In continuation to part 1, where I spoke about few large Apps, their userbase & App ecosystem, here I will dive deep into Super Apps, Important dates for marketing and emerging trends in the landscape
Super Apps and their Mini Programs
Adding to the complexity of managing multiple App stores, there are 3 Super Apps in China viz. WeChat, AliPay and Baidu. These Super Apps have an entire App ecosystem within themselves. The Apps within the Super Apps are called Mini Apps or Mini Programs (MPs), which are lighter versions of Apps, generally smaller than 10 MB. Mini Programs form an important App distribution channel in China, so much so that many platforms get 50+% user share from Mini Programs. Mini Programs are similar to Progressive Web App (PWA), with aim to provide Native App-like user experience.
SuperApps offer to declutter user’s phones from the low frequency usage Apps and thereby space, in a cluttered Chinese App market. WeChat has about 3.2 million Mini Programs, whereas the worldwide Play store has 3.15 million Apps (few Apps have geo restriction) and the App store has 2.1 million Apps.
A power WeChat user might end up using the superapp 100 times a day. WeChat facilitates chatting with friends, sharing “Moments” (its own version of Social media), discovering dine-ins, shopping everything online, watching favorite shows on OTT, reading news and playing games. It can replace all other Apps through its vast network of Mini Programs, an ecosystem it has created through meticulous strategy and execution. Below is the sample timeline of a user’s WeChat use (few would repeat several times a day).
With 300 Million DAU on WeChat MPs (many visiting multiple MPs everyday), WeChat is a treasure trove of data, because of the multiple use cases, making it every marketer’s dream. WeChat Moments with 750 million strong DAU, has more receptive in-feed ads similar to Instagram. Its cost effective “Nearby ads” O2O marketing solution for SME physical stores, where users within 3 km radius from the store receive Ad on their Moments feed to visit the store. AliPay and Baidu SuperApps broadly have the same functionalities as WeChat.
China’s Fantasy with Calendar Dates
Many of us would already recognize Chinese Single’s day as the biggest e-commerce festival in the world. The four 1s (11.11) that stand for relationship status – Single, had a cultural momentum in Chinese universities before breaking into contemporary culture. Similarly, with the success of Double 11, e-commerce companies came up with Double 12 on 12.12 as the year’s last big e-commerce event. These are in addition to 6.18, which is JD.com’s founding date and 6.6 which is Xiaohongshu’s founding date.
Chinese have three reasons (dates) to celebrate love. Beyond the 14th Feb, there is 5.20 (20th May) which in Mandarin has the same pronunciation as I love you. And finally, the Chinese traditional Qi Xi. On all three dates you observe spikes in e-commerce, beauty, tourism and hospitality industries. Maybe the number of valentine’s days spooked the single Chinese into creating what is now the largest e-commerce festival. 9.9 as Wine festival, because 9 and wine have the same Mandarin pronunciation, 3.7 as Girl’s day, because why should women have all the fun on 3.8, the International women’s day are few other extensions in the internet culture.
Other than these, there are 3 big week long holidays which Chinese enjoy. The first one is the Chinese New Year (CNY), which generally comes in Jan/ Feb, with a shopping spree before the festival followed by huge movement of people either to their hometowns or for vacations. Same follows during Labor day holidays in the first week of May and Golden week, observed in the first week of October. To understand the market size of the tourism industry, 637 million (45%+ of population) people took domestic trips during the 2020 Golden week holidays and 256 million people during 2021 CNY, apart from people visiting their hometowns.
Overall, the Chinese dates and holidays provide Growth marketers with ample opportunities to target users in a contextual and relevant manner throughout the year.
Established & Emerging Trends
There are few digital marketing trends which are emerging. These are quite unique to Chinese market and should be leveraged as per your growth goals, budget and relevance of the trend to that of your brand and business.
One of the key rituals in the Chinese new year is giving/ taking Red Envelopes or Hongbao. As per tradition, red envelopes are given among family and friends. These envelopes have money in it, however the value of the red envelope is the envelope itself and not the money. Red envelope is considered as a wish/ blessing from one another for an auspicious new year, which the color red symbolically represents.
