The Invasion of Internet Water Army in China with Chinese Bots

Within the population of approximately 1.3 billion people in Republic of China, 803 million out of that population are active internet users, that is approximately 57.7% of the population. However, not all of these users have only one devices, account, or phone number. The popularization of internet and the digital space have created opportunities and loop holes for monetization. To name one, “Zombie fans 僵死粉 (jiangsifen)” directly translated from the Chinese term defining fake followers is becoming one of the most frequently seen accounts on social media. There have been numerous opportunities created for the popularization of these marketing strategies for influencers, public figures, and businesses to bring brand awareness in the cyberspace. This topic comes in a variety of forms and types where this article will first begin categorizing each form by understanding each type of accounts first, and how it is being monetized secondly.

 

astroturfing-marketing-kol-china

 

Types of Accounts

There have been numerous and additional accounts created on social media to support some marketing strategies and provide false numbers or data. There are approximately 446 million active users on the social platform named Weibo in China, established by the business, Sina. In the recent debut of Cai Xukun, a popular male idol in mainland China, released his new music video called “Pull Up” on his Weibo account.

 

cai xukun mv

 

Within nearly one week since posting, there has already been 100 million shares, but only 1.2 million likes. By the regulations of Weibo, each users can like a post once, but endlessly share the post. The numbers of share is nearly 100 times more than the likes, and means at least 1/3 of the active users on Weibo have shared the post or each users who have liked the post shared the post 100 times. It is possible for this phenomenon to occur, but the possibilities are rare.

 

This procedure or marketing strategy is often completed by employing “Water army 水军 (shuijun)”. Internet water army is a group of fake accounts created by real users to monetize their account by botting, to agencies, public figures or influencers to produce an impact in the cyberspace, often a viral effect.

 

 

zombie fans followers

 

The second type of account was noted previously called Zombie fans 僵死粉 (jiangsifen), and in simple terms, these are fake accounts that can act as followers to a specific account. There are cases where internet influencers may resort to employing zombie fans to seemingly have a large fan base to produce a warrant for quality, leading to an attraction for organic followers. For instance, account on YouTube have 1,000 followers and the other one has 100,000 followers, which account are you more likely to watch and subscribe to if the content is the exact same?

 

yao chen weibo

 

Using a real case example, a Weibo verified account by the public figure, Yao Chen, have 80 million followers on Weibo. However, if you take a look at the numbers of interactions on her postings, the numbers rarely reflect the number of followers.

 

Online Public Relations

Water army can provide a variety of services to monetize their accounts, this service is often assisted by a botting program. One of the most popular procedure is called “Buying traffic刷流量 (shualiuliang)”. Buying traffic can be done on different platforms, mostly on social platforms. The term in Chinese refers represents more than traffic, the term generally includes views and engagements buying, such as comments and shares. However, to look more in-depth, these the traffic buying can be utilized for numerous purposes. In the entertainment industry in China, scandals can deathly to a public figure’s reputation and image. Agencies for these public figures may strategically utilize Chinese bots to harm competing public figures or celebrities by producing the scandal or boosting existing scandals. Agencies can also utilize the Chinese bots to build positive reputation for their influencers or celebrities. Another strategies agency may do is produce a script then employing Chinese bots to repeatedly post the script on multiple platforms.

 

Employment of Water Army

Water army is arising to the entertainment and digital market for public figures, the sizable market of online public relation is growing at a rapid speed. Any users in China can simply search Water army on any search engine can easily access to a large source of Water army agencies. Based on the different agencies employed, the pricing of services can vary. ChinaIRN have released an article of price listing of Water army from a random agency. There are two services, traffic buying and followers buying. The followers buying come with three different quality of followers. The higher the quality, the more active and realistic the account may seem to be.

 

water army pricing

 

As for engagements, there is a regular service and a high-quality service, the price different between the two defines the level of penetration to the target audience. Some users may be previously blocked for future content, causing the prices to be lower. High-quality engagements are produced by users are less likely to be blocked by others.

 

water army pricing

 

Another service listed on the article by the agency is the verification provided on Weibo to certain users, which leads to high rates of recommendations on the platform.

weibo verification price

 

Kris Wu on iTunes

Kris Wu have officially released his new album called Antares on all music platforms, such as iTunes on November 6th, 2018. In less than 24 hours after release, the new album have preoccupied the top 8 spots in the Top seller charts with 14,032,171 purchases on his “November Rain” song in United States. Many north American on iTunes were left awestruck seeing this result, questioning the accuracy of the charts as the users also questioned who Kris Wu was. On November 7th, iTunes cleared the digital sales on the charts for the album along with the unavailability of the album. Some have stated that the bots assist in purchasing the album or song, latter return and repeat in order to produce this large number.

 

twitter kris wu itunes

kris wu itunes album

 

 

Legal Responsibilities

Rewinding to several years back, the regulations and policies on Water army were not maturely developed to be regulated and supervised. Many were utilizing this act to produce false scandals and rumors harming others of reputation. However, with the progress of continuous effort to improve the system, the government have China have greater supervision and control over the cyberspace in China and charges against actions completed in the digital spaces can be rightfully deemed valid. For example, any false accusations against personnel shared over 500 times can be charged against for consequences according to the National Criminal Law of Republic of China. The government also have partnered with large social platforms to work against Water army. On Weibo, users are not permitted to submit any comments, shares, or likes without identity verifications. Additionally, the government Weibo have also banned over 1100 popular verified accounts involved with the Water army in December of 2018.

 

The entertainment and media industry in China are facing challenges with accurate identifications for quality. And the struggle to innovate a system to fight against falsifications of data and statistics in the cyberspace continues.

The Acceleration of We-media In China

We-media is a term coined by American student named Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis, in which defines the utilization of real-time communication platforms in China by the general public to build impact. Using the advanced technology to broadcast on platforms with consistent quality content to attract subscribers and followers. The increase of the subscriber population on a platform is followed by the usage and influence of the platform, along with the rise of value.

 

We-media in China

Companied by the tremendous usage of internet, We media in China is changing the game. From the popularity of personal blogs in 2005 to the trending of Weibo in 2009, to the launch of WeChat Official Account (WOA) in 2012, to the streaming trend in 2017, to the short video boom in 2017. The changes in We-media is contributed by the bloggers whom begun accumulating a large group of followers in Weibo, later expanding into the WeChat platform.

 

development graph of wemedia in china

*Above graph defines the important contributing events to we-media since 2008 to present. 2009 Weibo establishment; 2012 WeChat Official Account establishment; 2012 – 2014 Video, e-commerce have stepped into we-media; 2015 – 2017 streaming and short video are the popular content for creators

 

With WeChat official account occupying 63.4% of the media market share in the digital era, the amount of funds circulating in WeChat official account have attracted a large crowd to participate. In this year, WeChat Official Account have reached 17.7 million accounts with a annual growth rate of 32.1% in comparison to 2015. In 2017, the numbers have surpassed 20 million. Since beta testing in 2012 up till now, with over 6 years of development, the market size of Wechat Official Account is now valued at over hundreds of billion dollars.

 

As the second largest distribution channel, Weibo occupies 19.3% of the market, should also be taken into consideration. As of December 2017, the monthly active users (MAU) for Weibo have increased to 3.92 billion, which have increased by 7.9 million from 2016, breaking the record for the highest net growth since listing. For instance, the number one internet influencer in China, Papi-chan have published 171 posts with an annual view of 57.7 billion averaging 3.3 million per posts and the highest views is 1.4 billion.

 

papi-chan social media analysis data

 

From 2012 to the end of 2015 marks the highest profiting period for We media in China , content values have skyrocketed.

 

However, after various concepts and ideas being done in 2017, have the We media industry entered the stage of regression or stabilization? We have used the PEST analysis method to bring everyone into a new perspective for the We media development in China.

 

P (Politics)

The prospect of We media in China have been one-of-a-kind phenomenon in the market.

 

Prior to the digital era, traditional media often requires skill sets and requirements. Skills, such as writing, was also highly competitive and encouraged to be improved.

 

However, since the popularization of We media platforms, everyone is able showcase their thoughts and opinions with a keyboard and webcams without being in the first scene. Any opinions that unique and keen will be often receive attention.

 

interview media microphones

 

Under the current circumstances, content quality fall through the loopholes of view buying, plagiarism, false news and various shortcuts to gain impressions, leading into the regression and downgrade of content quality. In this digital era, the lack of supervision has been a huge contributing factor for the low-quality and falsification in We media. Thus, the building for accountable and reputable content have been one of the pressing challenges.

 

With the strengthening of management and supervision by the Judicial administrative department of China and mainstream platforms, such as WeChat and Weibo, the new policies released have reorganized the activities for We media platforms, along with the dismissal of many verified influencers failed to display rightful activities. The supervision department of China have also been in discussion with the management of multiple We media platforms to rectify entirely. From this period, the intervention by the government have sped up the elimination and selection between superiority and inferiority to continuously improve the

Through the logics of leading entrepreneurs abusing the name of Wang Jian Lin to publish false information causing its lawsuit by the we-media influencer Ma Dong Yang pled guilty, the we-media culture in China have progressed to be more civilized with copyright and legal distribution.

 

keyboard social network china

 

We-media creators should be wary of the policies and regulations of content if they wish to progress in this field under the supervisions on the internet.

 

E (Economy)

The insane hype is not restricted to internet users, but also investors, as we-media have also lived up to its popularity in the early stages for investments.

 

The year of 2015 is known as the year of we-media finance, there are over 30 we-media finalizing on finance plans over millions. Between may 2016 to may 2017, there are over 66we-media channels with millions of funding, and 9 with over billions.

 

We-media channels with funding have analyzed the aspects necessary to increase the chance to receive financial funding. One aspect is the expertise, for instance, the representative for vehicle media channel is “After the car”. The other aspect is the management experience of the creator. Examples are Yi Tiao, created by Xu Hu Sheng who was previously the chief editor for “Bundpic”, or the creator of Luogic show by Luo Zhen Yu whom was previously the producer of “Dialogue”.

 

Since the early stages and rapid development of we-media, the capital market has slowly normalized in 2017.

 

We-media is still receiving attention from the capital market, but there is a growing trend towards the leading media. In 2017, 75% of the financial funding in the we-media sector have been redirected to the leading we-media, including short videos, tools, MCN, media agencies, service platforms, and content platforms. These companies and platforms have become the most highly financed parties.  Comics, maternal content, childcare, cars, life, relationships, finance and womanism have become more concentrated in the we-media field.

 

When knowledge and finance are brought together into a field, competition and elimination is guaranteed. We-media with informational and entertainment compared with popular accounts or accounts with large fanbase, these accounts receive higher attention and value from investors. For instance, in December of 2017, 36 Yang have received first round financing of 3 billion RMB, becoming the largest financial plan for we-media in China.

 

Looking at the prospect from the past several years, the hype for we-media creators have past. The industry is coming close to a turnover, and we-media with specific brand or field are most likely to continue to receive attention within the market.

 

S (Society)

The beginning of we-media has overridden the usage of traditional media and affecting the reporters, starting to decentralize the media industry. Giving users and an average person the ability to create and share, where everyone can produce content and become a we-media creator.

 

According to the statistics by Net Ease Technology, we-media creators have increased tremendously since the start of 2014, surpassing 2 million by 2015. And, in 2017, there are now 2.6 million creators.

