Baidu bullish on marketing service

Baidu, China’s biggest search engine, has chosen Thailand as a base to expand its digital marketing business, citing the rise of Chinese tourism in the country.

Called Baidu Access, the company’s new consulting and digital marketing service was launched in Thailand as the first country in Southeast Asia, said Paul Chen, general manager of Baidu Thailand.

The multitude of Chinese tourists travelling here factored in the company’s decision, Mr Chen said, adding that 8 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand last year and the total is expected to reach 9.5 million this year, generating upwards of 350 billion baht for the Thai economy.

Thai brands and businesses have also targeted Chinese travellers, so Baidu decided to set up a new team for the service at the end of last year.

In the first three months of 2017, Baidu Access’s digital marketing targeted hotels and travel. Soon it will expand to banks, telecoms, restaurants, department stores, spas, consumer goods, cosmetics, drugs and snacks.

“Chinese people choose Thailand as their first tourism destination because of a variety of points of interest, geographical location, affordable prices and Thai friendliness,” said Patcharaporn Sirisapwong, marketing and public relations manager at Baidu Thailand.

Chinese tourists spend 30,000-40,000 baht a person (excluding airfare) when visiting Thailand, she said. The company’s new services will enable Thai businesses to tap potential market opportunities.

“The local businesses should target Chinese users because they have stronger purchasing power compared with tourists from other parts of the world where economies are slowing down,” Ms Patcharaporn said.

Baidu’s search engine is No.1 in China and one of the four largest globally. In China, at least 95% of internet users use the Baidu search engine.

Ms Patcharaporn said Thai businesses have limited access to the Chinese market because of language and cultural barriers.

Baidu can provide Thai businesses with better access to the market with online communities such as web boards, social media and chat platforms, she said.

Baidu also has 600-700 partners known as key opinion leaders (KOLs) — influential public figures who are perceived as experts in certain fields and are knowledgeable about many topics.

KOLs are a powerful marketing tool for brands because Chinese people prefer advertising that doesn’t look like advertising, Ms Patcharaporn said.

She said Baidu Access has more than 100 customers after nine months operating in Thailand.

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