In 2019, China amassed an astounding $1.93 trillion in e-commerce sales — making it the largest digital market in the world, with an international market share of almost 55%.
But what’s behind this phenomenal growth?
Alongside a rapid increase in mobile phone usage, social media has significantly changed the way Chinese consumers shop online. Particularly among those born in the mid to late nineties, who are leading the way in changing trends.
And that’s where XiaoHongshu comes into play: a popular ‘lifestyle’ app that’s taken the e-commerce industry by storm.
In this guide, we’ll explain exactly what XiaoHongshu is, how businesses sell on it, and how you can use XiaoHongshu to boost your brand’s presence in the world’s most important e-commerce market.
What is Xiaohongshu (and what makes it so powerful for international brands)?
XiaoHongshu (or ‘Little Red Book’) is an innovative, ‘social commerce’ platform in China. Think of it as Amazon meets Instagram, where predominantly young, female consumers discover and purchase ‘luxury goods’ (like make-up) on the basis of product reviews and influencer opinions.
You could say it’s similar to Instagram’s shopping feature, which has also proved the concept of fusing e-commerce with user-generated content — only XiaoHongshu is far more elevated, and takes that idea to a whole new level.
As you might imagine, this immersive take on e-commerce has proved hugely popular. The platform has tripled in size since mid-2018, and now boasts around 300 million registered users.
Such rapid growth offers a unique opportunity for international brands to capitalize on Chinese consumer trends, where reviews and recommendations form a large part of a customer’s journey to the checkout.
So how do you get your slice of the pie?
How to sell on Xiaohongshu — a step-by-step guide
Navigating XiaoHongshu’s merchant setup can be tricky. There’s a lot to think about, and not a lot of support out there. Here’s what you need to know about how to sell on XiaoHongshu… without the learning curve!
1. Register on Xiaohongshu
First, you’ll need to register an account on XiaoHongshu’s enterprise system. This should be relatively straightforward if you are an incorporated company with its own email address.
2. Provide your company details
After creating an account, you next need to provide the following details:
- Company information: including contact details, where you are based, the origin of your goods, trade model (cross border or general trade) and business category.
- Company qualification: proof of incorporation, along with a Chinese business license or letter confirming your right to sell in China.
- Financial information: such as bank details (don’t worry, you don’t need a Chinese bank), billing currency, account number and sort code.
- Brand information: including brand name, brand description, brand images, and whether you are a single brand (one company) or a multi brand (a parent company to other subsidiaries).
- Brand qualification: trademark certificates, authorization to resell other brands (if necessary), as well as confirmation to sell as own brand.
There’s a lot to cover here, so consider using a tool like AdChina.io that takes care of the registration process for you. That way, you don’t miss anything out and risk delaying approval.
3. Qualification review
Once you’ve submitted the above information, XiaoHongshu will process your application and make a decision as to whether you can sell on their platform. This can be processed as soon as one week after your submission if all the information you provided is correct.
4. Sign the contract
If your XiaoHongshu application is approved, you’ll receive a digital contract to sign via email, as well as a physical contract to return in the post. Read through these with a legal consultant, and sign them (if you want to proceed) as soon as you can.
5. Complete your Xiaohongshu training
The final step of XiaoHongshu’s application process is to complete their online training program.
This covers everything you need to know about selling on the platform, and you can’t open your store until you’ve completed it. Put some time aside to really focus on this — it’ll help you enormously, further down the line.
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How international brands can advertise on Xiaohongshu
XiaoHongshu offers a number of organic and paid opportunities to promote your brand to its user base. These include:
1. Opening a brand account
Brand accounts are one of the best ways of engaging with the community on XiaoHongshu. They can share ‘notes’ with their followers, upload images and video content, sell their own products, and respond directly to fan reviews and comments.
With the right strategy and content in place, a brand account on XiaoHongshu could quickly generate interest on the platform, particularly if your notes are added to the ‘boards’ of popular influencers, which we’ll touch on next.
Growing your follower base will also give your brand the ‘social proof’ it needs to win over Chinese consumers. Beauty brands like Lancome, Innisfree and Swisse have used this to become some of the most popular beauty accounts on the platform:
2. Reaching out to influencers, or ‘Key Opinion Leaders’
Influencers and KOLs are absolutely key to gaining traction on XiaoHongshu, and are arguably the most powerful form of advertising the platform has to offer.
Chinese make-up brand, Perfect Diary, was able to dominate the Asian beauty scene in a little under three years. They worked closely with both celebrity and consumer KOLs in a ‘pyramid strategy’ that guaranteed widespread coverage to achieve this:
International brands, like MAC Cosmetics and Gucci, have also collaborated with influencers on XiaoHongshu. Austin Li, a beauty vlogger who entertains his followers with luxury lipstick reviews, is definitely one to watch.
XiaoHongshu ‘Influencer Platform’ — a database hosting around 6,000 influencers is designed to connect you to those most relevant to your niche and budget.
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3. Investing in Xiaohongshu advertising
Alongside organic opportunities and influencer marketing, XiaoHongshu also offers traditional advertising in the form of ‘pop-up’ ads — appearing when the app is opened — and promotional messages natively integrated within the platform’s ‘explore’ feed.
Some examples include MAC Cosmetics’ multi-page campaign for its new SPF fluid, and Lancôme’s pop-up ad for its ‘youth-activating’ serum:
Marketing on Xiaohongshu — the bottomline…
If you’re looking to reach young, female consumers in China, XiaoHongshu should form a key part of your strategy.
But marketing in China is never easy — there are language barriers to overcome, regulations to navigate and high costs that can make getting started all too risky… and that’s just scratching the surface.
That’s why at AdChina, we’re committed to helping businesses like yours achieve marketing success in China, without all the risks. Create a free account to learn how we can help grow your brand in the biggest e-commerce market in the world.