Marketing in China : 7 hot topics for 2017

 By_Olivier Verot 


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Today we are going to analyze the big marketing trends in China, and the main challenges brands face. I have compiled a list of the main things that marketers in China should know and should think about for their brand.

1.Wechat marketing top feature

l Wechat H5 campaign

Wechat offer the possibility to develop Html5, light coding to be able to have animated pictures and videos.

More and more brands use H5 to create videos and moving images to engage their users and show their creativity.

l Wechat mini site & CRM 

Should my brand have a mini site on Wechat and have a CRM to have my database ?

This is a very interesting question, and in my opinion, every marketer should really be investing in their database to enable growth. To have a database is crucial for business, but the key is to be able to understand and engage better the user. With every event, discount and promotion, brands can activate the database to send personalized offers to what people need. The smart data will send the right information to the right person at the right moment.

l Wechat mini App

Wechat mini program, or mini app as it is otherwise known, is the new feature of Wechat to encourage all brands to use Wechat with their app. Wechat wants to become a total all in platform and kill all app stores. Wechat is the super app in China, and Chinese people prefer to use apps on Wechat when using a new app on their smartphones. Many brands use successfully already in the Wechat mini app, including Starbucks and Didi.  

2. Influencers, opinion leaders and online celebrities

In China, as is common in the rest of the world, a brand is successful when people talk about it. Word of Mouth is super important in this country and opinion leaders, influencers and internet celebrities contribute to the success of brands online.

But what are the trends ? and how should brands collaborate with these people?

Key opinion leader (KOL) are too expensive

If you want to make money with key opinion leaders, it is very difficult in 2017. Most of them stop to work by commission and refuse to sell brands to their audience; they share basic posts without any engagement of their community. It is difficult to identify good KOL, and most of them do not offer an ROI.

When a marketer decides which opinion leader to work with, one of the key factors that must be taken into consideration is the celebrity’s social data. Those with qualitative audiences, and engaged fans have a better chance of maximizing the reach of the brand’s posts.

The key is engaging this KOL into the brand, for the image.

One example of this would be Montblanc, who choose celebrity brand ambassador, Gui Lunmei 桂纶镁, and involved this KOL in a recent luxury exhibition


These kinds of people are our favorite. They do not have a huge fanbase but most of the time it is a real fan base. They have usually under 200k followers and create interesting content. What we judge is the quality of their content and the engagement of their community.

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These influencers are real people, who have real jobs and simply do this for pleasure or to make little money. They will be usually happily collaborate with brands and are usually cheaper and easier to engage.

They can bring real effect and drive good traffic to stores (Tmal, JD) , Wechat, or Weibo accounts. These people usually are active on different platforms, and can repost their messages on Weibo, Wechat, Xiaohongshu, Meipai and Faner (Chinese Instagram).

Internet Celebrities

Chinese netizens continue to show a stronger interest in online celebrities. Usually it is people who create a buzz and simultaneously are able to attract curious people to their account. They do not have huge influence usually, but can display your message to a huge number of followers. Most of these celebrities are young Chinese models, that create the attention with sexy pictures, but if these model promote your account, they will not give big impact on sales because of their credibility.

Opinion leaders have legitimacy to speak about their expertise, and if Mr. Bags speak about luxury Bags, Chinese people will usually listen to the advice of this guru of bags.

Many Chinese platforms try to seduce these online Celebrities.

Alibaba has been heavily investing in social media including Weibo, Momo, and Youku, Weitao, Faner to bring top influencers and performers onto its Alibaba ecommerce Marketplace. And it has been paying; Taobao/tmall has increased the number of active mobile buyers by 25% to 493 million.

PapiJiang is the hotest vlogger in China

3. Live streaming: Should I stay or Should I go?

Live streaming is the hot topic of the year, and in China it is often connected to Social Commerce. Live streamers share products in their live shows and try to sell to the people that are watching.

In my opinion, it is a big bubble, and most of the viewers are not interested in buying. A top show should have 20,000 people to watch. Few of these interact and buy.

If this is a road your brand are venturing down, it is usually quite hard to find the right person to sell your products. They can do a good job at creating brand awareness but results are different to measure.

But big Brands can succeed!

Maybelline decided to live stream the announcement that Angelababy was it’s newest ambassador. This was a huge success and this action was supported by thousand of influencers, with support from broadcasting platform Meipai, and with a direct link to its TMall store. Directly following this, Maybelline sold over 100,000 lipsticks in under 2 hours.

In collaboration with Tmall, one of the well-known online shopping flash sale platforms in China, live streamed a major fashion show, receiving over 5 million interactions from their online audience and selling through more than 65 % of the products featured.

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Chinese millennials are looking for special experiences. Live streaming is a way to follow others, and see the real stuff.

