Published on: August 29, 2022
China is the world’s 2nd largest market and has the fastest-growing large economy globally. However, China’s digital landscape is vastly different from that of the West. Market entry and growth in China requires deep knowledge of the country’s digital ecosystem, in order to navigate it successfully.
Additionally, Chinese consumers have heightened expectations when it comes to user experience and seamless customer journey.
In other words, marketing your products and services to Chinese consumers is a project that must be done on their terms.
Creative digital marketing in China must be high quality, information-rich, and specific (not to mention, developed with a mobile-first mindset). Because of both cultural perceptions and recent experiences with low-quality domestic and foreign goods entering the market, consumers in China often spend a lot of time researching and gathering information before hitting that “buy” button.
That means, that in addition to developing high-quality products and solutions, having an effective and creative marketing strategy is vital for success in the Chinese market.
Digital marketing trends in China move fast, and it can be hard for Western brands to keep up. At WPIC, our creative, omnichannel marketing strategies give brands from around the world a leg up in standing out in the e-commerce and digital marketing spaces in China.
In an increasingly competitive digital landscape, memorability is not earned lightly. A successful digital marketing campaign requires creativity (especially as more and more brands enter the marketing landscape in China). In addition to understanding your potential customers in the market, thinking out of the box is essential for rising above the competition.
At WPIC, we have a creative practice that is led by industry veteran of the creative agency space in China. Our Creative Labs division employs best-in-class creative tactics tailored to your audience – and integrates those tactics with a strong social media presence – to ensure your brand resonates with the world’s savviest consumers.
Some of the creative campaigns we’ve recently launched include a livestream session with the executive chef of the 5-star InterContinental Hotel in Nanjing for Vitamix and a grassroots campaign across schools and basketball teams for a sports brand.
Let’s look at some specific tactics and trends in creative digital marketing in China and see how emerging technologies are reshaping the future of marketing in the country.
Online influencers (KOLs) play a crucial role in China, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world.
Trust is a crucial part of Chinese culture, so an influencer who is trusted by consumers can be super impactful for any organization. Additionally, because of the history of poorly designed products entering the Chinese market for dozens of years and over-promising on claims and under-delivering on results, consumers today value the judgements of trusted experts.
As a result, endorsements from KOLs are a valuable tactic to leverage if you want to create buzz for your organization — especially if you represent a little-known or newly created brand or product.
As Chinese netizens encounter content marketing repeatedly on their social media apps each day, creative and eye-catching content that convey the values of your brand is key for successful marketing campaigns. You need to ensure that your marketing penetrates beyond the noise of the market and resonates with consumers in the country.
Our Creative Labs division helps global brands develop bold, creative campaigns that do just that, achieving measurable, consistent growth across all the hottest platforms that are most directly tied to Chinese consumer activity and buzz.
No Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube. The internet filters that keep foreign social media giants out have created an environment that promotes China’s tech firms inside their home country. In other words, it is critical to be present on China’s most important domestic social channels if you want to drive growth. That means effective execution on digital platforms (which we discuss below) like WeChat, Sina Weibo, Xiaohongshu, YouKu, Bilibili, Douyin, and a few others.
Thanks to the rapid-growing Chinese e-commerce market, social media marketing has shifted from only reaching and engaging new audiences to now a key source for trusted recommendations.
Just like around the rest of the world, in China, brands often collaborate with celebrities and KOLs to promote awareness and drive conversions through online interactions on social media platforms. And because of the inherent trust between KOLs and their followers on social platforms, this marketing tactic can increase brand awareness and accelerate a consumer’s decision to purchase.
In China, it’s important to persuade consumers to trust your brand, to build a good reputation over time, and to provide an easy and fast way to buy products. WPIC can leverage China’s most popular social platforms and leading KOLs to bring your brand’s digital marketing directly into the hands of your customers.
For example, our social campaign for Diva Cup collaborated with Liang Yu, a KOL in Weibo’s feminism community, to create buzz about a product category that is still new to Chinese consumers. The campaign reached over 2.3 million views and drove over 2,600 engagements on Weibo, China’s micro-blogging platform. All of that resulted in a jump in conversions and significant growth in market for the Diva Cup brand.
WeChat is China’s most popular messaging app, commanding over 1.2 billion users per month. Not only does the app features messaging capabilities, but it integrates with dozens of other services.
In short, no app in the West comes close to WeChat’s suite of capabilities. And if your brand isn’t active on the platform, you simply haven’t been marketing to China’s consumer class.
The super-app has come so ubiquitous to everyday life in China society, that it is now key for brands to build solid customer relationships in the Chinese market. Its features consisting of:
Weibo is the largest micro-blogging site in China with 550 million daily active users. Given the character limits, it’s often labelled as the Chinese version of Twitter.
Users can upload images, videos and gifs for information sharing and engaging with each other. Many organizations, brands, and celebrities from different fields use the social platform to interact and share information with their followers, customers, and fans.