 

Despite the growth of we-media, the numbers of creators in the industry with consistent content production and advertising after two years of selection and elimination, remains at 8.3% growth.

 

Especially after the innovative concepts of media platforms in 2018, the industry have now begun to build a standard for high-quality content, leading content creators to shift to content production team to release consistent and high-quality content. An example would be Mimeng, the drafting process for her viral articles are based on the following procedures: select a topic from 50 options, interviews, 5 hours of interactive writing, 100 headlines, create a poll within the group of 500, and lastly to complete an 10,000-word data analysis of the article. This process displays the benefits and advantages of a production team.

 

meeting planning drafting

 

Aside from that, we-media have birthed many business model, but the profit model remains singular.

 

According to the “We-media trend report of 2017”, sponsorship is the main income for we-media creators to 59.8% of the data. Matured commercial plans include platform commission, e-commerce, and IP monetization which occurs less frequently and only on the mainstream we-media creators. To majority of we-media creators, sponsorship is the main profit, or possibly the only.

 

graph we-media financial plans

*Above graph is the distribution of financial funding plan in we-media of 2017

 

As the development of we-media starts to stabilize, the standards for management and content will rise to test we-media creators and the expertise of the team. To professionalize, systemize we-media of content production, campaign planning, monetization and management model will be the core of the competition for we-media in the near future.

 

T (Technology)

Following the rapid development of internet and demands of consumers, we-media industry have displayed innovative technology.

 

Looking at the production of content, images have been the main production for content in the early stages until the trend for streaming, short videos and other contents. Specifically in 2017, the popularization of short video was one of the phenomenon in the industry.

 

recording video concert

 

Taking a look at we-media platforms, forums and blogs have shifted to WeChat and Weibo, Toutiao as the representative for information platforms shifting to Douyin, Kuaishou and other short video platforms. The numbers of we-media platform surges, as well as the optimization of algorithm to improve the platforms. As the internet giants join the competition for we-media platforms, many platforms have begun to throw its money in to create the gaps. Now we-media platforms have slowly begun to form a structure, and content traffic will be even more competitive than before.

 

As the distribution tools, smart phones are the first tool used by many users to receive first-hand information. The circulation of video content and technology have now progressed, AR/VR technology are leading the development teams and the industry to proceed. Under the large data technology, new media content such as short video, H5, VR streaming, GIFs have sped up the demands for innovativeness of the users, highlighting the interaction between users and the content or information.

 

Conclusion

The low standards for we-media have provided the public with a voice, one of the benefits contributed by the development of the internet. In comparison to the followers and trafficking in the early stages, we-media in China have entered a stabilized development stage for maturation to perfect the ecosystem. In 2018, the industry is progressing towards the demands for high-quality content and the influence of leading creators with businesses. The survivability to sustain within this industry will continue to decrease, decided by the direction of development and the continuous improvements.

Android App Marketing Strategies in China

With the rapid development of mobile data in China, smart phones have been highly popularized, creating a enormous market for android apps.

 

According to the statistics published by “App Annie”, there were a total of 1750 billion downloads worldwide with a total of 860 billion USD in purchases, with China being the largest App market worldwide.

 

*download ranking for mobile apps

China have over 10 billion mobile devices with one quarter of the revenue generated, based on app store downloads, in-app advertisements and mobile commerce. Mobile commerce is a term pioneered by Kevin Duffey to define the act of conducting commercial transactions online using a mobile device. In the last quarter of 2017, the total amount of time spent on apps in China have surpassed 2000 billion hours, which is 4.5 times the total of the second largest mobile market, India. In the general ranking for both iOS and android apps in 2017, WeChat have been listed as the top five app with the most active users (MAU) as third rank. In the MAU game listing for August, King of Glory and Anipop as the first and second ranking, Happy Landlord Battle (Dou Dizhu) and CrossFire as rank eighth and ninth.

 

Regardless of all other factors, the mobile app industry in China has great potential.

 

Main Sales Channel for Android Apps

Market Distribution

The first step to a successful mobile app is the development, but marketing and management is definitely the most accountable and difficult factor for its success. China’s app industry is where the competition for marketing is at.

app marketing channels 2018 chart

*Android marketing channels in 2018 which will be explained in details below

 

In comparison to the App store and Google play in other regions, the app industry in China for android have countless competitors, and majority of the apps being free download to attract users.

 

Although there are over hundreds of companies in the mobile software industry, 95% of the market share is occupied by 360, Baidu (Baidu phone assistant, 91 Assistant), Ying Yong Bao, Xiaomi as the leading companies. With the differences between industry to industry, strategic planning for product launching, marketing regulations, picture sizes, logo standards to meet the demands and target audiences are all uniquely different.

 

Essentially, the paid marketing on app store platforms to promote app have caused severe commercialization and fierce competition for newly launched apps and apps in its early stages. Additionally, the long-term expense for paid marketing continues to grow by a large margin. The most common paid marketing model is to compete for CPD (Cost-per-download) and CPT (Cost-per-time).

 

feed ad platform analysis chart

 

CPD is the fee for per download, most commonly used in app industry for the recommendation list. This model is one of the most cost-effective marketing, ranging between 0.6 to 5 RMB, financial, e-commerce and games related app will average to 20 RMB. The conversion is easily traceable, budget friendly to suit smaller brands with smaller group of audiences. The difficulty is rooted at the bidding model, which means same type app marketing is highly competitive, and low bidders will not have any advantage.

 

CPT is paid based on time, most commonly used for recommendation listing and banner for per day. This model is simply a product placement with a hefty pricing in comparison to CPD, suitable to mainstream apps with high volume such as celebrity apps or super apps, which is multi-purposed apps such as WeChat. The viral Douyin app in 2018 is also a good example for CPT, reaching to 28 million RMB per day, outcompeting all other apps.

 

There is also App Store Optimization (ASO) model, referring to the optimization in the searches and ranking in listings and app store, the App version of SEO. The main goal is to allow users to be able to search for the app to organic traffic in the long-term. In comparison to the Apple app store, the Android app stores tend to be more commercialized as a great share of success to apps are based off paid marketing and more suitable for those with larger budget.

 

Regardless of the type of marketing strategy, effective marketing strategies can vary on different pricing based on the product, expectations and budget to adapt to the most suitable one.

 

Feeds Ads

Feeds Ads is a type of marketing that is based on social medias and the preferences of users to systematically advertise, basically implementing advertisements within information.

 

The current largest feeds ads platforms are Tui from Tencent, Tencent Social Ads, Toutiao, Sina Ad Exchange, Fensi Tong from Weibo and more. Companies with a higher budget can utilize the officials of these platforms to start, whereas companies with a smaller budget can find third party agencies, which typically will assist in optimization.

 

app market store

 

With the direct regulations and restrictions on mobile advertisements, feed ads have become the most popular ad format at this point, the classic example would be the ads in Moments on WeChat.

 

Moments feed ads is charged based on CPM (Cost-per-impression). Using the first-tier city, Guangzhou, as an example, the competing average for CPM is 100 – 300 RMB per 1000 impression, which is lower than the traditional marketing strategies in expenses.

 

Moments feed ads is based on region, age, gender, marital status, internet environment, mobile devices and such for precise screening. 24 first-tier industry labels, 183 second-tier industry labels, the specific targeting of users can bring clients the most effective and explosive brand exposure. For instance, “Respect for music” from Vivo on moments have reached nearly 1.55 billion impressions, over 7.2 million views, likes, and comments from users, gaining over 2 million fans instantly.

 

vivo campaign music china

 

As the first social platform to launch feed ads, Weibo in the feeds ad sector also had countless successful cases. In 2004, Weibo and Jaguar have partnered for a 5-day feeds ads project, receiving over 40 million impression, 30 million views, 7 million interactions and 5 million views on their video(s).

 

Social Marketing

Android apps can utilize contents to direct rewarding activities to progress further, because high-quality content such as pictures and videos can allow users to understand the unique aspects of the app to bring in high-quality users to register. Rewards can assist in attracting the first batch of users to actively vocalize and promote in social platforms to increase exposure and increase app downloads.

 

This requires the app itself to have an “it” factor to create topics, and professional content creators or KOL with a strong marketing team.

 

Under the dome released in 2015 have surpassed 1.3 clicks after two days since release, the topical interest has caused an uproar in the internet, while also leading an environmentally friendly apps  “Contamination Map” to explode in the app store, quickly rising to the first rank in the free download listing (Click here to see a similar app). The immense number of download and visits have caused the data crashing on the app. According to 360 mobile assistant, Contamination map have been downloaded for 80,000 times in a week, making it the most popular app in its category.

 

contaminiation map app china

 

Also, the fitness app called “Keep” have partnered with the hottest reality show called “Takes A Real Man” to start topics and challenges on Weibo to encourage users to download Keep and complete their daily fitness training. And according to the days of training completed, users can participate in different giveaways. This type of cross regional collaboration and promotion have allowed related topics on Weibo to reach 1.5 million views, while bringing in a surge of downloads.

 

For android app marketing in social platforms, marketers must find the most suitable KOL for the specific category with content implemented from third-parties to be presented in a less commercialized format to increase trustworthiness and relevance. Aside from WeChat and Weibo, super platforms with large volume such as Toutiao can be utilized to engage in marketing for multiple platforms to increase the number of channels, such as short video platforms, Q&A websites, encyclopedia websites as well.

 

Offline Marketing

There are various offline marketing strategies for android apps, including street marketing and mobile pre-load.

 

Street marketing is one of the most direct form to come in contact with users, majority of the promotion is based on scanning QR codes to receive rewards, such as red pockets. This strategy is able to allow your potential users to gain trust in your products, and the early stages of promotion is crucial to build up reputation for the brand. Street marketing is able to achieve this goal while receiving feedback from users to continuously improve.

 

Didi, a peer-to-peer ride sharing app completely utilized street marketing team in its early stages to progress in the business, their team have handed out fliers, introduced the product, app installation and rewarding with gas cards and calling cards. The business also regularly collaborates with other transportation network companies to host seminars and promotions to attract their first batch of users through the word-of-mouth.

 

didi taxi app china

 

However, the primary issue of street marketing is the matching of users. Every potential user encountered from street marketing and converted clients with the product fit will directly affect the user base.

 

Pre-loaded mobile devices refer to the fees paid to mobile manufacturers before setup to have the android app installed onto the mobile device. Typically involves outdoor and commuting apps as the main category, such as keyboards, weather, Wi-Fi, news, camera, music and such.

 

Based on the size and model, pre-load fees range from 0.5 – 1 RMB or 1.5 – 4 RMB CPA. However, this strategy is more suitable for larger companies such as Lakala to be pre-loaded on Lenovo mobile devices by Legend Holdings as internal resource change.

 

Mobile pre-load is one of the most effective strategy to gain a large number of users for android app. One of the advantages to this method is the easy process, but the variety of users and the period before seeing gains are some of the disadvantages. Especially with the changes and regulations revised by mobile brands for pre-load, causing and increase for marketing expenses and difficulties to attain. Thus, this channel is not the most suitable for those with lower budgets.

 

Challenges Faced By Android Apps

Short Life Span

China is the country with most smartphone users, and there are countless entrepreneurs surging into the app market. However, the life span of majority of the apps are short.