Chinese state-run CCTV organizes the biggest event of the year, “Spring Festival Gala” on the CNY. Due to the sheer viewership of 1+ billion, it soon became the hottest event for the Chinese tech biggies. WeChat Pay, in 2015, used this platform to launch its digital red envelope and successfully established itself as a payments tech company. From then, every year tech companies have competed to be the Gala’s red envelope partner. This year, TikTok launched their own payment service, where the CCTV presenters told audience to open TikTok app for the digital red envelope gifts of $186 million.
CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala anchors announcing viewers to open TikTok
The red envelope poses many marketing opportunities to marketers, where their branding is made visible on the digital red envelopes. Recently, Gucci worked with WeChat and came up with GUCCI branded red envelopes. This brand marketing also really took off and became common these days.
Low entertainment in shopping and lack of trust in e-commerce platforms have propelled the growth of e-commerce Live streaming in China. Key opinion leaders (KOLs) or influencers addressed both challenges through live streaming by explaining the products and answering few concerns from the audience in real-time. It accounted for 9% of the e-commerce sales in China in 2019 with high growth. In addition to Taobao live, which started in 2016 by the e-commerce giant, Tiktok and Kuaishou have tapped into the live commerce market. They had necessary elements in place like, strong network of KOLs, video platform, huge sticky customer base and the ambition to enter the new age e-commerce.
Live commerce differentiates itself from old-school infomercials by making it a 2 way communication and a lot more entertaining without appearing highly sales driven. Live streamer is one of the new professions emerged as a result and there are few celebrity live streamers who were able to sell upwards of $50 million in a single day, through rigorous product testing, highlighting underlying needs, avoiding overpromising, creating a tribe like fanbase and by inviting celebrities for sale events.
Viya, one of the top Taobao live streamers in China
Growth marketers can achieve both short and long term objectives of sales and brand awareness at same time by tying up with a relevant KOL and medium.
Private traffic is any communication channel between a brand and its consumers without a 3rd party, at zero cost. In a highly competitive Chinese market with too many brands and less customer attention span, there is a high chance that customers wouldn’t come back to the brand after trying the product/ service, even after a good experience. With private traffic coming into play at the point of sale, growth marketers can create a call to action (CTA) in terms of QR code or discount coupon, leading to private traffic channels.
Most commonly used private traffic channels are WeChat personal account, WeChat official account, QQ messenger including product’s own App/ Website and Mini Program. WeChat official account has a restriction of 4 of push notifications per month, which is why brands rely on WeChat personal accounts. Personal account is any individual messaging account, which can be used to create groups to engage with customers. As, WeChat personal account can only have maximum of 5000 followers and WeChat group can have maximum of only 500 users, if the brand intends to go down the road, it would end up creating 100s of Groups and personal accounts, as was done by few successful brands which leveraged it.
Through the WeChat groups and personal account followership, growth marketers can keep the customers informed about upcoming events, provide discounts, take feedback, backlink the product to the product’s Mini Program or App. Once the number of groups and personal followers exceed 100,000, it’s recommended to have a Chatbot managing and monitoring these private traffic assets.
Other Trends and Things to note
H5 Pages are static HTML 5 pages, which are highly attractive. They are often used for brand awareness and user registration/ interest. These H5 pages are easy to distribute through messaging apps and can attain good virality.
Chinese love their Mahjong and card games, and as an extension, love gambling although illegal in the country. Marketers leveraged this and developed sticky cashbacks, rewards, lucky draws and referral schemes to attract users on their platforms.
Esports, valued at $14 billion is turning out to be a big industry in China. 26% of the Chinese internet users watch esports regularly. With women constituting 43% of the audience, China is very different from other male dominated esports markets. Advertising or leveraging esports can be next big thing for Growth marketing in China.
*Disclaimer – The views and opinions expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect that of any organization.