Much like Twitter in the West, when a topic or person becomes “trending” on Weibo, that signifies that that topic has taken over the narrative across the country.
Douyin (China’s TikTok) has livestreaming and e-commerce capabilities with 650 million daily active users. Its e-commerce transactions generated US$77 billion in GMV in 2021 (a massive number, considering it did not begin as a commerce app).
Some Douyin marketing strategies includes:
Interested in a recent success story on Douyin?
WPIC recently produced 2 branded videos for Johnny Was, an international fashion brand that had just entered the Chinese market and needed to establish a positive brand image and build social trust.
The campaign for Johnny Was garnered the brand an average of 8,500 new followers per month on the popular platform and drove traffic to the brand’s Tmall store, leading to thousands of new purchases per month.
Launching your brand on the Douyin app ensures you’re speaking to young Chinese consumers — a key demographic for making sure your fashion brand takes off in the market.
As with marketing any product or service, paid advertising is going to be a crucial component of the media mix- whether that is in platform or out of platform. There are an infinite number of paid advertising options available for international brands, but which are the ones that are most efficient? Which allow you to stretch your media dollars best?
That is something that WPIC knows best.
Tmall and JD are China’s leading e-commerce platforms, and where more than 80% of online transactions for consumers occur. The beauty of these platforms is that brands get total control over the customer experience inside of them — and the experience for users is more akin to a virtual shopping mall rather than a mega-store like a Walmart.
Inside the platform, consumers can enjoy interactive content like blogging, videos and livestreaming, and the platforms serve customized content to users based on their behaviour in the app. This provides a hyper-personalized experience that keeps consumers coming back for more content (and thus, purchases) multiple times per day.
At WPIC, we run creative brand and product campaigns to ensure you’re marketing to your customers the right way when they visit China’s e-commerce marketplaces. Not only do we negotiate product placement on China’s leading third-party platforms to get your brand the best exposure, but we also navigate the Chinese promotional calendar to ensure your products are top of mind for consumers at precisely the right times.
Last, our efficient PPC campaigns inside of platforms ensure that your media dollars are being spent where the ROAS is going to be best for your brand.
What about off-platform paid communities — have you tapped into them? Mobile advertising contributed more than 50% of the media ad revenue in China last year. Are you taking advantage of this trend?
As with organic and social content, Chinese consumers have thousands of different domestic and international brands vying for their attention in the paid ad space. So, creative ad designs that are high quality and present genuine, valuable content are much more likely to drive awareness and conversions.
Interested in an example of how that can work?
WPIC’s hand-drawn illustration banners for Vitamix’s new year gift box campaign this past year enabled the brand to stand out from its competitors in the competitive housewares market, resulting in a 398.2% increase in net sales.
Livestream-enabled commerce in China is unique, and it is a ubiquitous online shopping experience. In 2022 it is expected that the tactic will lead to roughly 20% of all online consumer purchases in China.
Livestreaming is a shopping mode where hosts (they can be famous KOLs/ influencers, brand representatives, or third-party actors) broadcast in real time, to an audience of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of consumers, demonstrating and testing the products they’re promoting.
Viewers can immediately purchase the product from the embedded link in the app without leaving the stream. They can also ask the hosts questions about the products and ask for specific demonstrations.
It’s a great way to both grow brand awareness and move inventory quickly. Marketing tactics on livestreaming platforms often include:
Livestreams (with or without famous KOLs as your spokespeople) can make products trend quickly and drive awareness and purchases through the roof. And because the tactic is so popular in the market, several major technology companies in China have developed their own livestream apps, like Taobao Live, Douyin, Kuaishou, and more.
Having high-ranking search performance is one of the most effective forms of digital marketing available in China – especially if you’re a brand where customers will likely need to do some research (for instance, big-ticket purchases, health and wellness products, B2B solutions, etc.).
And if you want to win inside of search in China, you need to be active on Baidu, the market’s leading search engine, which controls more than two-thirds of China’s web-browser search traffic (aka the Google of China).
Like everywhere else around the world, Chinese consumers at the early stage of their buying journey search for information and reviews before making their decisions. If you want to raise awareness and drive traffic to your localised .CN website (a critical component of any effective tech stack in China), you need to have effective SEO tactics. Not only that, but your website’s content needs to be localized for the market. The reality is that a website hosted in the West, combined with Chinese text from Google Translate just won’t cut it.
Creative digital marketing in China is more than driving traffic to your store. It’s important for brands to approach the market from a holistic perspective: yes, drive traffic, but also build online communities, establish social trust and demonstrate to your Chinese customers that you are investing in the region for the long run and are there to provide value on their terms.
A good creative marketing strategy in China should have multiple touchpoints for a customer. That means encouraging netizens to follow the brand’s official account on key social media platforms, check the company’s official website, visit their flagship Tmall or JD stores, engage with the brand’s chosen KOLs, and eventually, not only make a purchase, but become a promoter of the brand to friends and family.
If you want to learn more about how to boost your brand’s presence in China through effective and creative digital marketing, please contact us.
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