 

According to the “Mobile app market in China analysis” statistics have shown that the average life span of apps in China is approximately 10 months. The duration between installation and uninstallation is averaged 1 month for 85% of the users, and 5% remaining users after 5 months. Apps previously launched such as FaceU, Fotoplace, Moment cam, and Crazy Picture Guessing are the best examples.

 

android phone apps

 

The contributing factor for the overly short life span of app is due to the amount of competitors for the same content. Camera apps such as Beauty cam, 360 Cam, Tiantian P Tu, beauty camera app have numerous varieties with the same functions but unique names.

 

With the ever-changing and development to technology, a world-changing app may appear any time. Aside from the usage and marketing needed for apps, any creative, innovative and unique product will grasp users, despite the high standards for quality products increasing, including products like apps where it is currently being affected by the mini-programs on WeChat.

 

analysis computer charts

 

Increasing Difficulties in App Marketing

To achieve the expectations and goals from marketing, an overall skillful and cooperative team is also a necessity, because based on the skill level, experience and resources, there will be a difference for efficiency and results.

 

Also, the increasing difficulties to app marketing, for android, should also be recognized. And marketing strategies needs to be continuously created and improved. For example, the previous 9 block marketing strategy on Weibo have increased from 0.5 RMB per user in 2015 to 2 RMB per user in February of 2016, up until the ineffectiveness two months later. Aside from blindly hoping onto the bandwagon and those utilizing channels in ways that are causing negative impact to the strategy, have also proved the potential risks in all marketing strategies.

 

Under the circumstances with an overwhelming amount of data, android app marketing has been redirecting its focus to refined management. While undergoing with any marketing plans, marketers for android apps have redefine the standards and concerns based on the product characteristics, budget, suitable strategy, cost-effectiveness and experiences to comprehensively arrange project for success. This process also requires thorough analysis from data and continuous optimization to achieve its goals.

How To Do Small Businesses (SMB) In China?

During the “Double-11” (November 11th, a date to celebrate being single), Alibaba signified a new consumption era with world-breaking record of 1207 billion RMB revenue in 2016.

 

In the next year, Double-11 have once again broken the record with 1682 billion RMB, surpassing the annual GDP (Gross domestic product) of Iceland and Cameroon within 13 hours in 2017.

 

double-11 chinese promotion

 

According to statistics, there were over 3.4 billion consumers participating in the Double-11, with over 8.12 billion shipment orders. The total amount of transactions approved on Alipay have reached 14.8 billion transactions, increased by 41% from previous year, averaging one transaction per person in China.

logistics in china

Over the course of nine years of development, promotional events on e-commerce since the start of 2009 have become one of the most influential sources worldwide.

growth of cross-border ecommerce in china

The CEO of Alibaba, Zhang Yong, have stated that Double-11 is no longer a date for consumers, but all businesses, globally, referring it as the “Olympics of commerce”

 

Funds And Expected Value

Businesses wanting to quickly submerge into the Chinese market outside of China, should consider how much they understand and know about the market and the culture first.

 

Beyond the Chinese population, products from China or products made in China may be perceived as low-grade and counterfeits by others.

 

But with the higher demands for brand awareness and quality, Chinese products are actively attempting to override the impression of poor-quality products and counterfeits with better quality.

 

Particularly within the high-end product range, Made in China is steadily overtaking the field.

 

U.S. military uniforms, body armors, national flags, training drones, and even the U.S. army African command communications satellite is made in China.

 

The high-speed rail transit is one of the technologies envied by many of the western countries. And Chinese mobile brands have …. Chinese E-commerce have innovated a global platform, and mobile payment is even more astonishing.

 

With the China economy booming, success is even more difficult to obtained in comparison to decades ago. Thus, when evaluating the China economy, select what your business excels in and what is familiar to make it easier for yourself.

 

Furthermore, evaluate the investment and possible risks. Any oversea investors must consider the circumstance when businesses are incapable of attending to the consumer culture in China. Businesses should consider the risks prior to investing.

 

Prior to investing and entering the Chinese market, it is important to expect high return on investment. Carefully choose the industry and the competitions within the industry.

 

Working with Sales agents

According to iiMedia, the amount of “Haitao” (refers to the act of purchasing goods across the borders) users in China have increased from 0.15 billion in 2014 to 0.41 billion in 2016, increased by 78.3%

 

The rapid development of the Chinese e-commerce marketing also requires the unique business habits and services of China.

 

Previously in the cross-border e-commerce industry was a competition among ecommerce business. However, the industry involves competition between multiple different businesses, such as SMEs from worldwide, operation agents, marketing services, logistics, other niche brands and service providers.

 

To smaller businesses that is not ready to commit a large sum of investment and efforts, sales agent is one of the best solutions.

meeting notes discussion

Advantages:

Time conserving

Utilizing the resources of the trading agent, such as their experiences, sales channels to allow products to quickly submerge into the market. It is also possible to obtain circumstances, changes and information about the Chinese market through the agent, without the need to travel.

 

Increased efficiency

Trading agents are suitable to businesses in the early stages of international expansions, unfamiliar the marketing aspect and marketing experiences, as the effort and investment needed to build their own team is high.

 

The online sales platform in China is different in comparison to other parts of the world, there are regulations and unspoken rules that westerners may not understand. And sales agents in this business accumulated years of experience have their own expertise, which can be greatly utilized by businesses.

mobile apps in china

Regardless of the business model used, a cooperative team with sales strategies and cross-cultural communication skills is a necessity if you want to submerge in the e-commerce industry and understand the social media, as well as the service industry.

 

Investment Conserving

As your products is distributed into the international market through a second-party, your business retains the portion of expenses towards staffing for distribution and exportation.

 

Regulated Benefits

As agents that are more successful is eligible for tax refunds, businesses that are low-profit and have tight cash flow need to receive tax refunds on time to keep the business operating smoothly.

 

Authority

In the early stages of entering the Chinese market, businesses, brands and company depend on agent to familiarize with the business culture and market. After the products have accumulated its reputations and avoiding the risks of e-commerce, the reliance of agents will decrease. Later, having the capability of operating the business in the Chinese market completely without the assistance of agents.

 

Disadvantages:

Suitable Partner

As the development of cross border e-commerce is increasing the demands for quality agents, there are more opportunities for poor-quality and inexperienced agencies.

 

How do we select a suitable and trustworthy agent/agency?

hand agreement partner

There are three factors the business must consider before selecting an partner. First, do they have statistics to support their successful cases? Second, have they worked with large brands, such as Alibaba? Lastly, can they clearly outline the needs of your business and an effective plan to help your business?

 

You also must put in time and effort to carefully evaluate the opposing party’s operating team, position or directly join the team in the early stages of development.

 

Loss Of Control In Management

There is little to no control for you in the early stages of management, making agents suitable for smaller businesses looking forward to moving to international stages as a accumulated experience.

 

Loss Of Feedback

As the company or individual is not directly participating in the marketing and management in China, it is difficult to attain first-hand information and knowledge about the Chinese market to build experiences.

 

Weak IP Protection

As some of the agents may be poorly educated on the aspects of intellectual property protection and creativity awareness, the lack of mechanism for their services and incompetent of their brands may lead to the utilization of other patents and trademark, causing legal right issues.

 

Other Risks

As the middle-man between the business and the market, there is a risk of loss of clients to competition, as the client information is withheld by the agent.

agreement handshake business

Aspects To Consider Aside From Marketing

Logistics and Payment

In 2012, there were a total of 56.9 billion shipments in China, increasing to 312.8 billion in 2016. Under the advancement of technology to statistics and data records, the logistics in China have grown 4.5 times the size in four years.

logistics in china

During the Double-11 promotion on Tmall, the logistics in China have dispatched one billion shipments in two days in 2013, using 24 hours in 2014, using 16 hours in 2016, and only 12 hours in 2016.

 

China owns the fastest and most efficient logistic system worldwide…

 

In the two current cross border e-commerce model: Bonded warehouse model and Direct B2C model.

 

In the Bonded warehouse model, all products are first shipped to a warehouse in specified country to conserve time, then directly shipped from the country to consumer to lower expenses. However, this model requires fast dispatch and funds from e-commerce platforms. Whereas the direct b2c model is directly dispatched individually from the sources then shipped out to the consumer or business, but the disadvantage is that it is much more time consuming.

 

Businesses should consider the aspects of merchandises and products, such as sizes, safety, and custom regulations to select the best logistics model. For instance, furniture pieces are typically large, which is much more suitable to be stored in warehouse and shipped from warehouse using the bonded warehouse model.

 

In the previous years, there are approximately 200 countries and regions that accept Alipay, supporting 18 types of currencies for payment. During that year of Double-11, the amount of Alipay transactions increased by 60% with consumers from 224 countries using Alipay.

Alipay payment method

With the current payment habits in China, an understanding of Alipay will be beneficial.

 

Policy Information

Within the Chinese market, the government is the core of design, planning and a distributor of important resources, as well as a regulation authority.

If International merchants and investors is able to follow the current plans and prospects of the government, there is a lower risk in terms of the politic fields.

 

Using 7-11 franchises as an example, 7-11 convenience store first entered the Chinese market in 1992, and into mainland in 2004. In 2016, 7-11 announced the approval for franchises, developing with affiliates and corporate branches.

seven eleven 7-11 convenient chain

And 7-11 have quickly spread across the Chinese market, but partially owing to the promotion of convenience consumption. One of the focus in the annual plan released by the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China in 2012 is to increase the convenience consumption. The investment on food, shopping, leisure, and entertainment industry will be the focus for the convenience consumption prospect.

 

As the leading 24-hour convenience store, the expansion of 7-11 in China have accelerated throughout all regions and cities of China. As of June 2017, there are 2377 store locations in China, including Hong Kong.

 

One of the main contributing reason to the success of 7-11 in China is the implementation plan to import international brands and encourage domestic businesses with the brands for partnership and learn from these brands while increasing the competitiveness of the retail industry in China. And, 7-11 in this case have entered the Chinese market at a good timing as the government is encouraging the growth of imported businesses.

 

In September 2017, People’s bank of China has forwarded a stop on ICO, causing the downfall of all ICO currency. The unexpected decision of the officials have sent out an signal to the according market.

ICO cryptocurrencies china

An understanding of the central government of China, legal regulations of the market, and close attention to any policy changes to SASAC (State-owned assets and supervision and administration commission) will greatly benefit the success of international retailers entering the Chinese market.

 

For instance, the government of China have announced the requirement for cross border e-commerce to attain and provide a product formula registration certificate for all baby formula, on January 1st of 2018.

 

Also, imported cosmetic products must attain the cosmetic license approval issued by the drug and administration of the state. Imported cosmetic products from cross border e-commerce also need to attain the required documents approved in accordance to the relevant regulations, including the record voucher.

china flag agreeent handshake

Visit China Once

Before drafting the expansion plan to China, it is highly recommended to reside and work in China for a long period of time to better understand all the aspects of Chinese consumers.

 

Because China is vast, different fields require and have different characteristics.

 

Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Fujian are the five main cities with the highest sources for cross border e-commerce. As these regions are much closer to the developed costal areas, the geographic advantages are apparent.

 

Within the list, Guangdong have the highest concentrated volume of manufactory and have the most experienced traders, becoming the central location for exporting cross-border e-commerce goods. Guangdong also have an experienced and extensive supply chains, one of the chains located in Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone with advanced light manufacturing line, the high performing line led by clothing, accessories and miscellaneous with an industrial cluster within the zone.

