For global brands - particularly fashion, cosmetics, and luxury brands - there’s no single market more important than China.
This isn’t purely a question of consumers based in China. No matter where they happen to be in the world, Chinese people want to keep up with trends and purchase the latest products from their favorite brands.
Through tourism, international study, and work opportunities, Chinese overseas residents are estimated to have contributed over $88 billion US dollars in Chinese e-commerce sales in 2018.
In fact, for some industries, Chinese cross-border e-commerce is the most important source of sales. In 2017, consumers with cross-border e-commerce purchasing experience made up 67% of the total consumer base. That’s a lot of online shopping between countries!
This makes it crucial for global brands to develop a deep understanding of Chinese consumer preferences and values. Gaining insights into how products are seen and valued at a local level gives businesses a real edge in marketing.
Following our overview of the Chinese social media landscape in 2019, we’re here to show you how Linkfluence’s best-in-class Chinese data coverage can help your business stay on top of what’s happening in China.
Let’s start with some of the fundamentals.
What do you need to understand about China’s digital ecosystem?
Compared to other parts of the world, there are a few things that stand out about China’s digital ecosystem. Namely:
- It’s fragmented, with consumers relying on a rich range of sites and platforms
- It’s fast-moving, with a huge appetite for innovation and novelty
- It revolves around brand trust, integrity, and reputation
- It’s heavily mobile-based
Let’s take a look at these features one-by-one.
China’s digital ecosystem is fragmented
In comparison with the Western world’s domination by Amazon, Ebay and others, the Chinese digital ecosystem is fragmented.
Despite the huge popularity of e-commerce behemoths like Alibaba, Chinese shoppers tend to split their purchasing activity across a larger number of platforms than elsewhere.
For example, a woman shopping for makeup might search for recommendations on Xiaohongshu (the Little Red Book), before ringing up her purchase on Alibaba’s Tmall app, and showcasing her new stuff on Douyin (TikTok).
Source: Harvard Business School
This fragmentation means there are a lot of niche websites and platforms catering to particular interests, too. For example, Autohome has attracted a dedicated user base for those interested in all things automotive.
When it comes to social media, there’s even more diversity and fragmentation. This means individual sites and platforms have less of an ability to shift the market in a particular direction.
To learn more about the huge range of Chinese social media and e-commerce platforms out there, check out our overview of the Chinese social media landscape in 2019.
China’s digital ecosystem is fast-paced
Even compared with Silicon Valley, China’s online environment moves super fast.
Recognizing consumers’ huge appetite for novelty and innovation, Chinese e-commerce and social media platforms are quick to test out new features, continually pushing for better ways to give people what they want.
For a great example, look no further than Alibaba’s Singles Day sale.
In 2018, Alibaba used new developments in e-commerce and mobile technology (including facial recognition and virtual fitting) to drive over $30.7 billion US dollars in Singles Day sales. This represents a 27% increase over 2017’s haul of $25.3 billion US dollars.
Source: Nikkei Asian Review
Next to Singles Day, Black Friday’s $6.22 billion in online sales in the US seems like nothing to write home about!
China’s digital ecosystem is based on trust and reputation
In China, consumers spend comparatively less than other nations on core costs like housing and food, but more on upgrading their lifestyles.
This habit helps explain the strong preference for premium products amongst Chinese consumers. This makes brand image a key factor in sales and marketing.
In fact, 90% of Chinese consumers buy products based on their reputation. Of course, this isn’t limited to China - every shopper in the world factors brand reputation into their purchases.
Significantly, over 75% of Chinese internet users post feedback and reviews on their purchases at least once a month. Compare this with less than 20% of internet users in the US.
With this focus on trust and reputation - including word of mouth recommendations - it’s little wonder platforms such as Xiaohongshu (the Little Red Book) have been such huge hits.
These platforms provide in-depth product reviews from trusted sources, with users often posting long and detailed comparisons and testimonials. Xiaohongshu also features a strong focus on stamping out paid advertisements and counterfeit products.
