CHINA DIGITAL MARKETING GUIDE
Find the latest insights for digital marketing in China on this page, including the challenges and opportunities of entering the Chinese digital market. Get basic information on social media marketing and how to operate your brand in China through live-streaming and KOLs.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DIGITAL MARKETING IN THE WEST AND IN CHINA
China’s online world is fragmented, but more integrated in function
Admittedly, there are some major and dominant Chinese online platforms. For example, under tech giant Tencent, we have the super social media platform WeChat, which focuses on communication and business applications. WeChat also has payment tools, integrated e-commerce, and you can even use DIDI (China’s Uber) and pay with WeChat Pay without leaving WeChat. But, WeChat is not an open social network and has certain privacy protection attributes.
Weibo, on the other hand, is more like an enhanced version of Facebook. It offers users and influencers everything Facebook and Instagram do, and what Weibo does is aggregate and integrate dozens of niche media platforms, such as live video streaming and the function of Music.ly and YouTube. So, actually, Weibo is more like a super social media aggregator.
Online video content is fragmented in China
Douyin is a great platform for short (under 15-minute videos) and live-streaming. The influencers on Douyin are mostly supported by their fans, while also integrating some great e-commerce features into their videos. “Pure” video platforms like YouTube are weak in China.
Online platforms in China are more closely related to e-commerce
There are still boundaries between online platforms and e-commerce in the West, but many online platforms in China come with e-commerce functions, and this combination is widely accepted in China. Online shopping is very practical and easy for Chinese consumers. Consumers can buy clothes worn by a KOL while watching their videos on the social platform, without even leaving the page. All you need is the customer’s password or Face ID, which is very convenient.
The whole digital world in China is more mobile-focused
It is easy to conduct e-commerce transactions on mobile phones, with more than 90% of online shopping taking place on mobile devices. Social functionality across platforms is also happening primarily on mobile devices.
Online digital marketing trends in China change rapidly
Brands allocate most of their budgets to social media and influencer marketing because they know where their audiences are. Chinese marketing is characterized by rapid adaptation. Companies are constantly reinventing the way they conduct their activities. This may have something to do with the fact that China’s workforce, especially in marketing departments and technology companies, tends to be quite young.
GAFAM vs BATX
The US has tech giants like GAMA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) that are mostly inaccessible in China due to China’s internet policy restrictions. BATX (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Xiaomi), and after 2015, a number of other tech companies such as Huawei, Didi, JD.com, DJI and Bytedance have also emerged as tech giants in the industry. These Tech companies with Chinese characteristics are popular in China, often compared to GAMA, and foreign brands need to get to know them.
STRATEGIES TO SUCCESSFULLY PROMOTE YOUR BRAND THROUGH DIGITAL MARKETING IN CHINA
Online activities, Eg White paper(白皮书)
Online activities are an important channel for brands to effectively improve their visibility with target audiences and to recruit fans for official WeChat accounts. Good content is an effective tool for brands to carry out online activities. White papers are usually the main choice for enterprises.
In addition to text push, template messages for in-site interaction is also a good way to reach. High-quality content can attract the interest of target potential customers and complete the transformation from fans to potential customers.
Offline brand conferences in the retail or luxury industry, offline exhibitions in the B2B industry, and physical promotion activities are all important channels for acquiring customers.
- Determine the theme and content of the live broadcast, prepare posters for the event and publish them through the official account.
- Collect customer information through the H5 form.
- Send live links and watch notifications through template messages.
- Live broadcast through the platform’s live-streaming tool (or third-party).
- Statistics of viewing details of live/recorded broadcasts.
WeChat mainly provides two forms of advertising: circle of friends promotion advertising and public advertising.
Weibo SEO marketing
When users search for relevant words or relevant information, if the brand’s Weibo or Weibo account contains a popular keyword, your account will get a large amount of exposure.
Weibo fans marketing
Fans are the basis of Weibo marketing, the brand must first find the target fans. Fans can generally increase the popularity of their products or brands. As loyal customers, brand fans can give valuable feedback. Super fans also help brands increase awareness and influence.