 

It is recommended to visit China once a year or more, if long-term residency is not possible, to deeply understand the directions and changes to the government and market.

agreement partnership china

Conclusion

The accelerating development of China is one of a kind compared to the entire planet with many unforeseen opportunities. Despite the increased operating expenses in the country, China is still an irresistible opportunity for entrepreneurs and corporation

 

How Did Fast Fashion in China Succeed?

The collection of fast fashion brands has pioneered a new industry in China in 2002, with Uniqlo being the first fast fashion brand to open a retail store within that year.

 

In case you are not familiar with the term “Fast fashion”, it refers to the is clothing that are quickly transported from fashion shows to stores, merchandising the current fashion trends. Brands such as Zara, H&M, Forever21 are fast fashion brands.

 

fast fashion brands in china

Source: Soho

 

Fast fashion brands have quickly merged into the market with the lower price ranges, the consistent product refresh and rapid delivery of current fashion trends have earned themselves a spot in the market with the entrance of Zara in 2006 and H&M in 2007.

 

In 2008, several fast fashion brands speedily grown in the first-tier cities with the developments of shopping malls and shopping centres for expansion. As of 2016, Zara have reached over 500 locations in China, H&M have over 370 locations with 91 in 2016, averaging one new location every four days. The first to the market, Uniqlo also have nearly 500 stores in China as well.

 

However, the expansion in the past year have not been easy for these international fast fashion brands.

 

The Slowing Of Fast Fashion In China

In the start of 2017, Uniqlo have shut down four locations, Zara have shut down their largest retail store in February, which have over 300 square meters, H&M have forsaken their annual  goal to increase retail store from 10% to 15% while shutting down the store in Beijing Joy City, Forever 21 have shut down the only retail store in Tianjin and Hangzhou along with their first store in Beijing apm.

 

h&m store china joy city

Source: Sina News

 

Aside from the stores noted above, C&A shut down their first location in Chengdu and Mango, being one of the older brands, also have planned to shut down 450 locations in department stores with very few locations remaining in the Chinese market.

 

But what brought the drastic regression of fast fashion?

 

The Growth Of Domestic Brands

Within the past years, some of the domestic fast fashion brands in China have quickly rise in the market with several strategy changes, rapidly impacting the international fast fashion brands.

 

The changes of focus in brand image, customer experience, product design, price range and marketing strategies is able to better meet with the Chinese consumers.

 

MJStyle as an example, with over 1000 meter squared of space for their store, have combined all the details for creativity, store arrangements, customer services and more to cater to the consumers, improving the overall customer experience. Westlink incorporated an leisure area within the store to provide consumers with an relax and comfort atmosphere to allow consumers to better understand brands and products. The store display and clothing style similar with Zara, Urban Revivo was once mistaken as the new clothing line from Inditex by the consumers have stood out in the industry with its cost-quality.

 

urban revivo retail store china

Source: InsideFashion

According to the Chinese clothing network report, Hotwind, MJStyle have expanded 160 and 101 new locations in 2016, surpassing some of the larger brands. In 2017, the expansion of MJStyle have surpassed H&M, Uniqlo, Zara and more with 200 new locations, occupying a share of the market.

 

There also domestic online brands rapidly growing with unique designs inspired by the Chinese culture to build up brand reputation, such as Handu, Inman, Hotwind, and JNBY.

 

Wanghong Store Competitions

“Wanghong” is a term referring to popular figures, individual on the internet, or internet celebrities. Thus, Wanghong stores are stores opened by these internet celebrities.

 

The development of the internet has innovated more shopping opportunities and options for Chinese consumers. Some fashion merchandising stores and wanghong stores opened by fashion KOL have gained attention from the consumers, steadily dominating the consumer groups of fast fashion brands. Additionally, with the business model for wanghong marketing developing, fast fashion brands are experiencing a huge impact.

 

One of the wanghong e-commerce representative, Da Yi Zhang, have nearly 8 million followers on her online store. In the double 11 period, Zhang utilized Weibo and live streaming to reach a ATV (average transaction value) of 2000 RMB and a total sales of over 1.2 billion RMB with an 434% increase of sales in November on Taobao. In comparison, the sales performance of Zara, Uniqlo and other fast fashion retail stores have also increased by 315%, remaining behind the wanghong store by a large margin.

 

zhang da yi fashion chinese

Source: Gucheng

 

Utilizing the power of the internet, wanghong is able to do marketing in a variety of social media platform to promote and interact with fans, thus the loyal fans have brought many leads and great value to wanghong stores.

 

Although several fast fashion brands also have Tmall stores, the amount of interaction and communication is incomparable to the influence of wanghong, inspected from the official accounts of Zara, Uniqlo and more.

 

Concept of value and consumption

Previously, fast fashion brands rely on the quick release of new products from well-known brands to provide consumers with a trending fashion piece at a lower price point to profit.

 

Presently, generation x and y have become the major consumer groups for fast fashion. But with the entrance of cyberspace, social media and ecommerce have provided them with more channels for information, increasing their knowledge on fashion, pursing for uniqueness and quality.

 

Thus, brands such as H&M that rely on designs of larger brands to release standardized products in bulk is unable to meet the demands of Chinese consumers who wants varieties and to be unique while following trends.

 

uniqlo chinese selfie store

Source: INDEPENDENT

 

Additionally, the attraction between consumers to fast fashion is weak. The general consumers do not always purchase clothing from these fast fashion brands because they like them, but because Zara, Uniqlo or H&M are the only available option at their budget.

 

Once the relationship between brands and consumers are weaken, the brand loyalty also decreases, followed by the loss of consumers.

 

Low Quality Is A “No”

Another cause for the regression of fast fashion is the focus on expansion, overlooking the quality.

 

To maintain the rapid changing trends, fast fashion brands consistently refreshing the product range have begun neglecting quality control, falling far below the standards for quality. Some brands are also often blacklisted by the departments of business and quality introspection in China.

 

Between 2012 to 2016, H&M had a total of 30 products reported unqualified, and Uniqlo on the other hand have been charged nearly several millions for retailing unqualified products.  In the report published by the General administration of quality supervision, inspection and quarantine named “Unqualified information of imported industrial products of May 2017” reported multiple fast fashion brands, such as Guess, H&M, Topshop, Levi’s, GAP for color fasting, pH-levels formaldehyde and other factors falling below the standards, resulting in returns or destroyed.

 

Following the rapid changing trends in fashion may be important, but with the increasing numbers of brands and competitions, quality is a crucial factor for success in the industry.

 

Financial Pressure

One of the contributing factors for the quick popularity of fast fashion in China in the early stages is due to the new policies for shopping malls and shopping centers for brand curation, but the high renting costs have now become one of the obstacles for fast fashion brands and their expansion.

 

As a commercial building, their ultimate goal is to utilize the effects of fast fashion to bring in traffic for the center, rather than the opposite. Thus, when fast fashion brands is unable to accomplish this goal, the disadvantages of this business model is apparent, and fast fashion performance begins its downhill.

 

uniqlo retail store china

Source: Sina Technologies

 

With the continuous development of the internet, some of the online brands have shifted over to ecommerce platforms to lower business expenses, while being able to reach out to the third or fourth tier cities, expanding their consumer groups.

 

However, brands that are developed in the first or second tier cities are difficult to submerge into third or fourth tier cities, such as H&M. Thus, when the convenience of ecommerce and online shopping arrives, the expensive rents is the main contributing factor for fast fashion brands’ exit out of the shopping centers.

 

Gambling On The Chinese Market

Retail Transformation

Despite facing a development bottleneck, many fast fashion brands still continue to invest in the Chinese market. Embracing the innovative transformation for retail model will be one of the solutions.

 

Presently, Uniqlo is the best performing fast fashion brand in ecommerce.

 

In 2009, Uniqlo have opened an online store in Tmall, beginning its ecommerce journey.

 

In July of 2017, Uniqlo begun promoting in hundreds of their locations of their new “Smart Buyer” technology, increasing the conversion rate by 15%. In the double 11 (November 11) period in 2017, Uniqlo begun executing their “Shop online, pick up in store in 24 hours” services, where consumers can also enjoy the offline customer service when picking up, such as exchanging colors, sizes, and tailor services for free.

 

led display smart buyer uniqulo

Source: Shangyexinzhi

 

The innovative retail services have greatly benefited Uniqlo where sales have reached one billion RMB in little less than a minute during the double 11. Within that year, the e-commerce sale of Uniqlo have accounted for 10% of the total sales, reaching 20.6 billion RMB, which is nearly ¼ of the total sales of H&M in an entire year.

 

The e-commerce aspect solved a portion of the sales performance and inventory concerns for Uniqlo, but e-commerce also requires additional expenses and the management skills, as well as cooperation of a brand.

 

New Product Line

On the journey of rebranding, many fast fashion brands continue to launch new product lines.

 

For example, after H&M have launched two high-end product line in 2017 called “COS” and “ARKET”, H&M also officially launched their 9th brand, Nyden in 2018. Nyden is focused on collaborations with KOL releasing limited edition or exclusive products targeting the millennial consumers.

The developing clothing line for children in GAP have opened their first retail store with the children product line in Hangzhou, with new releases every two to three weeks provided by the U.S. design team.

 

GAP children product line

Source: Jiemian

 

The international fast fashion brands in China realizes the rapid development stage has ended, and the solution to prevent their business from going downhill in China is to market different brands, style, products and strategies into the Chinese market to stand out within the industry, while reaching out to a variety of audiences. However, only time will tell the effectiveness of their workings.

 

Improved In-store Experience

After the impact of fast fashion on e-commerce, fast fashion brands with retail stores are beginning to take notice of the offline experience.

 

Take Zara as an example, the interior design of their location opened in Shenzhen and Shanghai have changed drastically. The overall atmosphere is bright, simply, with unique furniture pieces, fragrance counter, and fitting room for the children section to enhance the shopping experience of the consumers.

 

C&A on the other hand have incorporated green retailing factors into their new location, emphasizing the environment, with larger fitting rooms, an new resting and charging area to elevate the customer experience.

 

There are also retail stores that has attained virtual fitting technology using LED displays, such as GAP and Uniqlo, attracting more traffic into the store, while providing consumers with a new type of experience.

 

Where Will Fast Fashion Lead To In China?

Since the start of 2017, the competition between fast fashion brands in the Chinese market have entered its stages. The period where international fast fashion brands such as H&M, Zara dominating the market is now over, with fresh new brands surging in.

 

H&M store logo shopping

Source: Yicai

 

One of the reasons for the change in the fast fashion industry is due to the changes in consumers. Brands have to consistently keep their audiences interested and loyal to your brand, and this can be easily influenced by the demands to increase brand and product recognition. Thus, the sacrifice of quality for fast releases is unnecessary as the Chinese consumers are more willing to make quality purchases over quantity purchases.

 

Another reason is due to the maturation of the fast fashion brands in the first-tier cities in China. Rather than focusing on the expansion into the third and fourth tier cities, brands must focus on improving the shopping experiences of their retail stores to create unique and impactful experiences to consumers.

Lastly, with most of the manufacture lines in China, the cloth dyeing process technology in China is now well surpassing all other countries, thus the effects of keeping the production line domestically will improve the effectiveness and expenses for shipment for brands.

 

There will be competition in any business industry, but to know the demands of consumers with an open-mindedness for new and creative strategies to meet the demands is the best philosophy for fast fashion brands, or any brand in general.