China’s market is heavily mobile-based
This is a big deal.
Of the 802 million Chinese internet users, almost all of them - 98%, in fact - do so via mobile devices. Over time, the gap between mobile and non-mobile users has narrowed to the point where it’s pretty much non-existent.
This high degree of mobile penetration makes Chinese e-commerce and social media more immediate and dynamic. Chinese users constantly turn to platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, and others for tips and recommendations, no matter where they are.
In fact, a platform like WeChat attracts a colossal 1.06 billion active monthly users (94% of China’s total smartphone users), making it an online ecosystem of its own. We’ve got more on this below.
So, that’s what sets China apart.
For brands looking to boost their presence with Chinese consumers, knowing how to navigate the social media and e-commerce scene is crucial. That’s where we come in!
What kind of access can Linkfluence offer?
In short, a lot!
Linkfluence’s Radarly coverage.
This coverage allows us to detect influencers across a wide range of platforms. This is particularly helpful for brands interested in gaining a foothold in the Chinese market.
Next up, we’ll show you exactly what we can offer for each of the different social media platforms and channels used in China.
Let’s start with a look at news and other public media.
Traditional Chinese news & media channels
Our Radarly platform already integrates more than 400 million sources of information in its database, including news websites, forums, and message boards all over the world.
For traditional Chinese news & media channels, Radarly can capture author, thread title, article title, content, comments, and URL. On top of this, Radarly can also show page rank, key audience statistics, estimated impressions, and the main topics of expertise or publication.
Incorporating this rich range of information has major benefits for users, particularly global brands wishing to track and understand the online discussion about their products and services.
Since 2014, Linkfluence Asia has kept strengthening its official partnership with Sina Weibo. This means being able to rely on a superior level of coverage and understanding of Sina Weibo’s 446 million active users.
We can provide all public content relevant to product brands and corporate brands, and can track the online performance of official brand accounts. We can track any topics required.
In practice, this means Linkfluence Asia customers can:
- Aggregate Sina Weibo posts by both keyword base and account tracking
- Use keywords and hashtags to monitor content, design campaigns, evaluate influencers for their brand engagement, follow the performance of social accounts, and get great consumer insights
- Draw on exhaustive Sina Weibo historical data when performing searches and analyses
By plugging in your Sina Weibo brand channels and accounts, Linkfluence Asia can also provide account performance information, including followers, content reach, and other metrics.
Today, we have the ability to draw information from over 1,000,000 official WeChat accounts, of which covers the vast majority are highly active (i.e. posting at least once a week, or handling customer care).
With our services, users can monitor WeChat data either by searching for keywords or through analyzing particular WeChat accounts.
We also offer analytics such as WeChat usernames, ID, content titles and URLs, and views.
Through our monitoring features, users can also provide the number of likes for individual accounts, which is a helpful feature for businesses searching for brand partners.
E-commerce channels (Jingdong, Taobao, Tmall) and travel review sites (Qunar)
On China’s hugely popular e-commerce channels, shoppers generally consult reviews early in their purchasing process, with over than 60% of shoppers researching products online before purchase.
As we noted earlier, this reflects the high importance of trust and reputation for Chinese consumers. That’s why 97% of B2B buyers say that reviews and content generated by platform users is more credible than other types of content.
This makes it critical for brands to understand what’s happening on e-commerce channels and travel review sites such as Qunar. Fortunately, with Linkfluence, users can:
- Monitor a large range of platforms (including JD, Taobao and Tmall) for buyer behaviour
- Use keywords in product titles to monitor online data
- Aggregate the latest pages of user product reviews (crucially, most shoppers will only trust reviews written in the past month)
- Analyze activity according to author, content type, and content URL
Zhihu (Chinese Quora)
Chinese question and answer site Zhihu accounts for about 160 million registered users, with 26 million active daily users, with an estimated 18 billion monthly page views.
