM efforts.)
For retailers hoping to attract their business, this means that tourists are also likely using WeChat to shop for their loved ones back home. Chinese travelers are often tasked with picking up foreign goods for friends and family abroad to avoid high tariffs at home—and use WeChat to ask relatives about what they want, whether it’s a jar of lotion or a high-end handbag. If the store allows them to, they often send pictures back for confirmation—a fact that can lose sales for stores with strict no-photo policies.
While reaching Chinese travelers through social marketing in the planning stages of their trip is important, Ctrip’s data bears out the fact that brands should also recognize the vital importance of travelers’ mobile activities after they’ve set off. This can translate to comprehensive efforts to engage via special mobile-only offers and sophisticated CRM to encourage bounce-backs, or can be as simple as providing free WiFi in store and encouraging shoppers to share their experiences with friends and family back home.