Chinese is getting the grip of the Social Media in record pace

Do the Stats Work for Chinese Social Media?

Marketing executives in the West are busy checking the stats for Chinese social media to better inform how they promote their brands on social media.

Chinese is getting the grip of the Social Media in record pace

Chinese is getting the grip of the Social Media in record pace – (Photo via http://www.agenciagancho.com.br)

Getting to grips with the country’s wide and complex social media community and developing a strategy for reaching consumers lies at the heart of many brands hoping to succeed in China.

For many marketers, the stats help to tell a story and define social media usage. According to Marketing to China: “Platforms like WeChat and Sina Weibo have more than 300 million users, while Meilishuo, a popular social shopping website grabs about 30 million users per month. Experts say that within next 5 years, China is expected to reach $271 billion from online shopping.”

But do the stats tell marketing executives anything really useful?

  • 47% of Chinese consumers watch videos and television on tablets.
  • Much is made of the affluent rich who live in the big cities but marketers who concentrate only on Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities are bypassing the vast majority of China’s citizens. While there are just 4 Tier 1 cities with over 16 million inhabitants, Tier 3 and 4 cities and towns boast over 161 million people.
  • 82% of Chinese netizens are buying online more than any other country including Germany and the USA.
  • 22% of China’s internet users believe that sharing on social media is an expression of their own personality and 30% believe it is driven by creativity.
  • China’s mobile shopping increased by 168% in 2013 and is estimated to almost double that in 2014. If the trend increases, by 2017 it will have increased by over 1,000%.
  • The preferred format for advertising in China is the use of coupons (33%) and video (36%), with the best time to reach out to netizens on their mobiles being when they are on the way to work or at weekends.
  • While it might not occur to consumers in the West, 61% of china’s netizens would consider actually buying a car online.
  • WeChat is the fastest growing app internationally, outstripping everyone else. Its success has made Tencent the first Chinese internet brand to succeed out of the mainland and is set to make big inroads throughout 2014 and beyond. For many industry experts, WeChat is still the one to watch.
  • 74% of netizens shop online to get a lower price while 78% also worry about the authenticity of the product they are buying.
Chinese Social Media in Stats

Chinese Social Media in Stats – (Photo via http://www.china-brain.com)

Perhaps one of the more influential trends is that China’s ecommerce growth is back on the rise again, estimated to be worth $540 billion by the end of 2014. Industry experts believe that this is in part being driven by the lower Tier cities which lack the stores of their more affluent neighbours. According to China Briefing: “While there are plenty of physical shopping options in China’s larger cities, lower-tier cities cater less to international luxury brands. In light of this demand, the internet has allowed many retailers to offer goods to consumers in lower-tier cities and further afield without the need and cost of setting up a physical outlet.”

It’s a stat that suggest Western brands should be moving out from the Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities to the places where most of the Chinese population are living.

Elderly Chinese Mobile User

Top 5 trends International brand should be aware of upon Chinese Social Media in 2014

Western brands that are trying to get to grips with social media in China know that it is a fast paced and often complex arena and, with nearly 600 million users and a year on year growth of over 165% for mobile shopping, it’s something they have to work hard to keep up with.

1. China gets the exercise bug

GarminForERun

Advert for the Garmin Forerunner 220, a wearable smart device. (File photo courtesy of Garmin)

Well into 2014, microblogging platform WeChat are forging into new territory by teaming up with third party vendors to promote smart hardware like fitness bracelets. As with Western users, Chinese netizens are getting the exercise bug, particularly in the more affluent Tier 1 and 2 cities.

According to Want China Times, this month saw “iHealth, Huawei Honor, Lifesense and Codoon put their respective WeChat version of smart bracelets for sale on platforms such as Jingdong Mall (JD.com) after the WeChat team closely worked with these vendors for nearly half a year.”

It may be a sign that WeChat is beginning to collaborate more with third party providers, though they are keeping their cards close to their chest. The integration allows WeChat users to put on their smart bracelets, measure their sporting or exercise performance and then share it with friends on the popularmicroblogging platform.

