Digital Marketing Trends in China in 2018


As 2018 begins, Dragon Media takes a look at five new major trends in the world of digital marketing in China.

Diversification of Digital 

While BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) dominated China’s digital scene in the past new platforms are emerging with sites like Zhibo, Toutiao and Meipai gaining momentum and earning advertising spend. More than ever, consumers in China are willing to pay for premium digital content. According to JPMorgan Chase, the number of pay subscribers on the country’s video-on-demand (VOD) services—a sector led by iQiyi, Tencent Video, and Youku Tudou—will expand from 144.0 million this year to 234.3 million by 2020.

KOLs Go Local

China’s biggest bloggers and KOLs (Key opinion leaders) are oversold and overexposed as the go-to repost feed to the highest bidder. A lack of authenticity has invaded those accounts and readers can see right through it. Thus the new class of blogger is emerging with a stronger, smaller following that may be specific to a certain sport or city. While they may not get 5 million reads per post, their engagement figures (shares, likes and click throughs) are higher and message stronger. Plus, they’re more economical – better bang for your buck.Mini Programs Don’t Suck

WeChat continues to rock the Mainland with its ever expanding functionality. The launch of mini apps, or mini “programs”, allows users to access and engage with a variety of apps within the messaging app itself. Brands can now create games, store apps and service-based apps on the WeChat network and this is a good way to incentivize users to follow and share their content

E-commerce Arrives Offline

China is at the forefront of automated retail experience. In smart stores such as BingoBox and EasyGo consumers interact with emerging technologies like facial recognition, computer vision and frictionless payment methods. Alibaba recently released footage of its “car vending machine,” which use a combination of a mobile app, an unmanned garage, facial recognition technology, and consumer data to automate and simplify the car shopping experience. The giant also coined the term ‘New Retail’ in its efforts to make the transition between online and offline shopping completely seamless. During the  annual Singles’ Day online shopping event, Alibaba set up 1,000 smart pop-up stores outfitted with quick response (QR) barcodes, smart speakers and other IoT devices to more easily enable online shopping.

Lower Tier Leverage 

The development of rural infrastructure is one of the Chinese government’s biggest priorities to reduce the disparities of income distribution and to drive domestic consumption. The rural Chinese online market nearly doubled to RMB 353 billion yuan ($51 billion) in 2015 (Chinese Ministry of Commerce) Tier 1 cities of Beijing Shanghai and Guangzhou will only represent 10.6 million of the 159.9 million (only 6.6%) new internet users expected between 2015 and 2018 (JP Morgan).

Smaller cities and rural areas should be a major priority for anyone who wants to enter the Chinese market, and especially through e-commerce.

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Dragon Group Asia

DGA provides integrated marketing solutions for multinational companies in the US and China.