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Ideas Social Media

Three alternatives to WeChat for marketers in China

Chandler Nguyen

Without a doubt, WeChat has massive reach in China with nearly 1 billion daily active users (DAU). Its reach - and comprehensive ecosystem that includes chat, payments (WeChat Pay), apps (Mini programs), and more have made it  a standard point of engagement for marketers in China. However, the intense competition on this now ubiquitous platform is making it increasingly challenging for marketers to stand out. 

Brands looking for alternatives to WeChat can find plenty of platforms that offer a closed-loop marketing solution from awareness to consideration and through to sales. Many also offer closed-loop measurement so that advertisers can calculate ROI more easily. In this article, Chandler Nguyen (VP, Product, APAC), Claire Zhao (VP Strategy, China), and Yolanda Gao (Media Activation and Ad Operations Director, China) offer perspective on three alternative platforms amongst many in the market. 

Douyin (from Bytedance, owner of the TikTok app) is the most popular short video app in China, with DAU of 219M, MAU of 416M. It reaches 51% of short video users and is very popular in tier 1-2 cities. Influencers developing good content in short videos or via live stream and driving to e-commerce site for sales has been a successful model on Douyin. The journey from awareness to purchase can happen in just a few minutes. Jiaqi Li, one of the most popular influencers for cosmetic products has a soft-sell style. He has found success selling lipsticks by live streaming on Douyin. After Maybelline launched a new lipstick early in 2019, Jiaqi Li reached 20 million views and 0.7 million clicks to the online store with just two short videos. Several colors were soon sold out. 

Kuaishou is the second most popular short video platform after Douyin. With DAU of  120M, MAU of 303M, Kuaishou is particularly popular amongst lower tier cities (67.4% of the total users are from tier 3-5 cities). 

Tier 3-5 cities represent a huge growth potential for brands in China. They already contribute 53% market share across 13 mass consumer product categories ( source: 2020 Shan Hai Jin Media and Consumption Trends– Listen to the Silence by GroupM China), and make up more than half of the total mobile users in China (670 million). Brands are leveraging Kuaishou in much the same way as Douyin with content, influencers and mobile commerce. However, since Kuaishou has higher penetration in low-tier cities, it is usually more effective at selling products, since it plays a significant role in complementing their entertainment life.

Red Book (Xiaohongshu) has a much smaller reach (DAU of 12M, MAU of 51M) and is a popular destination for aspiring female consumers looking for style recommendations (more than two hundred thousand pieces of content are added daily). Unlike Douyin and Kuaishou, consumers go to Red Book to search and compare brands by connecting users with product reviews and lifestyle inspiration from influencers and the wider community. Wellness brand Swisse started using Red Book in China several years ago and have launched a number of successful ecommerce campaigns. They saw 20 million in sales during the 11/11 shopping event in 2018, and their ‘little red box’ product was sold more than one million times in a single day during the February 2019 launch campaign. 

As always, the choice of platform is dependent on a brand’s desired results and target audience. For brands that already have an online store, Douyin or Kuaishou are good sources for driving additional traffic and sales. Advertisers wishing to reach female shoppers or those building an e-commerce presence from the ground up may find that Red Book has many helpful resources within their closed-loop environment.