When a country is big, there can be a lot of cultural variation. You don’t find grits in the northern tier states. At the same time, you don’t find hot dish in the south. This can make for some intriguing business challenges for small companies seeking to expand their reach beyond a local market. Obviously, the same holds true for expanding one’s business internationally.
This is something any entrepreneur with plans to enter the expansive market in China needs to be mindful of. The issue is not simply one of cultural variation across the vastness of the mainland, but also unique economic and political conditions as they apply in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. If a business fails to appreciate the obvious and nuanced facets of each area, damaging brand missteps can result.
Key differences to note
In the view of many experts, the divide between Hong Kong and Greater China represents the starkest example of variance. While Hong Kong is geologically attached to the mainland, it retains many features of its long history of being under British control, including maintaining its own legal system. The business environment is also freer than the rest of the mainland.
To see how this is reflected in everyday life, look no further than the internet. It’s not censored in Hong Kong and Facebook is the portal of choice for most of the consuming public. Cross the border into Greater China and the WeChat platform becomes the norm. It is censored and restricts what marketers can learn about consumer subscribers.
Research into the two markets also indicates that Hong Kong represents the greatest opportunity for online retail among the millennial generation. In 2016, some 40 percent of people surveyed expressed some worry about online payment security. That figure dropped to 29 percent in 2017.
Interestingly, while confidence in payment security is increasing in Hong Kong, online shopping is not as big there as it is in Greater China. Analysts attribute this to mainlanders being more perceptive at spotting poor quality fakes online.
The lesson to take away from this is that it’s important to go into any market with a clear knowledge of cultural idiosyncrasies, legal and economic, to enhance chances of success.