 

How To Monetize We-Media in China?

Over the development of Internet and technology in China, mobile terminal have left an opportunity for entrepreneurs, and “We media” have become on of the hot topics on the internet.

 

What is “We media”

The study report by American Press Association in 2003 have defined We media as the delivery of their information by the general public based on their experiences. In China, We media platforms such as Wechat, Weibo, Toutiao uses pictures and videos to deliver information to the public by the public.

One of the characteristics of we media in China is the uniqueness, the unique style of presentation, be it written, video or pictures.

 

In other words, we media is marketing self, the one-of-a-kind personality and content of the individual empathized with the public. There is greater purpose behind the content than merely words, but to allow the audience to experience the interactivity and understanding as an KOL, rather than an emotionless association or organization.

 

Using “Rebecca’s imaginary world” as an example, this is a fashion blogger with over 5 million followers on Weibo. This blog uses the style of an older sister characteristic to teach others on how to style themselves and what to buy. Or Uncle Tong Dao who analyzes and shares characteristics of each horoscope signs using visual drawings of his own, as his own personal style of delivery.

 

Open to all

In the current explosive state of the internet, media platform such as Wechat and Weibo begun to create, deliver, and share information. This signifies the idea that everyone can be an we media as long as one has a platform and followers to create impact.

 

According to iiMedia Research statistics, from 2014 to 2015 the amount we media have escalated by 37%, and 20% from 2015 to 2016 with a slight regression. Since the beta of Wechat Official account in 2012, Wechat have dominated the we media industry by 63.4%. Over the past six years, Wechat official accounts now grown into a market size of 10 billion. Followed by Weibo, occupying 19.3% of the we media industry as a platform.

iimedia chart user market size wemedia

Source: iiMedia

 

The contributing factor for the tremendous growth in we media is the lack information sharing and in traditional media such as newspaper, magazines. The public finds the convenience and acceptability of the we media easier and efficient.

social platforms wemedia

As the representative of traditional media, Zhen Yu Luo slowly converging the industry to we media industry with short videos, live streaming, and VR technology, we media have the dullness of information delivery, creating multi-channels for sources of information, overriding the standardized content format.

 

Additionally, with the popularity of Wechat official accounts, the standards for self-employment have been lowered. Businesses no longer need professionals, technology, team and funds to start, they have access to we media. Content such as celebrity gossips, product recommendations, reviews produced by we media accounts are more capable to have higher impression, followers and engagements. Some influencers from 90’s also have an annual income of over millions.

 

How Does We media Profit?

With the adaption of we media, media marketing has begun to influence the market forming an new business opportunity and model.

 

Sponsorships

Sponsorship is the most frequently adopted income generator, and there are two type of sponsorships.

 

The first type of sponsorship is to implement the sponsored message in the content or sharing the sponsored content. Observing the Weibo platform for influencers and KOL as an example, reposting a sponsored message can range from several hundred dollars in RMB to several tenths of hundreds depending on the number of followers, impression and engagement.

 

Wechat official accounts can incorporate sponsored message in a posting. Accounts with millions of followers’ sponsorship posts range from 20,000 to 100,000 dollars in RMB. There also some verified influencers in Weibo who have over 10 million followers, like Mimeng, who have a quota for sponsorship for over 750,000 dollars in RMB for 2018.

 

However, there are specific methods for delivery in we media suitable for specific group of audiences suitable for sponsorships, such as fashion, vehicles, reviews and more.

 

money monetize media usd chinaThe second type of sponsorship is based on platforms advertising such as Wechat, Toutiao, 163, Sohu and more for self-advertising. These platforms have their own algorithm to calculate the amount of user traffic, CTR, engagement and more with the account used to be commissioned.

 

There is also a large sum of funding on the we media platforms to encourage the production of content creators. For instance, the project launched by Toutiao called “Thousand people and million dollars”, “Cultivation project” by Tencent, and “Dayu project” by UC funding approximately 20 billion dollars in RMB to encourage more content creators to purse their interest and career.

 

In comparison to the top influencers who have millions of followers, it is the most direct and secure method to use trafficking from the platform to profit. As long as the quality of the content is able to attract traffic to your platform, it is possible to attain a monthly salary of over 100,000 dollars in RMB.

E-commerce Model

After accumulating an fanbase on an account, some users may use the loyalty of these fanbase to start up an e-commerce business. This is also a revenue generator for we media, but there is an requirement for funding and a developed supply chain.

 

Some content creators may also link and incorporate their Taobao store on Weibo content. Fashion and beauty bloggers may use O2O model to engage in offline activities to make a profit. For instance, the platform personalized to food business or food chain owners, “Catering Owner Exclusive”. Some also open online store on Wechat, such as “Luo-gic and Thinking” selling digital book, courses, stationary, and home accessories. The owner Zhen Yu Luo will also write articles marketing specific products to increase sales.

luogic thinking chinese ecommerce

There’s also self-made merchandise, such as “Leng Tu” from Uncle Tong Dao. Uncle Tong Dao who is known for his drawings are also creating his own merchandises based on his designs to generate more income. However, this can be a challenge for content creators as you may need business acumen, market knowledge for control, as well as experienced supply chain and sales experience.

 

Paid Content

High-quality content is always worth its value.

 

Between 2015 to 2016, Wechat official accounts have launched paid subscription and Weibo have launched Q&A (Question and Answers) function. Wechat official accounts have challenged users for quality content, where Weibo used the large population to maximize the interest of the internet with paying for Q&A.

 

With Wechat and Weibo as the representative of we media, the platform has also added an “Donation/Reward” function, where users can donate a certain amount to the content creator to display the love for the quality content, however, this function have not been highly used.

 

Aside from what’s been mentioned above, there’s also another method to convert knowledge to profit, membership. This membership model can be demonstrated by Luo-gic thinking by Zhen Yu Luo. The membership system launched by Zhen have been controversial, where there are only 5000 regular membership for 200 RMB and 500 loyal membership for 1200 RMB sold. The entire 5500 membership was sold in half a day, totaling up to 1.6 million RMB, but this membership model has not been replicated in the we media industry yet.

 

In the current prospect, there are little content creator who are able to reach a stable revenue generation through paid content. But with the continuous changes to copyrights in China, the quality and value of content will continue to regress, and quantity of paid content will continue to increase. According to iiMedia, the users paying for content size up to 0.98 billion people, estimating 2.92 billion users for 2018.

 

IP (Intellectual Property) Moneitizing

Producing high-quality content to serve the purpose of an valuable IP, expansion includes but not limited to publishing a book, but also consultations and planning, seminars, training and more to receive draft fee, copyright fee, consultation fee, remuneration fee.

 

Take the book published by Mimeng as an example named “I like this utilitarian world”, selling 1000 books in one minute, 50,000 in 4 hours. The benefit of publishing a book is not only to have content organized and systemized, but it can also increase exposure for your name and brand, killing two birds with one stone.

papi chan gif chinese influencer

IP can also be used in multiple industry, using Papi-chan, who is the number one internet influencer, have stepped into the entertainment industry, invited to reality shows as a guest for a large sum, receiving fame and fortune.

 

However, there is one point to take note is that the value of IP is highly dependent on the creator themselves for their experiences and charisma, because only when the creator is qualified themselves, the solution provided is easier to accept while attracting more fans or even the general public to buy your products.

Causes Of Business Model Restrictions

Long-term content production

To stand out in the we-media industry, quality and valuable content is an necessity to attract audiences.

 

The two important factors in content is the level of relatability and acceptability of the content to produce loyalty from the fans.

 

Despite the everchanging factor about the we media industry, it’s easy to see that there remain consistent groups of audience to a specific media and content.

 

Thus, content creators should focus on specific group of audience and personalize content to their interest to achieve the level of attention from the audiences and produce the results you want. Da Yi Zhang who is a Taobao influencer selling fashion and accessories, the video production group “Ergeng” is focused on lifestyle, car related media is focused on car related services.

 

Secondly, to be able to provide consistent high-quality content, a professional production team is necessary. With a professional, organized and systematic team, it can help with post-production and also any business shifting to the we-media. For example, Papi-chan who have over 2 million followers is able to produce consistent quality content because of her production team behind the scenes.

 

Singular Profit Model

Although the we media industry have innovated different business models, but skillful commercial operation can only be found in small numbers of top we-media.

 

From the general perspective of we-media creators, the profit model is singular, monetizing content is the main and only profit model in the we media industry. As most platform opportunities and trafficking are occupied by the top content creators and influencers, a full-scale development has not begun.

work office laptop morning aesthetic

Some of the top we media creator have found the mechanism to fans and e-commerce monetizing, faced with the obstacle for expansion, and meeting the demands. Especially after the entering of business investment into the industry, we media industry is experiencing a matthew effect, emphasizing the two extreme groups in the industry. Causing the difficulty in large scale development across the industry.

 

Unfair competition

Between 2012 to nearly the end of 2015 is the golden age for we media creators to start. Even though the golden age for we media creators is in the past, with the regression numbers of views on official account articles, plagiarism to attain more views have become on of the ways to gain impressions.

 

According to “Wechat Official Account Click Farm Statistic Report 2017” by iiMedia, approximately 86.2% of the account manager reported click farming. In comparison to the statistic from last year, there has been a 5.6% increase, and only 21.4% of the data of the actual data is displayed.

 

Some we media creators have undergone dishonest strategies to monetize the content, along with the lack of protection for quality and original content have severely interrupted the business ecosystem of we media.

 

Along with the current changes to regulations and policies in China, Weibo, Wechat, Toutiao and Zhihu type of platforms have greater management and greater protection for creative contents. It is also expected for the we media industry to move from an disorganized industry to an systematic industry, where we media can grow on a greater note with the integrity of content creators, platform and assistance from governments for regulation and supervision.

How Education Institute Recruit International Chinese Students To Study Abroad

In the last century, developments in the oil sector have once led to a dominanting occupancy of international Iran student in the United States. Later in early 21st century, a surge of Indian students has entered U.S. as international student specializing in business and sciences. Now, nearly one-third of the international students are from China.

international-student-occupancy-chart-origin

According to statistics, between 2016 to 2017, there is a total of 350,755 Chinese international students in the states, making up for 32.5% of the students, followed by 17.3% Indian students and 5.4% Korean students.

 

In 2017, the total amount of students studying abroad from China have surpassed 600,000 people, increased by 11.74% being the world’s top source for international students.

numbers-chinese-international-student-rising-chart

 

Why Are Chinese Students Popular in Foreign Education Institutes?

Income generation

Education abroad has varying tuition fees for domestic and international students, domestic tuition fees are lower than international tuition fees by a large margin. Chinese students studying abroad nearly pay double the amount for tuition in comparison to domestic students.

 

But with the expansion of middle-class families in China, tuition fees and expenses are no longer the drawback to study abroad. Furthermore, after the financial crisis in 2008, governments have reduced the amount of funding for public universities. Universities that are unable to provide tuition fees discounted to specific groups, often unable to attract enough students, leading educational institutes to target students in China.

flag office us china

As one of the articles in “The Atlantic” have noted, over 60% of the Chinese international student is self-funded, subsiding for the loss of domestic students. There are also other education institutes charging additional fees from domestic students to make up for the loss, such as Purdue University.

 

Increasing Numbers

The leading university institutes will typically consider several aspects to generate higher numbers for domestic student and an small portion for international students.

