I chanced upon this Airbnb banner ad in Google’s display network during my business trip in China last month. I clicked on this ad which led me to this landing page:
After viewing the landing page, I realized Airbnb is likely to fail in its attempt in expanding into Chinese market; let me tell you why.
China is a huge market, not to mention its revenue potential for travel sector. It’s too appealing to be ignored by many internet based businesses such as Airbnb. Yet, it’s not dedicated at all in this one of the most competitive markets in the world.
The banner ad is in traditional Chinese while people use simplified Chinese in China. Though many Chinese won’t have a problem reading traditional Chinese, the non-localized ad make internet users feel disconnected.
Airbnb website does have a Chinese landing page, but some text doesn’t sound native and my guesses they automated it with tools like Google Translate with some possible manual editing. And, the landing page is not appealing to Chinese internet users at all. It offers login method with Facebook which can’t be accessed in China.
Few friends of mine in China heard of Airbnb and for those who haven’t, what would they do? They would likely to conduct a search if they’re going to do anything at all. Airbnb should be worried about what’s on Baidu search results page of its brand term:
The subdomain, luckily, was indexed and ranked on top of Baidu SERP for this brand term. However, the title and meta description is clearly not optimized for Chinese audience, telling no unique benefits of using Airbnb.
The two listings below its official website about critique about its business model and a robbing incident.
My suggestion for all companies looking forward to expanding their business into China is,
- Do your research and develop a business/market strategy for this unique market instead of making half dedicated efforts with a campaign on Google Display Network or Baidu PPC
- Develop an integrated digital strategy for China with help from someone having local expertise in this market, ignoring whatever worked for you in other markets
- Form a testing strategy. China is a dynamic and competitive market; it’s unlikely you can see results right after launching a campaign
For those not far from Zurich, you can join me in September Connect China conference when I’ll share some insights on China digital strategy.