Brands interact with consumers through Weibo to form a marketing purpose. They can attract consumers’ attention by participating in trending topics/hashtags or lottery activities on Weibo, increase the exposure rate of products or brands, and improve the purchase conversion rate.
Page ad, Display ad, KOL promotion ad, Fans Feed AD, etc.
KOL marketing in China
KOL marketing is when brands partner with those who have expertise or reputation in a particular area. These areas are usually related to the brand’s products in some way, or at least attract the attention of people who are interested in the brand’s products.
Benefits of KOL marketing
- Have a considerable flow effect on the brand
- Build a good reputation
- Higher ROI
How to cooperate with KOLs in China?
1. Clear marketing objectives
There are two directions:
A) Product marketing, promoting a product to improve exposure and sales conversion.
B) Brand marketing, which is not aimed at a specific product but aimed at promoting the image of the brand.
For now, KOL marketing is better suited to product marketing in China
2. Fan analysis of KOLs – number of fans, demographic distribution
Different KOLs have their own fan base (which can be the potential audience for your brand in the future). Finding the right influencer is finding the right user group for your product. The following two indicators are important for reference:
A) Number of fans: Usually the more fans, the more expensive the price, you can choose according to the positioning and budget of your products.
B) The age, gender, education level and regional distribution of fans.
3.Choose a KOL with high fan engagement
The higher the ratio of the number of followers on a KOL profile page to total participation, the higher the engagement of real fans.
Participation rate = participation/number of fans
Participation rate is an important indicator of KOL account activity. For some low participation rate KOLs, you can see a large number of fans, but few likes, comments and forwarding, which enterprises need to be especially vigilant regarding.
4.Use some data analytics platforms
A) Understand the KOL traffic trend
Brands need to look at the average number of views and the trend of views within a month, or even a week (current traffic), rather than just some high-traffic videos and posts. If there is a slow rise long-term flow trend, it can be considered a high quality KOL. If it is in decline and the performance is not stable, the brand needs to consider alternatives.
B) Understand the authenticity of KOL fans
Accounts with more than 50% active followers and less than 20% zombie followers are considered good partners, and truly valuable KOLs are only reviewed by real users. Third-party apps such as Qiangua Data (千瓜数据) can provide a percentage of their active versus zombie followers.
5. Monitor competitors’ product promotion
Check competitor products in the industry to find which type of celebrity to promote, and what platforms have the best benefit. Through the analysis of their promotion effect, you can indirectly predict their promotion effect, and enterprises can save some time cost.
1.Create your own live channel
May provide the highest return but also involves the greatest risk because of the significant investment of time and resources required. Brands need to carefully select the content that interests their users. Taobao and JD.com, China’s two largest online shopping platforms, both opened the live-streaming function for enterprises. Brands can cultivate their own official streamer (主播) to sell or promote products on their brand accounts.
2. Put your brand into popular live-channels
Many top live-streaming KOLs have their own accounts on local mainstream e- commerce platforms in China. Meanwhile, they have a large number of loyal fans. Brands can directly cooperate with these popular KOLs with their own traffic for promotion. For example, Li Jiaqi, a top streamer on Taobao, raked in a staggering 10.6 billion yuan in sales on Double 11 day this year.
Integration with online shopping
VR and AR allows consumers to experiment with products, have a shopping experience outside the store, and allow people to virtually try out products rather than just videos or pictures. Brands can overcome physical limitations and provide product details features to achieve higher conversion rates.
VR technology, which Alibaba has already adopted, allows customers to explore virtual stores and extract and examine product details in 3D before making a purchase. 3D live-action technology now allows people to see themselves online in pre-ordered clothes and accessories. Consumers can fully participate in the purchasing experience. V-commerce allows products to be visualised online. If they don’t fit online, they won’t place an order, which improves customers’ after-sales satisfaction.
Combine with physical stores
As more and more people shop online, giving customers a reason to go to a physical store has become a challenge. VR technology helps customers interact with brands in new ways, such as driving experience in the automotive industry, and skydiving experience in the travel industry. Retailers can also create virtual versions of physical stores, either as exact replicas of physical stores or as a fictional environment over which brands have complete control.
Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence(AI)
Alibaba is redesigning the shopping experience for consumers around the world. These improvements create highly customized experiences and simplify the shopping process so that consumers can get “extraordinarily accurate” product search results and suggestions they didn’t even realize they actually wanted.
In an oversaturated online space where audiences are no longer patient, AI offers a unique solution — one that goes a long way toward satisfying consumers by taking into account their characteristics and preferences.
It’s never easy to enter a new market, especially when it requires understanding the sentiment of a new group of consumers and their communication channels. By working with us, you can be sure that:
- Our team will help you not only with WeChat account set up and management but with the most important step of all – developing a marketing strategy. We can help you use WeChat to build highly effective communication with current and potential consumers and, with 9 years of experience, we know the best tactics, tools and design solutions for clients from a variety of industries.
- We’ll help to verify and customize your official accounts, write articles, set up your menu bar and create a visual feel for the account
- We have a team of dedicated writers and creatives who will make sure your content pops and delivers results.
- We work closely with the WeChat internal team and often know of new functions and updates first.
- We have experienced campaign managers who use the latest campaign formats, know which influencers are most suitable for your brand and know which ad tools are needed to achieve your goals.
- We’re also experienced at building and managing WeChat private pools, integrating CRM systems and managing WeChat mini programs.
- When you work with us, we will continue educating you. You’ll not only understand Chinese consumers better, you’ll also learn key functions of WeChat, see how these fit into your marketing strategy and see first-hand how good strategy drives profits.
- We’ll assign you an experienced account manager, who will be in touch with you to ensure that we reach our goal together. Transparency and efficiency. Your success is our success.
As each project is unique, we also organize consultations on how to improve your WeChat marketing performance by auditing your current activity and giving expert advice. Contact us and we’ll help you turn your business goals into real outcomes.
China has its own social media, search engines and knowledge sharing platforms. In the past, Chinese social media platforms could be summed up by comparisons with Western platforms. This can still be done with some platforms. For example, Weibo is China’s Twitter and Zhihu is like China’s Quora. However, China’s current digital landscape has platforms with combinations of integrated services that aren’t directly comparable to a single platform in the West. It also has other digital platforms that use approaches particular to China or that don’t have a direct counterpart in the West and many digital platforms in China have more advanced opportunities to reach out to consumers and establish long-term communication with them than Western platforms.
Marketers also need to be prepared for the fact that the China market is no longer cheaper than the West when it comes to advertising. In fact, to advertise on most popular platforms to top consumer groups, it will likely cost more to get strong attention for your brand and products.
Another important aspect, that many brands neglect, is localization. From brand and product names to social media content and product descriptions, content can’t just be translated into Chinese. Consumers expect brands to understand their current needs, lifestyles and preferences. They expect brands to fulfill their desires and want them to establish emotional connections.
Contact us if you want to learn how your company can get the most from a digital presence in China.
For companies new to the market, we can help with the first step and help you set up your Chinese social media accounts, which your company will have full ownership of. Depending on whether you already have a Chinese business registration, opening an account and the verification process might take up to 2-4 weeks. After that, our team can help you identify the best social media platforms for your brand and create engaging content creation for them.
For companies that are already in China, we can do digital brand audits to identify improvements that will lead to better engagement with consumers, more effective content, a smoother consumer journey and help your brand prioritize marketing activities and budget allocations. We can also help you do social media campaign planning and advertising.
Contact us to learn more about social media marketing for your brand needs in China.
We have a step by step guide for China market entry that you can check out here.
In a nutshell, brands entering China need to first identify whether there’s a demand for their product or service. After that, they need to register their business, establish their legal presence and choose the best sales model. On top of that, they need to develop their consumer journey and create a brand presence on the right audience communication channels.
Our consumer research will help you identify the best online consumption routes for your targeted personas. Based on that, we’ll develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy covering most suitable social media channels for your brand. Schedule a call with our team to start your digital marketing planning now.