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Customer acquisition and customer retention often work hand-in-hand. It is understood that acquiring one customer is multiples times more expensive than retaining that same customer. However, there are methods where merely taking care of current customers can, in turn, allow organic growth of new customers. One such method is through the use of community and building it in a way to make customers feel valued and heard.

What is a community – online or offline?

Social, online, or offline communities have become the primary method for brands to interact with their audiences. Providing a platform to listen to their opinions on what the company should do to improve the products and services is essential for every company’s long-term survivability and growth.

Online communities imitate offline communities in the same key facet: they enable the coming together of people based on shared interests as a place for discussion, exchange advice, and build relationships amongst the communities. These communities range from WeChat groups to video blogs (vlogs) on Bilibili and Douyin to forums on local publications like SmartShanghai and other similar media outlets. These used to be places like bars and coffee shops. While China has done a remarkable job in containing the COVID-19 pandemic and restoring a quick sense of normality, those months when places were closed have driven an impetus to move more and more things online to keep the connections alive and well. As for the offline community, it is all around you. It is where you live. It is where you shop. The shops and eateries are very much a part of the community as you are and enhances your local belonging.

What about the benefits – what are they?

First and foremost, it puts your brand at the heart of everything. If you have spent the time to foster your community, your collective becomes the go-to resource for your community when it comes to your business and brand. It is a place where your members can feel valued and included and as though their voices are heard.

Brands typically pay good amounts to learn the insights you can pick up from an active and insightful community that you helm. From their favorites to their wishes on future products, users will often discuss their behaviors, needs, interests, and demographics freely in-depth within the community. This knowledge is priceless in refining your answer to several key questions: What could my business do better? What refinement might your products need based on the discussions amongst the community? Voila, all of this qualitative data is there, right at your fingertips.

Thirdly, we all know that word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most valuable marketing tools there is, and with a community of your own creation, you are likely to have more than a few fans. These fans will participate in your community, they will talk together about their shared fandom and heighten the enthusiasm towards your product or service. Generating leads and boosting conversion rates is another free perk.

Finally, if the brand is the core reason that the community exists, the community becomes the core of why a follower or customer is attached to you. The client or customer becomes tied to you for more reasons than the product or service you offer, thus deepening the relationships and ensuring future loyalty.

How do I create my community?

Discovering your niche is vital. All of us are unique and have our own preferences, ideas, and opinions, but these make you…well, you. The main reason why communities – online and offline – are powerful is because they allow us to express our uniqueness to the world in a welcoming atmosphere that helps us feel valued. Whether it is at the neighborhood bodega or on Bilibili, we, as humans, want to celebrate our differences and to feel in tune with others simultaneously. At the same time, when wishing to acknowledge our uniqueness, we also do not want to feel alone. This, right here, is the core reason why focusing your community on a niche subject captures that very human essence of authenticity and exclusivity – we feel like we are a part of something special.

Capturing this feeling in a community is down to how you facilitate a useful yet authentic niche. A couple of questions spring to mind:

  • What do you as a business or brand offer that’s organically yours but relevant to many?
  • What is a popular concept or activity that is lacking a private space to share thoughts and sentiments about?
  • What can my community gain from being a member of these discussions?

Start the discussion. If it is relevant enough, sub-groups or threads will split off organically and begin to amplify into a greater echo chamber that’s all about your business.

These communities often feel safe and shielded from marketing (or spam) and external influence, which is a big part of their popularity. However, please do not make the mistake of thinking you can push tactics onto your community, especially when it offers next to nothing in value to your fans. Before posting within the community, take a moment, and think: What is this offering my community? In what ways is this valuable?

Finally, the last two key elements are consistency and facilitation. Keep on the brand to your business when you post, and do not deviate on tangents that will only alienate customers. Your members should be comfortable expressing their opinions and thoughts without fear of it being used against them. Lastly, keep yourself open to feedback, your community is a valuable asset, and they deserve your ear.

2020 and 2021 were rough years for most, but for the businesses and brands that built a solid community foundation, they could ride the storm far better than those that did not take the time to strengthen their base. That is why, right now, at the beginning of 2022, businesses must continue to assess their base communities.

How Melchers can support foreign businesses in China

As we have over 155 years of experience and expertise in doing business in and with China across various industries, we see it as a matter of course. Each business requires a customized solution for its approach to the Chinese market, including a digital presence. In today’s highly transformative Chinese business environment, where technology disrupts both industries and business models at an ever-faster pace, it is more pivotal than ever to collaborate with a long-term oriented partner who possesses the market know-how is able to share financial and market risks.

If your company or team is looking for guidance on building a digital presence in China, trust the experienced team at Melcher China’s to lead the way for you. Please contact us via [email protected] or have a look on our Website Competencies of Melchers China – Digital Marketing (

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