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Reaching the Chinese Consumer Through Cloud

Guest Blog By Kevin Conway and Mark Smith

The Chinese market is a land of opportunity for online retailers, but reaching those consumers also poses great challenge on the back-end of a website.

Traditionally global e-tailers have had a choice for managing the end-user web experience: Navigate the complexities of hosting their content within China or take gamble on performance by hosting their cloud infrastructure elsewhere in the region.

Either road can be quite an undertaking. Compound the job with the proliferation of evolving cloud technologies, and the choices become downright overwhelming.

Clearly, China’s massive market is one that wants to be reached online. A recent Ipso China study found brand websites influenced the purchasing intent of nearly half of Chinese consumers. For further proof, online retailers only need to look at the web traffic on Nov. 11, when e-commerce sites generated more than $4.6 billion in sales during the country’s Singles Day, a gift-giving event spurring e-commerce demands akin to the U.S. Black Friday.

Realizing they have but just a few seconds to make a connection with consumers, e-tailers funnel resources into ensuring solid web performance that benefits the end-user experience. Yet, in China, dragging Internet speeds and spotty interconnectivity can weigh this experience down.

Latency can also pose a challenge for brands hosting their content in the cloud. Some e-marketers try to work around the latency issues by physically hosting content with China, only to find the task of securing a local-hosting license painstaking.

Launching a well-performing website in in China need not be this complicated. Here’s some advice for online retailers looking to offer the Chinese consumer a satisfying shopping experience.

  • Watch your speed. Slow page loads – or no page loads – will drive shoppers anywhere in the world to look elsewhere. Watch your site speed with tools that monitor the networking, application and other variables that can impact web performance.
  • Don’t forget the impact of third-party content. The performance of modern Web applications relies on a complex interaction of components that are often not completely assembled until they are in the customer’s browser or device. End-to-end performance visibility helps guard against inadvertent blind spots.
  • Look into virtual hosting options. With virtual hosting, content can be cached within China’s borders and distributed as needed through in-country content delivery networks. Savvis, a global leader in 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.
  • Take steps 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.
  • Go 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 too by optimizing your sites and apps so they can engage with you, no matter what device they use. See if your cloud provider offers access to partners like Siteminis that can help transform your site to suit the mobile environment.

Undoubtedly, China is a lucrative, bustling market for global retailers looking to grow their base. But reaching that audience with your message can be a challenge.

A wide range of factors, from browser type to network connection, can have an influence on web performance, but online retailers do have options when it comes to using cloud reach the end consumer. Talk to your hosting company or service provider about their 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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