 

With the decreasing numbers of domestic students, universities hope to gain more international students to subside for the decreasing numbers of domestic students.

 

For instance, University of Ottawa have peaked with 1350 international students in 2017 since establishment. One of the goals of University of Ottawa is to double the amount of international post-graduates, and increasing the total amount of undergraduate by 50%, until international students can be accounted for 9% of the total student population. Thankfully, the Chinese population can assist in achieving their goals.

lab work research chinese

Japan also have a similar demand but due to its’ low birthrate. According to the data published by Ministry of education, culture, sports, science and technology (MEXT), although the total amount of graduate enrolment peaked at 2010, numbers have regressed consecutively for past five years.

 

In order to maintain research activities, such as daily experimental data input, website maintenance, and laboratory care, universities from Japan also need manpower from research work. Fortunately, Chinese international students striving to receive higher education is able to converge with the universities in Japan. In 2016, University of Tokyo attained 3300 enrolments, including undergraduates and researchers from foreign countries, with 45%  enrolments from China. Additionally, in comparison to undergraduates, a large amount of the Chinese enrolments are post-graduates.

 

Recruiting Elite Students

Recruitment for sciences and engineering on a post-graduate level is vital. Take the United States for an example, the country recruits experts from all around the world, with interest of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) specialization and students already in this field of study. Often, these fields are also favoured by Chinese students because it can increase the success for immigration.

field of study students international

In 2017, the president of the United States, Trump, have signed a new memo pushing for 2 billion USD in funding to support the STEM education. Amazon, Facebook and other well-known companies have also agreed to sponsor STEM education. And the increase funding led to lower requirements to obtain scholarships for post-graduates and doctoral students in STEM studies.

 

How To Recruit Students From China

Online applications

Leading universities in foreign countries often require application and evaluation for Chinese international students to successfully enrol.

 

For example, an student wanting to study in Japan must submit an application to an institute, the institute will evaluate the application based on the student and other documents, then selecting the best suited applicant for enrolment.

 

The rapid development of internet has also allowed universities to encourage students to apply online, while applying online will also simplify and reduce the amount resources needed for both candidate and institutes.

 

Every application system is different all over the world, application system for universities includes CA (Common Application), which has over 40 years of experience, Civil aviation authority of Singapore (CAAS). There are also  regional network application system such as, UC for California, Applytexas for Texas, applySUNY for States Universities of New York. There are also independent institution application system such as, University of Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgetown University, University of Georgia, University of Pittsburgh and more.

 

Collaborations

Some universities and Chinese universities will collaborate for undergo joint collaborations to expand the numbers. There are currently two ways for joint collaborations for institutes, joint programs, such as the research centre for Chinese and American studies joint by The Johns Hopkins University and Nanjing University, and joint institutes, such as China Europe International Business School established by municipal government of Shanghai and European Union.

chinese students international picture

As of 2016, Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China announced a total of 66 joint institutes and 894 joint programs, with mechanic, computer science, business and finance being the favoured specializations.

 

To expand recruiting channels and attract Chinese universities students, some universities will also initiate an short term joint program. Such as the Green Pass program by University of Toronto Scarborough campus, geared to attract Chinese universities students to undergo English training before starting their purse in post-secondary.

 

Study Abroad Service Agency

Commissioned Recruitments

To reduce and avoid additional expenses in the early stages of recruitment, foreign institution will partner with study abroad agencies in China. Both parties will sign an contract agreeing to a percentage of commission for each successful student, typically a portion extracted from the tuition of the students of the first year. This percentage may vary depending on the ranking of the school, contract and source of students, ranging from 10% – 40%.

 

Bloomberg news once reported that State University of New York once contracted with five agencies, agreeing to give 10% commission for each successful student from China from their first year’s tuition.

 

However, not all universities will adopt this strategy for recruitment. Majority of universities in Europe and the top 100 universities in United states do not have tuition commission, and this system is mostly adopted in the UK excluding Cambridge Oxford and other well-known institutions, Australia, New Zealand, and other English countries because education sector in these countries are much more developed, therefore legally permitted.

 

Aside from the commissions from school, agencies will also charge a service fees from student, benefiting from both parties. Service fees for institutions in Australia charge approximately 10,000 RMB, England is 12,000 RMB. The fees are standardized and transparent with little to no difference from agency to agency. However, institutions in U.S and Canada will charge much higher ranging from 40,000 RMB to 60,000 RMB or possibly up to 100,000 RMB. And fees will vary from agency to agency for different institutions in United States, causing an favoured recommendation to students in China from the agencies.

 

Setup Office in China

In the past several years, using the top 20 universities and Ivy league as an representative, the U.S. have begun recruiting potential students from all around the world. In China, universities have used the resources of Embassy and admission offices in China begun to submerge into the Chinese students increasing reputations influences. Take University of Cambridge as an example, Chinese high school students can directly apply for undergraduate enrollment from the institution or apply for enrollment through an authorized centre called Ameson Foundation. The purpose of partnering with the foundation is to find the best institutions in all regions to potentially partner with as the preliminary testing center to find potential students.

Offline activities

In the era of internet, foreign universities also actively promote in the abroad studies industry. To attract for more Chinese international students, some leading universities during the registration period for programs will take initiative in contacting agencies, hosting a variety of recruitment seminars, international education forums, one to one in-person interviews to find potential students. Some interviewers from the universities may even arrive at the event for immediate decision.

 

Between 2015 to 2017, several middle school institutes from England with residency option arrived in China to host a recruitment campaign in person, allowing students to receive one-on-one interviews.

 

How To Attract Outstanding Candidates in China

“Gaokao” Examinatioin Results

In the Chinese culture, the “Gaokao”, which is the final examination from secondary education, is the deciding factor for student’s life, which has been controversial for student recruitments.

middle school recruitment event in china

In the perspectives of some foreign universities, final examination is fair and credible to obtain whether if students is studious and capable of continuous learning over long period of time while maintaining these knowledge.

 

Thus, some universities have begun to consider the value of final examination results to contest for more Chinese students. Such University of San Francisco is no longer requiring applicant to submit TOEFL, SAT and IELTS results, but the final examination results must be surpassing the required admission score. Australia being one of the first country to recognize gaokao examination scores, have the group of eight, excluding university of Melbourne, and 30 other universities that recognizes gaokao examination results.

university of san Francisco gaokao result requirement

However, foreign universities typically do not recognize gaokao examination results as the only acceptance factor, but as one of them to undergo an comprehensive assessment for the students.

 

Scholarships And Financial Assistance

To be able to recruit more international students from China, some countries begin to improve the financial factor. For instance, Japan, as one of the few countries to provide scholarships self-funded international students. In 2014, the government of Japan launched the “Top global university” project with one to four billion yen fund for 37 universities every year. This signifies that international students in Japan can acquire 30% off for tuition, residency and living expenses.

 

In comparison to many western countries with employment restrictions on international students during the period of studies, international students in Japan are permitted for employment up to 28 hours without affecting studies.

 

Due to the close economic relationship between China and Japan, employment rate is quite optimistic for international students, in China or Japan.

 

Which group of Chinese international students are more popular?

Elite Student

Previously, one of the reasons to study abroad for students in China is due to the lack in performance failing to enter the top-tier universities. However, the elite students are now sacrificing continuous education domestically to study abroad receiving advanced and higher quality education with the top-tier universities in the world.

 

The standard TOEFL score for admission to universities in U.S. is 80 and above, but reality is that Chinese international students must reach 100 and above on TOEFL to compete for enrollment. In terms of experiences, previous volunteers and social experiences are less valuable to application, thus Chinese applicants must find distinctive personal experiences, backgrounds such as expertise, family backgrounds and such.

 

Through rounds of competition and assessments, international students enrolled from China are majority those who have a good family background, exceptional resume and outstanding school performance.

 

Academic Integrity

Although the numbers of Chinese international students are accelerating, not every single one of the students meet the requirements for universities. According to statistics, since the start of 2013, there is a total of 8000 students expelled or dropped out, out of 270,000 Chinese international students.

international student graduation picture

Despite the seemingly small number in comparison to the total amount, it is able to clearly reflect the potential problem behind the increasing numbers. Some applicants during the process may dishonest methods, bribe, or fake an exceptional resume and biography from the intermediary. There are also some students who fear of rejection from the universities that proceed to cheat during tests, plagiarism, and other dishonest academic activities, leading to an academic crisis for international students.

 

Conclusion

Whether the purpose for money or exceptional students, China have become the target for western universities. Due to the financial state, some universities have lower academic requirement for Chinese student compared to domestic students. Under that circumstance, partnering with Chinese intermediary agencies for resources or expansion of oversea education is crucial for these institutes.

 

In long-terms, quality of students is far more beneficial than short-term profits because merely increasing numbers of international students with lower requirements cannot guarantee their success. While, risking the reputation and quality of the institute and country.

How to do KOL Marketing in China?

Key Opinion Leader (KOL) refers to the experts and influencers within a field. These influencers attain a large fanbase and followers to provide them with useful information and advices, inducing spending.

 

With the rising value of the impression of Chinese consumers, the influences of public recommendation on social media or friends and family is beginning to override the effects of advertisements, as it is believed to be real and raw, directly influencing consumer’s decisions.

influencer-marketing-comic

Thus, the popularity of influencers from development of social media platforms in China is becoming the new testimony for brands, and KOL marketing has become the most effective and frequent marketing strategy used.

 

Preparation

For brands attempting KOL marketing in China for the first time, it can be risky to begin without any comprehensive research, which may lead to disappointment and loss of value as a result.

 

KOL on different social platform have their own unique factor, the unique aspects of the Chinese market is due to the superior influence of Wechat and Weibo, and the fact that Chinese KOL can only influence Chinese population, vice versa Chinese people entrusts KOL from China.

 

There are many foreign brands in China that has hit downfalls, as the CEO of Immelt, Jeffrey, have noted on the failure of Uber in China, Chinese market may be massive, but success is also back-breaking.

chinese-selfie-picture-kol

Before collaborating with KOL, brands must first understand the Chinese market and their own brand, considering brand assets such as brand influence, fanbase, native marketing employees, resources available, such as Taobao, social media accounts, and experiences.

 

If brands have fulfilled three of the factors above, brands may begin searching for a suitable KOL.

 

How to find a suitable KOL?

Specific Goals

Before selecting KOL, brand must first identify the goals and expectations, is it to raise brand awareness, promotion sales, or change market positioning?

 

The Chinese social media platforms is multi-dimensional, strategies required may vary from KOL to KOL, as influencers are individuals with their own unique charisma that attracted different fanbases.

 

Some KOL is suitable for brand tonality, such as celebrities and entrepreneurs as they are more representative. Other KOL may be suitable for sales promotion, favoured by brands who are expecting direct results.

mini-rebecca-collab-limited-wechat

In July of 2017, a leading fashion blogger with the username “Rebecca’s imaginary world”, who have a fan base of 4.5 million people, announced a collaboration with Mini, launching 100 limited edition of an mini models on Wechat official account, was sold out in 4 minutes, all transactions completed within 50 minutes. This is not the only one successful example of KOL marketing promotions, but it demonstrates the important value of KOL in business marketing.

 

Finding Suitable KOL

There are several phrase brands must go through to find the most suitable KOL. The first phase is to filter out the most searched keywords by target audience on Weibo and Wechat. Second phase is to look at the geographic area and basic information of target audience. Third phase is to search the mutual followings within this population to get a list of suitable candidate for the brand.

