A peek into China’s fast-changing mobile marketing scene

“Taming the beast: Understanding the different faces of mobile marketing and social media in China” fireside chat at SWITCH. (Image Credit: TechNode ORIGIN)

Mobile advertising is booming in China. It is no surprise considering the country has 731 million internet users, over 95% of which access the internet from their mobile phones. According to market research firm eMarketer, digital ad spending in China is expected to grow by 25% this year, driven by mobile.

“If you want to do marketing in China, mobile should be first,” Daisy Wu, Vice President of Chinese mobile marketing agency YeahMobi, told the audience. Wu joined the fireside chat at TechNode’s ORIGIN Disrupt Stage at SWITCH (Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology) to discuss the different faces of mobile marketing and social media in China.

China is a fast-changing market and a highly competitive one, Wu said, for example, Bytedance’s short video platform, TikTok (aka Douyin), which has emerged as one of the most popular mobile marketing channels nowadays, has garnered 300 million MAU (monthly active users) in China alone. Many marketers in China have already started testing campaigns on the platform.

China’s most popular messaging app, WeChat, is at the center of a mobile marketing strategy for many companies. Wu noted that the app’s mini-program is now one of the hottest topics in China and many companies are scrambling to build own mini-programs.

Aside from WeChat and short video platforms, e-payments are also becoming an effective marketing channel as China is becoming cashless.

Know your audience

In China, there are a lot of new ways to advertise a product. On WeChat marketers can utilize WeChat Moment ads, mini-program ads, subscription ads, and KOLs (key opinion leaders). Wu said in order to build a cost-effective marketing strategy for WeChat, marketers need to have a clear idea of who their audience is.

The effectiveness of marketing channels varies between different verticals. For fashion brands, KOLs are usually more effective; for gaming companies, mini-programs are probably the way to go, according to Wu.

In China, KOLs have become a mainstream way to advertise. This is partly due to the fact that the average age of mobile internet users in China has gone down. Younger smartphone users usually know which influencers to follow on social media, Wu explained, and they find KOLs more relatable in comparison to traditional marketing ways.

The lesser-known facts about China’s mobile advertising

Many foreign brands who want to enter the lucrative Chinese market don’t realize how competitive the market is, said Wu. The attitude of “if I can get one percent market share, it will be big enough” is a popular misconception. Many foreigners fail to realize that China is a highly competitive market that even one percent market share isn’t easy to secure.

China’s regulatory environment is also unique. In China, if a brand wants to run ads on platforms like WeChat or TikTok, it needs to have a registered entity in China and is required to submit a certification of the Chinese entity to open an ad account. This is something many companies did not know beforehand.

“As an agency, YeahMobi is working with WeChat and Bytedance to help companies mitigate this problem,” said Wu.

Daisy Wu, Vice President of YeahMobi. (Image Credit: TechNode)

The company also spend time educating foreign brands about the fast-changing marketing landscape in China where new marketing channels are popping up because it is crucial to know how to leverage different media channels when marketing cost is shooting up.

Another misconception about mobile marketing in China is that “high-value users are coming from Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities,” said Wu. Rather, lower-tier cities have a user base that should not be overlooked. The two recently IPO’d Chinese internet companies, Pinduoduo (拼多多) and Qutoutiao (趣头条), both focus their businesses on capturing consumers who reside in lower-tier cities.

Increasingly, brands and companies are required to become more data-driven. However, collecting data might not be the most difficult part. Rather, the bigger challenge is how to leverage the data, Wu said, conducting audience study base on behavior and interest, for example, is crucial.