4 . 020 how to attract consumers to my stores

It is the biggest issue faced by brands. How to attract more people to your online store. They have invested a lot of money in their own stores and now have to figure out how to attract consumers.

It can work of course, Chinese people read, share, and speak about discounts, quality of the products and design of what they see.

Digital marketing is a good tool to attract people into stores.

Luxury brands especially are attached to the flagship experience to let the consumers feel the universe of the brand that they can not show online.

Brands try to engage their consumers to their Wechat account or any app. It can also work if most people visit a place and would like to keep an eye on it later, and then later be more familiar with the brand to then buy the product.

The offline to online is really effective in engaging the client into a loyal customers program. Being a VIP online is easier to manage in terms of sending the consumer personalized offers or discounts can be seen as positive.

Brands need to use smart technologies in order to engage with their customers so that they can stand out against other online shopping platforms.

5 Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)

Taobao is investing in VR and has been selling over 300,000 virtual reality (VR) sets every month in China.

The majority of marketers are interested in VR these days, but the question is “what can I do?”

Brands and retailers have been looking to jump on board, but we see few initiatives.

VR is considered as the hot new “toy” but few use them as powerful storytellers.

Dior has recently been equipping their stores with VR headsets in order to transport shoppers to front row at the latest fashion show or event. A very innovative idea.

6 videos are the future. Meipai & Tencent Video are in fire

There has been a huge rise of online videos over the past several months and this is continuing.

PapyJiang show the direction and have seen a huge impact of a new generation of ‘vloggers’ (video blogger).

Video is a good way to engage users, and as I always say, a video is equal to 1000 photos in digital, and 1 photo is equal to 1000 words.

Video is a key to pass your message and create a universe around both your product and your brand. It is an interactive way to introduce your products, and can deliver a clearer message than a photo advertisement.

7. The new App

The future of Digital in China is the mobile. 70% of Chinese netizens are connecting via their smartphone.

Apps in China are in a golden age. In China, you have a lot of apps that have a targeted community and can therefore be good for targeting your brand. Usually they are cheaper in term of user acquisition and exposure than Wechat (everything is cheaper than Wechat, even Linkedin). Below are some examples.

My Little Red book: A community of Shoppers that like to buy imported products and foreign brands.

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Nice: a copy of Instagram that is not blocked in China. It is quite a good way to have exposure and to engage community.

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Momo: Momo is not quite a dating app, but an app where people can make friends around their interests and their Hobbies.

Meipai: The mobile video app, where people can share their videos. It is a popular app and easy to share via Weibo.

Toutiao: The buzz app, where you connect yourself to see the top ‘buzz’ of the day in China. Most of the posts are viral and it has replaced Weibo, who stopped their top buzz feature to stop controversy with Chinese authorities.

Meilishuo: an App based on Beauty, cosmetics, and fashion. They start with a website and quickly moved to a mobile app where users can find special offers, beauty tips and much more.

Faner: The Chinese copycat of Instagram where brands can post and engage with users.

E-Commerce is more and more segmented

E-Commerce in China is dynamic and eCommerce giants continue their growth. +15% planned for this year it is still a booming market.

Currently, for the local Market, JD and Taobao are dominating.

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For the crossborder, the big leaders are challenged by startups, like Ymatou, or hundreds of haitao that are copying their business models and creating deals with local players overseas.

The tax for importation will punish the big players and will impact less the small platforms that will not engage responsibility in sending the products.

Per industry, you can find specialized players. ‘’ will be specialized in apparel, ‘Jvmei’ in Cosmetics and ‘Benlai’ for fresh products.

There is an Ecommerce platform for everything and most of them receive investment and invest everywhere to create a buzz and attract users.

Tmall is currently facing a crisis with needing more and more references and less clients. Many brands have been kicked out of Tmall. You can be kicked off of Tmall if you do not meet the sales targets. Many brands realize that it is not profitable, they need to invest a lot of money in advertising in Tmall platform and do not get ROI because of massive discounts and difficulties linked to the huge competition in price on similar platforms.

Tmall need investment and today, only big brands with a large scale of products have the ability to be present and to sell.

Wechat is now taking the Taobao market, C2C or small companies to Consumers. They use the wechat store to sell their products and step by step are leaving Taobao, because they are less visible.


The digital Landscape is constantly changing. Wechat is the center of every strategy but is more and more expensive to get results. Many other new ways of selling and promoting are constantly becoming popular, creating a dynamic marketing industry in China.

The key is more in engaging customers that collect followers and many brands understand the challenge of loyalty and redemption.

Many marketers in China are facing a lot of challenges in a changing environment and deciders have to move fast, because in China, if you miss the way you have to wait until the next trend. Brands have to constantly take risks and innovate to get results !

We are Gentlemen Marketing agency, and we help Marketers in China. if you are interested, you contact me (I accept the invitation) .

Any feedback, added value comment are welcomed .


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