 

Looking at Financial industry as an example, target audience is located in first-tier cities, focused on healthy lifestyle and investment influencers. Analysis show this population accounts for 74% female and 26% male, likes comedy, celebrities, Weibo, and life hacks. Then, find selections of KOL who meet the requirements, find the most mutual followed KOL and select on with finance and average life type of KOL to invest.

connections-social-media

Another option is to contract a third-party marketing agency. The fast developing industry of internet influencers and economy have allowed a group of influencers and agency to grow steadily. Agencies who have such sources to verified users and experienced KOL can assist brands in quickly searching suitable KOL while conserving time and energy.

Quota and Collaborations

KOL collaborations with brands include brand campaign participation, live streaming, online and offline campaign in combination, or promotional writing.

 

KFC have launched digital coupons on Tmall at one point, invited four debaters from “U Can Bibi” to do live streaming, every debater will be speaking for one product, competing for the top sales by the end of the stream. During the live stream, there were also countless red pockets donated by viewers, directly payable. This is a successful demonstration of KOL marketing, with 1.5 billion viewers.

delivery-kfc-online-kol-marketing

However, all marketing plan revolves around budget. Based on the total amount of suitable KOL candidates to finalize the amount of writing content or contracting a celebrity and such.

 

Dependent on the platforms used, there is also a difference in value, Wechat being one of the most expensive platforms with its delivered results and impact. When a high-quality article is published by an quality KOL on Wechat, the quota is estimated between 5,000 RMB or 50,000 RMB. Some leading KOL can request for commission from brands for providing successful leads and conversions with the collaborated campaign.

 

Therefore, budgeting for KOL marketing needs to be flexible, especially when this industry is everchanging, and KOL pricings are essentially increasing every season or even every month.

According to the white book of “Social Marketing 2017”, analysis show that the pricing trends of KOL marketing on Weibo and Wechat a tremendous increase in average pricing. In 2014, the average quota for Q4 Weibo KOL accounts have increased approximately about 182% compared to Q1, and Q4 Wechat KOL accounts have increased by 110% compared to Q1.

 

Mimeng, who have over 10 million followers quoted 300,000 RMB for her Wechat official headline advertisement, escalating to 700,000 RMB in just a month.

 

How To Do KOL Marketing With Small budget

One of the contributing reasons for the popularity of KOL marketing is because of it’s low financial requirement, as it varies depending on the industry and brand, value can range from few thousands RMB to millions.

 

Due to the flexibility of pricing in KOL marketing, it lacks a set of standardized management model. Thus, many brands in China will find KOL agencies as a third-party to handle this matter.

yuan-kol-marketing

According to sources from the industry, an agency specialized in Wechat and Weibo projects quote range from 30,000 rmb to 150,000 rmb provided with visual and content related advertisement planning with matching KOL services.

 

Targeting towards brands with a smaller budget, rather than spending a hefty sum to contract celebrity for brand exposure. With a small budget, brands can spend less and find more smaller KOL who have tenths of thousand fans. Brands should also consider the future potential the small KOL can have, it’s also beneficial to build an relationship with KOL for long-term benefits when growing alongside with the brand.

The less popular KOL have a smaller fanbase compared to others, but one of the benefits they can provide is fan interactions and engagement, which can provide a high conversion rate. Another benefit of using small KOL is the advantage of offline promotions, often times brands target a specific population, such as young mothers, pediatric, or sport enthusiasts.

 

Taking the Beauty Squad from L’oreal as an example, Beauty Squad is a group of small beauty influencers, and through them, L’oreal is able to directly influence an unexpected number of consumers. And there’s also Adidas, using the advantages of dark social, establishing Tango Squad in 2016. Tango Squad is made up of 15 soccer content creators, using communication platforms to share any soccer information. Subtly using opinion leaders around to influence others casually and informally.

 

How to avoid risks

Comprehensive Understanding of KOL

 

The current KOL industry is in an inflated state, and with the amount of astroturfing in the industry have the, results can be inaccurate, and brands are unsure of its real effects.

astroturfing-marketing-kol-china

Brands who are first-timers, it’s important to consider all different perspective of KOL marketing and KOL, to find the most suitable one, such as the working style and style of the influencer. However, third-party agencies with contracted influencers, attained are more experienced. These agencies is also able to obtain news of KOL business model or any industrial changes in a short time to provide accurate, valuable advices and solutions to the table.

 

To inspect an KOL, followers, engagements, impressions are the several basic factors. However, brands also need to assess their reputation, image, branding, interaction rates, and other records such as user-generated contents. Similar to some Weibo accounts who have less fans, but the quality of fans, interaction, comments make up for the lack of fans, making any KOL valuable.

 

During the advertisement period, brands can also take advantage of third-party companies to undergo with professional data analysis and prevention of fake data, reduce any wasting of budget.

 

Agencies with KOL resources also assesses KOL based on each campaign to evaluate the influence, success of the KOL and their strengths to help brands in finding the most suitable KOL, and guiding brands and KOL for future plans.

 

Avoid Brand Emphasis

The difference between celebrities and KOL is the delivery of content, it is unique and flexible. Most of the KOL are born in the millennial period, which makes them more open-minded and innovative, with the ability to quickly produce content such as written, photographs, videos and streaming. KOL who have entrepreneurship in mind will also build their own content creating team.

chinese-live-streaming-kol-marketing

Before campaigns, brands provide KOL with an campaign guide for reference, to allow KOL to quickly understand the purpose, focus and procedure of the campaign. If there are too much written content and regulations, it will create a negative impact and outcome for KOL and users. For example, Burberry launched a website called “Art of the Trench”, allowing fans to upload pictures with Burberry trench coats. The interactive style of Burberry has led to outstanding results, making it one of the most successful UGC attempts from luxury brands. Burberry is also experienced with using celebrities and fan interactions to interconnect the gap between luxury and average population. The famous male celebrity from China, Kun Chen have attended Burberry runway shows multiple times while posting on Weibo shared with over 8 million followers, bringing in tons of brand exposure for Burberry.

burberry-at-the-trench-campaign

One of the best ways to work with KOL is to let them create their content, because they understand their community better, and know what type of content will attract consumers. KOL are content creators with their own style.

 

Combining Channels

One of the mistakes brands often make is the expect results with fewer KOLs. However, to receive results and feedback often requires time and energy, the best solution is to work with more than one KOL over a long period of time.

 

The most common strategy is multi-level influence, using several leading KOL to submerge into the general population and several smaller KOL for the smaller communities. Using this strategy with different KOL with different style, content and community to achieve the best possible results through marketing. For fast moving consumer goods, brands can utilize experts from the field, punster and online shopaholics to achieve results in social presence and sales.

kol-marketing-graphic-vector

Aside from different combination of KOL marketing, it’s also important to help KOL find the suitable communication carrier that suits brand image, target audience, with the suitable experience.

 

The prospect of current social media, there are channels such as visual novels, H5, Wechat advertisements, short video, variety shows, and reality shows aside from written content with pictures.

 

Brand also need to consider the strengths of the KOL when selecting marketing channels, because only the KOL the trigger to maximize the quality of the content while providing results to meet the expectations.

Different Marketing Channels

The social media platforms in China is like the transit system of New York, different level of platforms may be interlaced and shared functions, which is an advantage to help KOL achieve optimal results for brands.

 

Aside from taking advantages of Wechat and Weibo platforms to use KOL marketing, Brands can also use emails, texts, short videos, self-media platform, stores and more to outsource for more interactions and impression from users.

campaign-marketing-guide-china-kol

The marketing strategy from Sephora is a great example to learn from. In 2018, Sephora selected 10 beauty bloggers for KOL marketing worldwide, in combination with offline free services to strengthen brand sentiments, while joining JD.com and Tmall as an online store, promoting coupon promotion on Wechat with the shake it functions, the first beauty retailers to advertise on Wechat Moments, using advanced technology to create the function for try-on, inviting beauty influencers to stream live in store, converting online traffic to offline consumers.

 

Sephora is able to achieve and create an environment to interconnect offline and online consumers to them, through the combination of all marketing channels to provide a successful case to the industry for reference.

 

Conclusion

As Andy Warhol have noted, this is the era where everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes. The strengths of Chinese KOL is their ability to submerge into the Chinese market and the ability to bring conversion while increasing exposure and sales. According to Financial Times from England, Chinese KOL is the leading media carrier in comparison to worldwide.

 

The acceleration of KOL marketing in China, business model and channels are constantly changing, brand collaborations with KOL will also continue to innovate because consumer behaviour is also ever-changing.

Western Influencers Invading The Media Industry With Short-form Video in China

With the current digital development in China, it’ll take you more than just a mouthful of Chinese, like Dashan, to become an successful Internet influencer.

 

In the last two years, there has been a infiltration of foreign Internet influencer, specifically westerners,  actively releasing content on a various social media platforms in China. Using short clips that are under five minutes to visually display the lifestyle and culture of China, while promoting China on an international level as a source of cultural exchanges.

 

The clip series known as “Laowai in China” –laowai is a term used to define foreigners – produced by “YChina” first came into the spotlight in September 2016 to present days, accumulating over 2 million followers. In the span of two month, each clip posted average over 11 million views, also accumulating another 1.2 million followers with approximately 60 million views on a different platform.

In 2017, a series known as “Amazing China” began broadcasting on CCTV, to exhibit the historical achievements and figures within the Chinese economy in the past five years. In the sixth and final episode of the series, the journey to success for the founders of YChina, You Si Gao and his father was broadcasted.

YChina Weibo

The Irresistible Opportunities in China

After the era of text and pictures as the only content, calls for the arrival of the Internet network era for China.

 

According to statistics of China Internet Network Information and Quest Mobile as of December 2016, the amount of Internet users in China has surpassed 10 billion.

 

Along with the flexibility of data roaming and low costs, data roaming and smartphones have both gained its popularity within the population, with a good amount of spent on social media apps and videos.

 

In current era of information technology, video clips is able to circulate faster, appealing to the general population as a new form of content, allowing users to make use of spare time on it.

 

According to the statistics from iiMedia , there are a consistent total of 1.53 billion users for video clips on mobile, and estimating 2.42 billion users in 2017 with a growth rate of 58.2%. Looking at the statistics for Toutiao posted in July, the headline video clips average up to 20 billion per day. Comparing to the average view of 16 billion in April, there is a total of 25% growth rate within just 3 months.

Under the demands and promotion of the population, video clips have grown drastically, along with a series of apps created to uphold the video clip contents, such as “Miao Pai”, “DouYin”, “Kuaishou”, reducing the production time and tools needed for content. And for the younger generations who have participated in this era is also able to accept other cultural differences within the content.

 

As a foreign content creator, how can you not take the opportunity of ten billions potential viewership?

How to penetrate the Chinese Market: Video clips

Focus on native themes and exploration

To better cater to the Chinese population, content creators, specifically video creators, have developed a set of strategies.

As foreign influencers in the video industry, creators like, YChina, Heilaowai, Zhang Dou Zhang Hua provided contents relative to the China that was much to its current state, attracting a surge of loyal Chinese fans.