2 . Search targets “big data” in China

Internet search giant Baidu is thinking about big data as they move into the later parts of 2014. With trillions of web pages in storage and billions of searches conducted every day, Baidu is China’s major search engine, modelled on Google, but perhaps slightly behind in developmental terms. According to Wang Jing, vice president of Engineering: “Baidu hopes to build a big data engine on the massive data the company collected over the years and offer it to traditional businesses.”  

3. Online to offline is getting bigger

Elderly Chinese Mobile User

Elderly Chinese Mobile User (photo from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn)

Online to offline, whereby a mobile or pc is used to order something like a taxi is set to become more popular as offline businesses start to get a slice of the ecommerce pie. Tencent has been leading the way mainly because of its 355 million monthly active users and others may well jump on the band wagon in the future.

4. Chinese companies are becoming more competitive

China’s own companies are beginning to realise the power that can be had from harnessing social media and are starting to become more visible, competing with Western brands who have long been working hard to make China’s various platforms work for them.

According to Econsultancy.com: “The trend in China is towards using social media as a bridge between consumer and company. And as 500m of China’s 618m internet users use a mobile device to access the internet, m-commerce has become even more important.” 

ChinaWorldCupFever

(photo from ChinaDaily.cn)

5. China gets World Cup fever

And finally, although they didn’t have a team in the tournament, China’s netizens have been keeping a close eye on the World Cup this year with interest peaking with around 11 million users including a hashtag in their posts throughout the group stages.

Garnier China

How Brands Have to Adapt their Marketing in China

Brands have long been aware that what sells here in the West doesn’t necessarily sell that well in the East and nowhere is this more noticeable than in China.

Often seen as cut off from the rest of the world, the country represents one of the biggest retail markets for brands and succeeding in it is something akin to the Holy Grail.

According to Start Up China: “A 63% majority of international companies operating in China acknowledged that they needed to alter their product specifically for the Chinese market.  In most cases, this does not mean completely creating a new product or service, but rather making small adjustments to better suit Chinese culture and preferences.”

How Taobao got the edge over EBay taobao

A big difference between the West and countries like China is the way things are paid for, something which eBay were slow to take up.

  • Whereas eBay wanted people to pay by credit card, Taobao realised that many Chinese consumers didn’t have them or were worried about paying online. They introduced a way for a buyer to pay for a product in cash when it was delivered to the door.
  • EBay required sellers to pay for listing a product whereas Taobao decided to make its money from advertising revenue.
  • EBay didn’t particularly like that customer and seller would bargain on the price privately and so didn’t add a chat feature. Taobao accepted that the Chinese way is to haggle over the price and was happy to include a chat function that allowed this to happen.

Localisation is the key

According to Forbes, marketers make the mistake of treating China as one big market: “Treating China as a single market is a flawed concept – it’s 29 different provinces with their own peoples, dialects, customs and brand preferences. Procter & Gamble was one of the few U.S. marketers to realize this early on, investing extensively in proprietary research across multiple cities.”

Garnier ChinaNot only that, but social marketers have to deal with a whole swathe of localised digital platforms such as Weibo and WeChat. China’s social media landscape is vast and complex and choosing the right platform is integral to brand success particularly considering that there are around 500 million netizens and the number is growing.

Beware of bad translation

Many brands, both big and small have fallen foul of poor or ill advised translations of their products and key messages. When Pepsi first ventured into the market its slogan “Pepsi brings you back to life” translated to the Chinese public as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave” and KFC entered with “Finger licking good” which got translated as “eat your fingers off”.

In truth, many large brands have failed to do the research needed into the culture and customs of their target audience when moving their product into another country.

According to Mike Fromowitz of Ethnicity Multicultural Marketing and Advertising Inc.: “Many international companies have had problems with expanding their brands worldwide because they have failed to put in the research and effort necessary to understand the culture. This has led to several failed brands, to offended consumers, and to the loss of millions of dollars that comes with having to start all over again.”