Source: Yvonne Wang
Since the site’s creation, Zhihu has seen the creation of over 250,000 topics, as well as over 21 million questions and a staggering 100+ million answers.
When it comes to Zhihu, Linkfluence users can:
- Gather Zhihu data both through tracking keywords
- Aggregate and filter data relating to specific Zhihu posts
This functionality is super helpful for businesses wanting to understand more about the detailed, in-depth information available on Zhihu.
Little Red book (Xiaohongshu)
Xiaohongshu (or the Little Red Book) is a lifestyle sharing platform that has seen an incredible rise in popularity since its creation in 2013. By the end of 2018, the platform attracted over 200 million users, over 30 million of whom are active monthly users.
Most Xiaohongshu users are younger generations, between the ages of 18 and 35. The platform generates an estimated 1.4 billion impressions every day.
Source: Jing Daily
As we’ve covered in our deep dive on this exciting platform, many brands and celebrities have recently joined Xiaohongshu, helping drive an increase in user numbers.
With Linkfluence, users can:
- Track specific keywords on Xiaohongshu
- Using Radarly, aggregate and analyze account names, titles, specific content, post times, the number of saves, likes, and comments, and also the contents of comments
Known as TikTok outside of China, Douyin is a short video creation and sharing app with about 400 million active monthly users. This app has also picked up in popularity in other countries, including the US, where over six million users have signed up.
With Linkfluence, users can:
- Gather Douyin data by tracking keywords
- Aggregate and analyze posts and activity by author and article title, as well as by the numbers of likes and comments, the content of comments, and the number of reposts and views.
Given the increasing popularity of this platform - particularly among younger people - this functionality is key to understanding local Chinese consumer preferences.
With Linkfluence, users can track keywords on Toutiao, and can also analyze posts and activity according to author, article title, and the content of comments, as well as the numbers of likes and comments.
On this platform, users post restaurant reviews and recommendations, and can also order food directly, or purchase promotional offers from featured restaurants. This has proved to be a popular mix in China.
Users wishing to track Dianping with Linkfluence can use keywords to monitor data, though not via specific accounts. Linkfluence allows for data aggregation and analysis according to author, article title, the content of comments, as well as the number of likes and comments.
For brands with an interest in the food or restaurant sector, knowing what’s being said on Dianping is crucial.
In addition to the platforms featured above, Linkfluence is also increasing coverage of websites dedicated to specific industries, most notably the automotive industry in China. This includes popular platform Autohome.
Founded in 2008, Autohome has steadily grown in popularity with Chinese users, and now attracts over 25 million unique visitors each day looking for up-to-date interactive information about the automobile market.
For brands looking to establish a presence in the Chinese automotive market, gaining insights into the conversations and exchanges happening on sites like Autohome is critical.
We’re always improving
This list is a summary of our current Chinese data coverage - but this is always expanding.
The Chinese digital ecosystem changes fast, and we’re always looking for new ways to improve our data coverage and make sure we match our listening services to the needs of our users.
Stay on top of Chinese social media with our great data coverage
At Linkfluence, we’re dedicated to helping brands and businesses with a deep interest in understanding Chinese consumers, particular brands in the luxury, fashion, cosmetics, and retail industries.
That’s why it’s so important for us to understand what makes the Chinese market unique, and to make sure our customers understand this too.
Through combining our local team (including our online data experts) with our long-term presence in the Asia-Pacific region, there’s a lot we can do to help your business get established in China.
We’re working hard to bring our customers the most comprehensive and detailed social media data coverage in Asia. That way, you’ll have more insights available through our tools such as Linkfluence Search and Radarly.
In this post, we’ve shown you a little of what makes the Chinese market stand out, and how we can help you gather useful information through the range of Chinese e-commerce and social media platforms.
If you or your company is interested in a social listening project in the Chinese market, please don’t hesitate to contact us: