Happy Niu Year! For our readers who had a break, we hope it was great.
Digital platforms have long been more advanced and deeply entrenched in Chinese lives than anywhere. Back in 2017, for every dollar that American consumers spent on mobile payments, Chinese consumers shelled out $250. China’s ecommerce market is the largest and most dynamic in the world. 22% of consumers globally are likely to buy groceries online, whereas 59% of Chinese do. While livestreaming is barely visible in most markets, 388 million Chinese viewed it in December, with more than two-thirds making a purchase.
Like in most countries, Chinese consumers’ attraction to online platforms has accelerated as a result of Covid. In our 2021 China Trends white paper, there was a digital slant for the majority of opportunities identified by industry leaders. Similarly, McKinsey noted that “Chinese consumers will be more digital than ever before” in their 2021 outlook.
Although some demographics and geographies have resisted going online for years, the pandemic drew in many new users, particularly those under 20 and over 50. This is being further driven by new government initiatives to make websites and apps more accessible for the aging and the disabled. Together, these have helped China hit the milestone of one billion internet users.
With digital platforms now so embedded in Chinese consumers’ purchase journeys, almost all brands are online trying to reach Chinese consumers one way or another. Yet much of it has been in vain. China Skinny has audited and assessed countless foreign brands’ online initiatives spanning most industries. Unfortunately many do little to stand out among the sea of other WeChat accounts or ecommerce stores, giving little to no relevant reasons for their target market to connect with their brand and products.
Online marketing in China isn’t cheap. Many brands dedicate a large share of their precious marketing budget to digital initiatives, but don’t see much, if any, return. Whilst virtually every online consumer uses WeChat, it doesn’t mean they will engage meaningfully with your brand on the platform. The average user follows just a handful of Official Accounts, and engagement has been decreasing for years. There are smart ways to tap into WeChat opportunities, but in many cases, brands would be wise to consider other platforms as well. For the past few years, consumers’ share of screen time has shifted to short video platforms such as Douyin, and Kuaishou, now used by 88% of Chinese online. But these too are rarely a silver bullet for marketers.
In addition to the big, well-known platforms like WeChat and Douyin, it is often worth considering a number of smaller platforms which can be more targeted and better aligned with your category or consumer. They are generally less crowded, more cost effective and more engaging for specific interest groups.
To make sense of it all, China Skinny has launched a free online tool, the China Digital Platform Debunker. The simple-to-use tool helps you understand China’s myriad of category-specific platforms, which can help you identify and evaluate other possible digital channels to reach and engage with your Chinese target market. Have a go here, which should help direct a more effective China digital strategy to start off the Year of the Ox well!
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