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Why Your Multicultural Strategy Has To Be Digital First
October 5th, 2017

ACA Staff

Girl sitting at table with computer and phone

If your brand is on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, but not on WeChat, it’s probably time to rethink your marketing strategy.

That was one of the clear messages of a fast-paced and informative webinar for ACA members in late September, “Understanding Digital and eCommerce from a Multicultural Perspective.” Multicultural expert and co-founder of Ethnicity Multicultural Marketing + Advertising, Bobby Sahni along with two of his colleagues, Tasneem Ayub and Fenny Wang, spelled out the clear business case for marketing to Chinese and South Asian Canadians, along with some practical advice for how to reach them through digital channels.

Ignoring the ethnic consumer today would be like ignoring all of Quebec, said Sahni. Fully 20% of the country identifies as foreign born and every year 320,000 new immigrants arrive in the country. On top of that, there are 330,000 foreign temporary workers and 350,000 international students.

And it’s not just about the number of immigrants, but their purchasing power.
South Asians and Chinese Consumers Digital Stats: The general population spends about 17 hours online each week. For South Asians, it’s 19 hours and for Chinese it’s 24. Chinese consumers use, on average, 3.6 connected devices, South Asians, 3.2 and the general population just 2.4.  62% of the total population have shopped online, but that rate rises to 65% of South Asian Canadians and 71% of Chinese Canadians.
“Many newcomers are coming with an abundance of wealth and affluence,” Sahni said. Chinese and South Asian households in Canada spend more than $100 billion combined, a rate that is growing far faster than the non-ethnic population.

“That is a tremendous opportunity,” said Sahni.

The key to taking advantage of that opportunity is recognizing that many of those new Canadians bring with them their own consumption and media habits, said Ayub. One of the undeniable characteristics of Chinese and South Asian Canadians is that they are more digitally-oriented than consumers born and raised in Canada.

They spend more time online, are on more devices and more willing to interact with brands in the digital space, he said. Ethnic Canadians also use instant messaging more, make more phone calls over the internet, and download and stream more TV, movies, sports and news online, he said.

Most ethnic Canadians have a full understanding of English (95% of South Asians and 75% of Chinese Canadians), but that doesn’t mean they want brands to speak to them in English, said Ayub. “In-language advertising is very important to both Chinese and South-Asians… the affinity towards people who advertise in language is very high.”

The Ethnicity team then turned to social media. While ethnic consumers in Canada are using social media, social marketing has an additional complication with Chinese consumers.

The government-imposed digital firewall around the country has, for the most part, kept out Facebook and the rest of the western social platforms. In their place, a host of copycats sprang up. By far the most important is WeChat.

It has 1.1 billion registered accounts and more than 800 million monthly active users, said Wang. Users are logging into WeChat to connect with friends, get news, find dates and shop. “It essentially satisfies virtually every need of Chinese social media user,” said Wang. In Canada, 454,000 unique users visit WeChat every month. In B.C., Chinese Canadians spend more time on WeChat than the open internet.

“When families immigrate to Canada it is the easiest way to stay in touch with their families and friends back home,” explained Wang.

With WeChat being such a powerful presence in the lives of so many Chinese consumers, it only makes sense for more brands to develop a presence there, whether through WeChat posts, partnerships with influencers, or WeChat banners. In the past few months, some Canadian retailers have also started using WeChat’s mobile-payment system.

“WeChat is becoming more and more relevant and that is only going to be more true as time goes on,” said Wang.

It’s undeniable that immigration is changing the face of Canada and marketers need to rethink their strategies accordingly, said Sahni. That’s not always easy, but the digital habits of Chinese and South Asian consumers should be seen as good news.

“When it comes to digital, the ethnic communities have made it really simple for us as marketers to engage with them,” said Sahni. “There are many ways to engage with ethnic communities online, many ways to be efficient from a budgeting standpoint and be to highly targeted and relevant with those communities.”

ACA members can view the presentation by visiting our Webinars archive.

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