Social e-commerce to maximise your brand in China
Social e-commerce has become one of the most important retail trends in China. In particular, social e-commerce makes high-impact marketing campaigns possible on a limited budget, whether it is for the next up-and-coming direct-to-consumer brands or home-based startups.
Social e-commerce enables the social aspect of shopping offline, which is nearly impossible to replicate in traditional e-commerce. It creates communities of consumers with similar values, interests and tastes, which helps to strengthen brand loyalty, leading to higher conversion and repeat purchases.
To leverage social e-commerce effectively, companies must evolve from the traditional social seeding tactic to more precise programmatic social e-commerce strategies built on a deeper understanding of consumers.
Below, we gathered our tips to leverage the social e-commerce trend in China. The first thing that you need to do is to gain an understanding of the complicated and unique digital ecosystem in China, which is very different from other parts of the world. Understand the various social media platforms in China and their differences, niches and demographic reach.
Continue to leverage localised content strategy
Localise your content to fit the format and audiences of these platforms. Be strategic as to how you present your content. The product you aim to move at the end of the day is important, but so is the packaging and delivery.
Content strategy should be “decentralised.” Leverage the creative power of Key Opinion Customers (KOCs) or even your consumers. Although many large KOLs have immense reach and a dedicated fan base, KOCs with niche focuses may have an even more loyal and dedicated audience base – the super fans – who are passionate about specific topics and products.
For upstart companies, KOCs are the perfect place to start given their accessibility and focused audiences. These channels can offer deeper engagement with established, impassioned communities and enhanced, yet still cost-effective, personalisation opportunities.
You can even consider turning your own employees or salespeople into KOCs! After all, at the end of the day, they intimately understand your brand messages and have access like no other.
Precise audience segmentation and targeting
Identify and segment your target audience, the position of your product, and what segments of the China market you want to initially target. The China market is too immense to try to capitalise on all of it, especially for younger companies, so brands must prioritise.
Different parts of China have different consumer behaviour and patterns, and so one size does not fit all. Investing strategically is important when it comes to minimising waste. Utilise social CRM and AI to gain insights into your consumers and their consumption behaviour, identify look-a-like audience profiles and the best channels to reach them.
Then most importantly, combine content, social engagement, programmatic advertising and data insights to expand the reach and drive sales.
Rethink the roles of physical stores
Physical stores will continue to remain crucial for maintaining brand awareness, but brands will need to adjust their store location strategy, evolve the store role (and its integration with their online offering), and maximise the customer experience.
Having the biggest store in the most central part of town no longer offers its historical advantage. Physical stores no longer need to be permanent fixtures. Pop-ups or collaborations with existing stores also works – they can offer an outlet to enhance engagement with consumers.
Integrate social commerce strategy offline – leverage location tagging on these social platforms in content creation and strategy to turn an entertaining online experiential channel into actual store visits and conversions. But do consider whether the physical stores offer the type of social-friendly experiences and environment that your consumers will want to share with others.
Looking at an example from Carslan’s campaign we ran recently, Carslan engaged Steven Zhang as their brand ambassador. The campaign combined celebrity endorsement, Douyin interaction and engagement, insights into Steven’s followers who are interested in beauty and fashion and other related content, and followers who purchased similar products, to precisely identify the right target audiences to further enhance social media engagement and interaction while also driving them to Carslan’s e-commerce channel to purchase the relevant products. The campaign was able to achieve significantly higher measurable conversion and ROI than any single approach by itself.
With China’s fast-moving digital ecosystem becoming increasingly more segmented, companies need to follow the pace of consumers and utilise the right marketing approach to elevate their reach and strategies.
Understanding China’s active social commerce environment will also help brands in utilising social commerce to expand into nearby regions, such as in the Southeast Asia region. Many of the strategies discussed above will similarly apply.
Despite the fact that the region is dominated by the world’s most popular social commerce platform, such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the importance of each vary significantly amongst different countries.
In addition, there are many other social commerce platforms that are important in certain countries, such as LINE in Thailand and Indonesia or Zalo in Vietnam. Furthermore, one of the most popular social commerce approach in China, live streaming, is starting to gain substantial traction with push by platforms such as Laz Live (from Lazada, which is controlled by China’s Alibaba) or Shopee Live along with many other regional upstarts.
It remains critical to identify and segment your target audience, the position of your product, and the countries in Southeast Asia you want to target and utilise the right social commerce platform that most resonate with audiences in those countries to drive reach while minimise wastage.
Data-empowered precision and personalisation remain the major trends in marketing, and they form an integral part of social e-commerce. Companies, including startups, must identify actionable data and insights from social content marketing and engagement and turn them into effective, measurable strategies to precisely convert targeted consumers.