Top China Digital Marketing Trends in 2020

China digital marketing trends
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If you’re looking to drive sales in any market, it’s important to keep up with the evolving marketing trends.

Strategies that work well in the West might not translate so well in the Chinese market  — from culture, to consumer expectations, you simply can’t rely on the same messaging to succeed. You’ll waste valuable time and money if you do. 

To create a strong presence, you need to know the most important digital marketing trends in China right now and figure out which ones make sense for your business.

Ready to dive in? 

Let’s go.

Trend #1: KOL Livestreams continue to drive $$$

KOL livestreams are sending sales through the roof.

Expected to become the most profitable form of marketing in China by some – celebrity, and KOL (Key Opinion Leader) live streams are breaking viewership records across many social platforms. Not just that, they also appear to be incredibly effective. 

The evolution of livestreams

Many of these livestreams began as thinly veiled sales pitches, similar to what you might expect to see on traditional TV infomercials. However, some are trying to up the quality, introduce banter and make it more entertaining and less ‘salesy’. It will be interesting to see whether this model or the infomercial model wins in the long run.

Livestreaming boom in 2020

In the post-coronavirus boom that product livestreaming has experienced, more entertaining and higher quality content appears to be increasingly favoured. Celebrities and other high profile people are attracting incredibly high viewership. Because this is new and novel, the additional opportunity to watch stars present high-quality streams piques the curiosity in many.

china livestreaming - digital marketing trend
Image credit: QQ

Some successful examples in this model:

  • Taobao livestreaming increased by 130% to 41.33 million (by daily active users) during the past Single’s Day. 
  • Actress Liu Tao sold products worth 148 million RMB for T-mall in her first Taobao live-stream. 21 million people tuned in to see her sell products like houses, flights, and wine. Due to her fame and large following, the power of celebrity live-streaming has been made very clear.
  • In just half an hour, Dong Mingzhu made 100 Million yuan in sales on Kuaishou – one of China’s top short video platforms. The first product was air conditioners. With almost 2000 sold within 5 minutes, totalling almost 7 million yuan. 
  • Luo Yonghao, the tech KOL & ex-founder of Smartisan smartphone, sold 168 million RMB during his 1st campaign
  • Celebrity Li Xiaolu sold 35 million RMB in her 1st campaign

The key to success with these campaigns is choosing an appropriate KOL for your brand. Most brands get the best results with a KOL who is not too famous but with a strong following. Find KOLs with a string of campaigns that have done okay rather than someone who has only done one spectacular campaign and nothing else.

Want to run a KOL campaign in China?

AdChina.io is one of the easiest ways to advertise and drive traffic in China. Work with us to run a KOL campaign, and use our self-service platform to run campaigns and drive sales. Create a FREE account to get started.

Trend #2: WeChat Mini-programs

WeChat mini-programs are sub-applications that can be accessed and used from inside the WeChat app. Lately, the usage of WeChat Mini-programs has increased.

Brands and organisations value them because they facilitate e-commerce selling, task management, live streaming and send push notifications. They can also interact with other parts of WeChat, and even share coupons with past buyers or prospective new buyers. Because it’s built on the WeChat platform, it’s typically cheaper and easier to create a mini-program than a native app.

Here’s an example of a gamification WeChat mini program that lets you take a selfie and add filters to it.

Image credit: Jing daily

Essentially, these mini-programs are apps within an app. This allows users to do more inside the app, and facilitates improved tracking, as everything happens within WeChat’s ecosystem. This fixes one common issue in Chinese advertising, in which data is heavily siloed, making it difficult to get accurate tracking, conversion, and buyer behaviour data.

Some mini-programs include e-commerce sales stores, geolocation for finding transport options, as well as games and typical types of apps. More than ⅔ of WeChat users access mini-programs on at least a monthly basis, and collectively spent over $115bn (USD) through mini-programs in 2019 alone.

An advantage for WeChat users is that because mini-programs are hosted on Tencent’s servers, they are extremely fast and efficient compared to other apps.

With more than ¾ of mini-programs attached to Official Accounts, they’re proving a top choice for brands and organisations to create an additional touch point with customers, users, and prospects.

Some of the most popular mini-programs include:

  • Apartment rentals
  • McDonald’s discount coupons
  • Tencent Surveys
  • Mobike (smart bike sharing)
  • Sleepy Sounds
  • Games

Trend #3: Short video marketing

Based on Kantar Media’s research, online video is going to represent 82% of the online traffic in 2020. While watching and sharing online videos is the second most important usage of social media.

