International Business Strategies

Winning Big In China Through Third-Party Sites

In a world dominated by online search—where companies can soar or sink in emerging markets, depending on page rank—referral traffic is priceless.

Chris Hutchins's avatar
Chris Hutchins

February 25, 2016


Is your company keen to engage customers in mainland China with a localized website? There’s good news: Despite recent economic fluctuations, the country’s middle class continues to grow, and online spending remains alive and thriving. Launching a localized, branded promotional or e-commerce website for the Chinese market remains a very good idea, indeed.

But a challenge awaits most Western companies: Localized Chinese sites often generate very low referral traffic from Chinese Internet users. Even the most iconic of brands can receive less than 2% of their traffic on their localized sites from these invaluable referrals.

This statistic isn’t as grim as it might seem, though there’s certainly room for improvement. For context, referral traffic to most primary-market English websites hovers at around 10%, on average. MotionPoint, which operates over 1,000 localized websites in over 50 global markets, often sees its localized sites generate less than 3% of total traffic from referrals.

Conversion rates are comparably lower in these international markets, too.

These low statistics impact brand awareness—but more importantly, they dramatically impact a localized site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) benefits. In an online world dominated by search—where companies can soar or sink in emerging markets, depending on search rankings—referral traffic is practically priceless.

“The more high-quality external links a website has, the greater the ‘link equity’ search engines like Google add to the site,” explains Mohan Sha, a Chinese-market expert on MotionPoint’s sales team. “This really improves the site’s SEO authority, ranking and organic traffic. That, of course, leads to more customers and sales.”

Companies that invest in boosting their localized referral traffic—through conventional advertising, media coverage and partner networks—often become disappointed by the results, especially since most approaches generate low ROI. Indeed, in the world of e-commerce, there are many third-party sites and solutions fishing for advertising, but few are really effective.

Expanding companies must often conduct thorough market research to effectively generate referral traffic. The rub? There’s very little helpful information available online.

However, thanks to MotionPoint’s exclusive insights operating localized websites—including many for China—we’re able to provide a list of third-party sites that generate the most impact for e-commerce companies targeting China. These powerful services help increase brand awareness and generate more revenue.

Apparel and Cosmetics

Fashion and accessories represent China’s largest e-commerce sector. Faced with fierce competition and the immediate need to build external connections and advertising, most Western companies often find themselves lost in a veritable sea of solutions.

But by observing the trends MotionPoint clients use to successfully operate websites in China, here are four third-party sites your organization should consider leveraging, should you wish to boost referral traffic:


This invitation-only service helps companies and retailers leverage a network of top-tier global publishers, and monetize their entire digital brands via proprietary digital tools and services.

“By serving a niche audience, rewardStyle offers retailers such fashion-specific insights as best converting links, creative tools, ‘lookbooks’ and more,” Mohan says. “The company’s monetization support within social media is especially strong, too.”

We’ve found that rewardStyle is mainly responsible for high traffic generation. The service adds an average of 4% of total traffic to Chinese localized sites, substantially higher than the average. To apply for rewardStyle, companies must provide information about their digital marketing efforts at its site.

This domain name is short for “What is worth buying” in Chinese Pinyin. The site showcases discounts and deals to mainland Chinese customers, and also serves as a shopping guide site.

Smzdm recommends products ranging from fashion and electrical appliances, to books and music. The recommendation list features “cheap” and “weird” products, and products with direct shipping, as well as products by category.

“Brands really benefit from being recommended by Smzdm users,” Mohan says. “Site editors then select the most interesting submissions for prominent placement on the website.”

Online advertising opportunities also exist.

Based on our research, Smzdm is the highest converting Chinese third-party referral site, delivering an average 0.4% conversion rate. It contributes about 2% referral traffic, too. is China’s largest online shopping guide website. It features thousands of discounts, promotions and coupons in dozens of categories, including Beauty & Fashion, Baby & Kids, Clothing, Jewelry & Bags and more.

A particularly interesting note about DealMoon: “This is ‘the’ go-to website for Chinese-speaking consumers in the U.S.,” Mohan points out. “In our benchmarks, the service generated about 29% of total referral traffic to localized Chinese sites.”

Companies can provide discounts on DealMoon, and advertise them on-site. (Learn more by filling out DealMoon’s advertising contact form.) Promotion of these discounts via local social media networks (such as Weibo) is particularly effective, we’ve found.

Our final recommendation for fashion retailers is, where Chinese consumers can find the latest fashion brands and designers, while also shopping for clothes, shoes, jewelry, wedding dresses and more. The site also provides insights and advice on the latest fashion trends.

We’ve found that Chinese users hailing from this site generate a relatively high conversion rate (0.2%). Companies can apply to partner with ShopStyle by filling out the contact form at the footer of the site.

Travel Industry

Players in the travel industry have long relied on third-party travel search engines and price-comparison sites for brand awareness and referral traffic. This trend certainly applied to the Chinese market, too. (In fact, these sites often generate significantly more referral traffic than those serving the retail industry.)

Here are three Chinese services that our clients have used, and saw great results:

Target Market: Mainland China KAYAK is a travel search engine, connected with hundreds of airlines, hotels and more to help users find and book a trip that suits them best. Since KAYAK is such a well-known travel booking site, the conversion rate of Chinese users coming from KAYAK can reach as high as 15%. Sites see a respectable referral traffic lift of 3%, too.

“Once your new localized Chinese travel site is up and running, make sure it’s linked on the Chinese KAYAK site,” Mohan advises. Not too long ago, Qunar was the second-largest travel booking website in China. But last year, the company was acquired by industry leader Ctrip—and in doing so, became part of China’s biggest Chinese travel booking site.

Qunar provides flight, train, and place of interest ticket booking, as well as vacation packages and hotel reservations.

Based on our analysis, Chinese sites listed on Qunar experience a conversion rate as high as 2.3%, and see a powerful 4% lift in total website traffic. Companies interested in being listed by Qunar can find e-mail and phone contact information on the company’s site.

Target Market: United States This travel site provides information on Los Angeles-based transportation, hotel, recommended itineraries and related movies. The service cleverly targets U.S.-based Chinese speakers who are travelling to California.

The site delivers an average 7% of total traffic—a terrific lift.

“If your company provides transportation, accommodation, or any other services in Los Angeles, this is a good site to promote your website,” Mohan suggests. “It’s also a great way to generate brand awareness.”

To learn more about partnering with HelloLA, please refer to contact information on this page (in Chinese).

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