Will Renren’s restructure change marketing strategy?

Renren has lagged behind many of the more aggressive and commercially successful social media and microblogging platforms in recent times though it still has over 170 million users. It’s often seen as a Facebook clone in the West, in the way it looks with the blue interface and how it behaves with status shares, like pages and the ability to post photos and chat with friends.

Having sold its group buying site Nuomi to the e-commerce giant Baidu recently, many could be forgiven for thinking that Renren was going to fade away as one of the major players in social media in China. The competition with Weibo and WeChat was just too fierce. In fact, Renren has been repositioning itself, is targeting the student and youth market, and released a new mobile app in November 2013.

The demographic for Renren remains from 13 to 30 years old, school children and those at university, and brands that have invested heavily in it as a marketing platform over the years have included Dell, which boasts over a million fans on their page, as well as Budweiser and KFC.

“The strategy on RenRen is pushy and strictly sales-oriented, with a multimedia approach including the promotion of other web platforms and mobile apps.” Digital in the Round (http://www.digitalintheround.com/renren-chinese-social-media/)

According to Joe Chenn, Chairman and CEO of Renren, they need to differentiate themselves from their competitors. They have struggled with generating advertising revenue from the mobile application which has led to an emphasis on gaming to attract users.

For brands that are targeting the younger demographic, particularly 18 to 24 year olds, Renren is still one of the sites they should be concentrating on. There tends to be a lot of gossip on the platform and if brands can plug into that they can create an impact.

Although there are restrictions on brands accessing the site initially, for instance Renren only accepts around 100 new brand pages a day, and it is more difficult to operate in than its Facebook counterpart in the West, it remains a key platform in China’s complex social media landscape.

Revenue for Renren has come through its development of online gaming rather than straight brand advertising and that trend is set to continue over the next few years. About 70% of users now logon via their mobile devices and brands that can leverage the gaming side of Renren to get their message across will probably have more success than those that don’t.

The problem for Renren will be existing outside the bubble of China’s social media landscape. Where Weibo and WeChat are making inroads into the West and challenging for a piece of the global pie, Renren may find it difficult to compete with established platforms like Facebook and that in the end may well signal its demise.

In the meantime, for Western brands trying to reach the affluent youth of China, it still holds the potential for good results.

“Our goal is to reposition Renren as a young generation social hub, the best place to observe and understand the thoughts and behaviours of China’s new generation”. Chief Operating Officer for Renren, James Liu. (https://www.warc.com/LatestNews/News/Renren_targets_students.news?ID=32730)

Is WeChat the First Choice Social Media App?

is Tencent’s WeChat set to be the app of choice for both business and pleasure?

Wechat 4Its growth has been phenomenal in the last 4 years since its launch, with an estimated 355 million users worldwide and a healthy stake in the social media market. But

According to multimedia journalist Paul Bischoff on TechinAsia: “In China, all online communication converges at WeChat. The four-year-old chat app now functions as text messenger, Facebook, Reddit, Skype, IRC chatroom, Meetup, and Instagram – all rolled into one.”

It used to be that apps like Facebook and Twitter would take care of the personal and those such as LinkedIn would satisfy our business and work needs. With WeChat though, we have an app that is trying to break down the barrier between the two. Business meets social and personal. It works well in China’s social media world and it may well be heading West to Wechatchallenge some of our established platforms.

In China, social capital is a vital prerequisite to success. Whereas people in the West might have one account for their personal life and one for business, in China it is often rolled up into one. And something like group chat is very important to our Eastern colleagues.

Networking groups are big in China

WeChat2WeChat groups have a limit to the number of members. You need special permission to run one that has in excess of 100 people and if you run it, you must be able to moderate the content accordingly. For many Chinese businesses, selecting the right group to follow, and networking through it, can bring success and vital information exchanges.

With all its functionality, WeChat is an ideal platform for a varied range of activities from selling online and settling disputes to running a web style seminar. There are predictions that WeChat is going to overtake even Facebook as the world’s premier social marketing tool.

The benefit of Tencent’s platform for Western brands is that it is possible to categorize people according to their location and gender. More than half its users are aged between 25 and 30 and many are white collar workers who reside in first tier cities. And with business merging into personal with many of its users, this provides a unique opportunity for brands hoping to develop a marketing approach tailored for Chinese consumers.

The problem for brands trying to make their way on this multi-faceted platform is that it’s not quite there yet. There are still challenges in marketing your brand on WeChat.

WeChat

According to Xiaofeng Wang from The Forrester Group: “The information that users share on WeChat is private and can be seen only by personally approved friends; as a result, WeChat is used more as a communication tool for friends to keep in contact. Users are less likely to repost brands’ information massively, as marketers expect them to do on Weibo.”

There are also restrictions on brand accounts for how many messages they can send to their fans. With the government crackdown on luxury items and self-indulgent behaviour, Western brands are still weighing up the options and discovering how best to leverage WeChat as a marketing medium. But the truth is that its growth in popularity across the globe may well make it a primary focus for many years to come.

China’s Slow Down Hits Western Brands

The slowdown in China’s economic growth might be making some big Western brands think twice about investing in this lucrative market in the future.

Garnier ChinaAt the beginning of 2014, both L’Oreal Garnier and Revlon planned exits from China’s competitive cosmetics market.

China is a large and complex arena in which to do business. Foreign companies have often had difficulty navigating it. Luxury brands appear to be suffering more than most, not only because of the economic slowdown but also the government’s crackdown on what it sees as unhealthy extravagance.

“As growth in China slows brands are starting to evaluate their portfolios in China and to focus on where they see the biggest growth,” comments Torsten Stocker, Hong Kong-based partner with consultancy firm AT Kearney

l'Oreal ChinaIn truth, L’Oreal is not pulling out totally from the Chinese market. They will, instead, be concentrating on two main brands: L’Oreal Paris and Maybelline New York. China is one of L’Oreal’s biggest markets, they have a 17% share in it, and they see social media marketing as vital to their success there.

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Lancôme, another luxury cosmetic brand in China, has a strong presence on many social networks including Kaixin, Renren and Sina Weibo. It uses prominent key opinion leaders to promote its products on their blogs and in videos. And its Rose Beauty Weibo page has over 900,000 followers who regularly visit for advice and chat, post comments and reblog to their friends and family.

A Merry Lancome New Year

“A Merry Lancome New Year ” campaign @ 2014

Lancôme created a new campaign for this New Year encouraging their fans to create digital talking greetings cards. “A Merry Lancome New Year” was launced on WeChat, Weibo and their own community website with those who collect the most ‘likes’ eligible to win products from the company’s latest line of cosmetics.

One of the ways in which luxury brands have suffered with the government crackdown in recent months is its effect on the Chinese practice of gift giving. The reason luxury items have caught the attention of the government is because they have often been used as bribes in politics and business.

 affluent Chinese But the affluent Chinese who buy luxury products are also changing their habits and purchasing outside of China’s mainland. And, according to analyst and writer Michael Zakkour: “Chinese luxury consumers are turning increasingly toward spending their ample disposable income on lifestyle purchases in addition to pure social status products.”

There is no doubt that luxury brands are nervous at the moment. Some like L’Oreal and Revlon are altering their approach to the Chinese market. Others are engaging more deeply on social media to offset any decline in popularity. Government crackdowns can disappear almost as quickly as they appeared.

But it’s not all bad news for luxury brands and the people who market them. The past 10 years has seen rapid growth in the economy and many see the current slowdown as a return to a more stable market that will benefit all Western brands trying to sell themselves in China.

“After a decade of rapid growth, the past two years have been a reality call for luxury brands in China. Rather than a downward trajectory, brands should think of the slowing market as a stabilization of rates that weren’t sustainable in the long-term.” The Jing Daily.