From diversifying content channels to investing in livestreaming and e-commerce solutions, in the current COVID-19 situation, what should international brands be considering in China and what should they keep in mind as they assess the variety of opportunities?

As the spotlight on China continues to grow – both as a result of its gradual recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, as well as its longstanding status as one of the world’s largest consumer markets – DLG launched its webinar series last week on China’s Digital Market to provide greater insight into the country’s unique digital landscape. COVID-19 has served to enhance and amplify the digital transformation of everyday life in China. And as the nation regains a sense of normalcy and resumes daily life, a different consumer journey has emerged, offering new opportunities for brands to consider. 

Livestreaming

Do you remember Periscope? I recall a keynote I did at the last minute being broadcasted on Periscope back in 2015 shortly after it was launched. That was it – and I returned to China after the event. When I moved back westward a couple of years later, Facebook Live was just starting to gain traction, and shortly after, Instagram Live appeared on the scene. From a user standpoint, nothing too significant has really stuck – until now, as the US remains under lockdown. As of noon Eastern Standard Time today, there were at least two to three swipes worth of Instagram Live sessions taking place on my feed.

Now, the livestreaming environment in China is a vastly different one. The concept of livestreaming took root in the early 2010’s. Then in 2016, Tmall/Taobao launched its own livestreaming service, and the Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza that year consisted of an eight-hour livestream session. Fast forward to earlier this month, when Shanghai Fashion Week took its entire event online with the help of Tmall livestreaming. Brands staged shows ranging from (just) an hour to over half a day each, reaching between hundreds of thousands and millions of viewers at a time. 

On the other end of the spectrum are short-video livestream applications like Douyin and Kuaishou. While the former is more playful and entertaining with social challenges that are favoured by brands for generating exposure, the latter focuses on local communities, and showcases a more raw and authentic content style. 

The range of livestreaming options from which brands might choose from in China reflects a sophisticated environment. The look and feel, as well as consumer appeal, varies between platforms and these factors help to shape the opportunity at hand – ranging from putting on a full-scale production to enabling your retail associates to go “live” in stores on an ad-hoc basis. As a whole, individuals – both brand sales associates or consumers – are savvy users of livestream applications, and are keen to be on them for hours at a time. User behaviours have long been shaped by exposure to this content channel over the years, and to say that adoption of livestreaming in China is at a whole other level, in my opinion, is an understatement. 

Content & E-commerce: Multi-Faceted Applications

China’s digital user experience is strikingly different. Take for example, WeChat – a single application that provides more utility than the over 20-odd applications I access on my mobile phone on a weekly basis, combined. Think about what a difference that makes. At the same time, the overall digital landscape is very fragmented and interconnected, so there is no one way in. Setting up a storefront on Tmall isn’t the magical solution to taking on the Chinese market. While it is undoubtedly a bold and impactful move, that alone is not enough to help grow and sustain a brand in China. 

When it comes to social content, e-commerce or social CRM, brands need to make full use of China’s interconnected digital landscape and think about how to best leverage platforms that help them connect the dots along the consumer journey. If we just look at two major platforms – Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Tmall – they have each managed to capture the bulk of the consumer journey within a singular application. 

This means that when it comes to WeChat, brands need to look beyond the content capabilities of the platform and start thinking about developing e-commerce with the help of WeChat Mini Programs for instance, or building loyalty programmes, and implementing social CRM, omnichannel and clienteling activities. The same goes for Tmall, RED, Douyin, and the plethora of other platforms in China. 

Does this mean brands should be digitally active on every (hot, new) platform? Definitely not. But what it does mean, though, is that brands should not be considering platforms for one purpose alone, siloed from other platform environments. 

In this next session, we’ll be looking at the diversification of content channels, livestreaming and e-commerce in China more closely – areas in which we’ve identified digital assets brands should be thinking to leverage given the “new normal”. While the consumer journey has been significantly disrupted, China’s multi-functioning digital platforms can quickly pick up where gaps have appeared, as we discussed in the last webinar. Save a seat at the upcoming DLG Webinar Series #2: Digital Assets Brands Should Leverage Now to find out more.

/Edited on 27 April

Highlights from the webinar:


About the author

Iris Chan

Partner & International Client Development Director, DLG

Iris has 10 years of marketing experience in agencies and consultancies in the North American and Asia Pacific markets, specializing in the luxury category. She has worked closely with brands including Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, LVMH, Richemont, Ermenegildo Zegna, Christian Louboutin, Estée Lauder Companies and Ralph Lauren. Her marketing experience spans the areas of branding and communication strategy, digital strategy, market research and analysis, media and editorial planning, as well as online and offline activations. Previously based in Shanghai for over five years, Iris now resides in New York.