Among online videos, short videos have been the fastest-growing category, with the number of daily active users approaching twice that of the other types of online videos. After intense competition, the short video scene is mostly set now, dominated by 2 major players, Douyin and Kuaishou. They are surrounded by a few smaller players.

In 2019, the competition between Douyin and Kuaishou was mainly on the amount of traffic. But in 2020, the competition has moved on to how to further explore and monetize the traffic. 

Meanwhile, brands from almost every industry have been on board with short video marketing, especially beauty and personal care brands (top advertising category on Douyin), and e-commerce platforms (top advertising category on Kuaishou). 

How KOLs help with short video marketing

Several top brands are including short video marketing into their content strategy and collaborating with KOLs in their niche to produce quality short videos.

Among all the brands-KOL collaboration, KOLs from the beauty category have the highest sales conversion rate. This is followed by KOLS from the food, product review, and mom & baby categories. And the top 3 types of KOLs that brands love to collaborate with are: drama & humour, young pretty men, young pretty women.

There are mainly three strategies for brands to work with short video KOLS:

  1. Pyramid model: collaborating with KOLs at all levels, with a number of followers ranging from 100,000 to 10,000,000, formulating a good ratio of KOLs from each level.
  2. IP-focused model: centralising resources and working only with top-level KOLs (those with more than 10,000,000 followers), and utilising KOLs as brand icons.
  3. Overwhelm model: working with lower-level KOLs (those with less than 5,000,000 followers), KOC (key opinion consumers) and normal short video app users to create a bottom to top impact.

Most brands choose to go with the first two models. The third model is more suitable for innovative brands with a smaller budget.

Want to run a KOL campaign in China?

AdChina.io is one of the easiest ways to advertise and drive traffic in China. Work with us to run a KOL campaign, and use our self-service platform to run campaigns and drive sales. Create a FREE account to get started.

Trend #4 Promoting brands in esports 

Esports is a major industry in China, worth more than 100bn yuan ($14bn). What’s more, esports has continued to flourish during the global pandemic crisis — even while traditional sports ground to a halt. 

Marketing in esports offers brands a variety of options to engage audiences, from sponsored characters and experiences to digital billboards. But brands have an opportunity to flex their creative muscles and drive engagement by experimenting with more dynamic techniques. 

KFC, for example, created an AI commentator to predict League of Legends results in China, bringing the company 70 minutes of daily exposure to an audience of 203m people.

Not bad, huh?

As of early 2020, a whopping 26 percent of China’s internet users watch esports regularly. Even more interestingly, the esports community is more diverse in China than in other countries, with women accounting for 43 percent of the total audience. 

What’s clear from this data is that esports is a huge opportunity area for Western advertisers, especially for brands seeking to engage with both men and women through one channel. 

Trend #5 The rise of the consumers in lower-tier cities

Lower-tier cities in China are finally gaining greater recognition as valuable markets.

In early 2020, double the number of first-time users in China’s lower-tier cities had embraced online shopping compared to those in top-tier cities. This has highlighted the immense potential for brands in engaging rural communities outside of the country’s most populated cities. 

Generally, consumers in lower-tier locations lack the spending power of those in super cities like Beijing, yet they account for more than 70 percent of the growth in annual active users. 

In fact, research shows cities in the third tier or below are home to around 128 million internet users who have yet to purchase online, compared to just 74 million in higher-tier cities.

It’s becoming increasingly important that brands create marketing strategies that engage prospects outside of city epicenters within China. There’s vast potential beyond the major cities, and businesses that find a way to tap into these emerging markets could grow their audience significantly

Expect to see brands pushing to reach lower-tier consumers more aggressively in the coming months and years. This may involve employing different marketing techniques and messages than campaigns dedicated to top-tier demographics. 

The key lies in understanding this new audience, their needs, and their shopping behaviors, rather than a blanket-marketing campaign targeting everyone.

Wrapping up

These key China digital marketing trends demonstrate the level of creativity and innovation required to compete in this complex marketplace. It can be a tough nut to crack, but crack it you can … with the right support and expertise.

AdChina.io makes advertising in China simpler and more accessible for Western businesses. Book a demo to learn more today!

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