 

Within the list, Heilaowai have shown various fascinating and intriguing series of experiences. The “Food series” have included dishes such as crayfish, spicy sauté chicken Xinjiang style, Cantonese preserved meat and more, while “Street experiences series” include, Chinese chiropractic, community fitness equipment, traveling in wheelchair and so on.

The contents produced by Internet influencers have better catered to the fans, while following the internet law in china, using internet slangs and emoticons create interaction with their fans to meet the fans’ preferences. Taking Thomas from Germany as an example. Thomas graduated from Fudan University with a Chinese major, then later marrying his wife who is from shanghai. Thomas uses the Cantonese and Shanghainese for comedy purposes to show others what it’s like to marry a Chinese wife, and unexpectedly, his content went viral. A specific video of his on a platform currently have 4 million views and 620,000 followers on Weibo, where he is speaking in Chinese introducing a specialty vegetable from Germany, driving 3 million traffic to his video.

 

Logan Paul and Jake Paul on the other hand have a total of 16 million followers, and over billion views on their content, yet struggles to sustain on the Weibo platform. Mostly because of the language and cultural barrier between China and western. For example, YouTube is set at a international level, and does not specifically cater to the Chinese market in terms of the content, so a lot of the times the Weibo posts and videos are in English, so it’s difficult to disseminate within the community.

 

Working with the natives

When it comes to the Chinese industry, it is more suitable to employ natives for a production team to create content that accommodates well to the population.

 

Most foreign content creators would choose a team with Chinese background to reduce the level of cultural differences and language barrier to avoid being ostracized.

 

For example, YChina’s production team, the team has a total of 10 members, aside from You Si Gao, everyone is Chinese and responsibilities of each member are evenly and clearly divided. One responsibility is assigned to each member, such as creative directing, planning, scripting, cameraman, editor, marketer, and translator, while assisting anyone who needs it.

 

Native production team is able to produce content that closer relates to the lifestyle and thought processes of the Chinese population, allowing views to feel connected and engaged.

 

Aside from the pre-production aspect, post-production is also just as important, because the visual and editing effects used is specifically cater to the taste of the Chinese population. For example, the vlogger, “Kevin in Shanghai”, published a comparison video in relation to Before and After years in China, and Kevin was able to incorporate small lifestyle habits and components from the Chinese culture creating a connection between viewers and the content, attracting 22.8 million views.

 

kevin-in-shanghai-viral-video

 

Consistent and quality content production

It’s not difficult to produce a viral video for foreign Internet influencers because the difficult part is to maintain the quality content and viewership.

 

What is quality content?

 

Quality content involves five questions: is it interesting? Does it trigger emotions? Is the editing exceptional? Can it unconsciously processed? Does the content need to be refined?

 

Currently, contents that are straightforward and dramatic is slowly losing its popularity to quality content that are informational, insightful, and useful to its audiences. For foreign Internet influencers, it’s crucial to understand the current trends for content to have high quality content.

 

After obtaining a stable fan base, content creators can obtain sponsorships and other source of income to invest in equipment, team members, and other essentials to produce better content. And, following the production process, designing content specifically for targeted audience to attract viewers, and with the work of the production team and media circulation to achieve targeted results.

 

After the early stages of Internet influencers, the foreign Internet influencers are faced with the challenging preferences of the Chinese viewership market and fans, also the current competitiveness within the market against native Internet influencers, but also turning the cultural differences between native Internet influencers into a beneficial factor.

 

Despite the backgrounds and cultural differences, the quality and usefulness of the content is the deciding factor for approval from the audiences.

 

Video lengths

In a fast-paced environment like China, short clips that are 5 minutes are well favoured over clips that are 10 minutes, thus most foreign Internet influencers in all platforms minimize their content to under 5 minutes.

 

YChina-Videos-Chinese-Playlist

Selecting a suitable platform and partnership

In the western countries, Facebook and Instagram now have short video recorder function, but most of the viewership still remains within YouTube. But in China, excluding live stream platforms, Weibo and Wechat, there are over 15 different types of platform, like Tencent and Qiyi, and more.

Chinese-video-platforms

Foreign Internet influencers in this industry have to be wary of the complexity of these platforms to carefully choose which platform to use, partner, compete against, and fight for resources from the platforms.

 

The success of the Internet influencers are not only dependent on their talent, but also third-party support for services, marketing, promotion, social media, and such strategies to truly achieve success.

 

Maintain political awareness

To survive in the Chinese market, it’s important for a foreign Internet influencer to be insightful, true wisdom, talent and knowledge for the Chinese culture, while being creative.

 

For example, Christoph Rehage with his level 10 in Chinese once had 800,000 followers on Weibo. But that all changed when he first disrespected Mulan Hua and Feng Lei in a Weibo posts, then a video comparing Adolf Hilter to Ze Dong Mao, followed by a surge of negative response by the Chinese population, later banned from Weibo, dissipated from the social platforms.

 

On the opposite side, a national couple that is both Internet influencers, known as KatAndSid, Kat is a American and Sid is Chinese. Kat and Sid both like speaking up when it comes to topics related to stereotyping and racism to call forward equality and fairness. In 2017, Kat and Sid enter the eyes of the viewership because of a Weibo video on APA hotel, going viral with 710,000 shares and reposts, now with 2.5 million followers on Weibo.

Kat-and-sid-weibo-influencer

When faced against this peculiar market, demands and fan base, Internet influencers have to wary of what is put out there on the Internet.

 

Conclusion

The video content industry has now rapidly gained its popularity along with the technology advancements, enabling more opportunities, but also more competition. Even though there are lots of opportunities and potential in the Chinese content industry, to accurately and specifically target a fan base for foreign Internet influencers is the next step to survival in this industry

Trending Mobile Game Genre in China 2018

Without a doubt, the frog is the current most popular character young the Chinese generation.

 

Travel frog” is a mobile game developed by a Japanese game development company known as Hit-Point Studio, officially released in December of 2017. Exploding the social media platforms in China in January 2018

 

Since January 22, 2018, the number of downloads for “Travel frog” has surpassed “Arena of Valor”, “DouYin”, “Wechat” in the China app store, as the top free downloaded app. According to statistics, There were over 8 million downloads within the span of two month since the release.chinese-app-store-ranking

 

As of January 25, there are also over 8 billion views for all Weibo posts related to “Travel frog”. And, Shukan Asahi has deemed the act of “raising frogs” as the never-before explosive trend.

 

Under the conditions of poor translations and advertisements, a frog from Japan has become the number one Internet figure for 2018, but how?

 

Gameplay Flexibility

One of the contributing points for the success of “Travel frog” is due to the lack of in-game purchases, as most mobile games have more selection of in-game purchases to improve game experiences.

 

This mobile app specifically do not generate huge revenues or consume users life with addictiveness, and many of the in-game purchases are limited or hidden. Regardless of the in-game purchases users make, the frog will continue to bring back souvenirs and pictures. This maintains the quality of gameplay experiencing for free to play, allowing users to experience less consumerism and equality between all users whether than pay to play.

 

travel frog mobile game

 

The gameplay of “Travel frog” is quite simply, a frog lives in a stone house to eat, read, makes handcrafts, and users are allowed to cut three-leaf clovers to buy travel essentials for the frog. When the frog is traveling, there is no telling to how long it will be gone, sometimes a few hours, or few days, but when the frog returns, it will bring back any photos or souvenirs from traveling.

 

travel-frog-picture-post-card-souvenir

 

Differing from other mobile games, the “Travel frog” have sacrificed the popular adventure and role-playing (RPG) aspect of most games, relieving users from the stress-inducing gameplays, while raising the mysteriousness and curiosity of the users when playing, as “Travel frog” have a low-level game play control to where the frog goes and what it is doing.

Under the consumerist atmosphere of mobile gaming, “Travel frog” have been a unique experience, where users don’t need to spend a lot of time and money, using the spare times to brainlessly play the game while relieving the stress, making “Travel frog” highly differential from other mobile games.

 

Emotional Satisfaction

The era of Internet is the period for social media, but also come the period for isolation. For users whom are introverts pursing in emotional connection and attachments, “Travel frog” is able to satisfy these demands.

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“Travel frog” is a type of stimulation game based on raising a frog, where users only need seconds to understand the current state of the frog. The game requires less to no mental capacity preparation needed. Of course, the more time you spend on the game, the more rewarding it is, emotionally for users.

The idea of raising a digital frog also triggers the practises of parenting, and also allows users to empathize with their parents as well. The game demonstrates a casual, free-spirited lifestyle for users that’s achievable in real life.

 

The Discovery Of Female Audiences For Mobile Games

Along with the development of games, the potential market for female users is being revealed. According to Jiguang’s statistics, as of May 2017, 54.1% of the user population from Arena of Valor in China are females, and 61.1% in Onmyoji. In both of the top mobile games, the number of female users has shown superiority against male users.

 

Using another trending mobile game known as “Love and Producers” as an example, the selling point of the game are the four different type of male characters that users are allowed to be in a relationship with. Within the number of users, over 90% of the users are female.

 

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Only within one month after release, the game have quickly rose to the top 10 iOS downloads in China region, with daily revenue peaking at 2 million dollars, monthly revenue at 2-3 billion dollars in RMB, as the first prodigious mobile game.

 

At the same time, a mini game on WeChat, that can be translated to “Just Jump”, developed by five people, have reached 1.7 billion users, and over 50% of the users are female.

 

For the longest time, most games developed have focused towards male audiences with action and adventure genres, but the female consumers, time and time again have proven its potential to the industry, with “Travel frog” being one of them.

 

Many female users refer the frog as their child, internally role-playing as a mother, experiencing motherly love and separation from the child. Of course, the visuals and casual gameplay of “Travel frog” also attracted many male users as well, providing a one-of-a-kind experience.

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Marketing Strategy

As a simple and non-Chinese game, social media played a huge role for the rapid popularity of “Travel frog”.

 

According to analysis, several key opinion leaders (KOL) have reviewed and promoted “Travel frog” on Weibo prior to released, bringing attention to the game. Soon later in mid-January, there were quite a bit of user-generated content (UGC) on the WeChat platform through official accounts creating a viral effect, continuing to increase its exposure.

 

Using the advantages of social media, the high exposures of the “Travel frog” have quickly attracted a surge of users. Additionally, the United States have also experienced the similar results with the same strategy. On January 21, “Travel frog” have been listed in the top 900 free download game, later entering top 100 on the 23rd of January.

 

In the marketing perspective, “Travel frog” concentrated on the importance of communities, and the uniqueness of their strategy is that they began at community level marketing, quickly emerging into the Internet community, then on national level.

 

The popularity of the game relies heavily on the circulation of social media content, with the help of other well-known influencers to create interactions within the community, Travel Frog have met its peak.

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But the marketing for “Travel frog” differs direct marketing, take “Arena of Valor” and “Players unknown battleground” mobile version (PUBG) as an example, although Arena of Valor used the large network and resources of Tencent, both of the games have opt to add on KOL stream promotion, then using the name of the influencers to create a viral effect

 

In comparison, the mini-game from WeChat known as “Just Jump” was able to walk to shortcut and directly make use of the WeChat platform community.

 

New Play style for “Jump”

From gameplay to game design, “Just Jump” is a fairly simple mini game at the press of your finger to control the jumping distance of the character to land on a box, the more boxes you land on, the higher you score.

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“Just Jump” is hosted on the WeChat platform which has approximately 10 billion active users, with a little advertising and marketing, “Just Jump” have reached 3.1 billion users with 1 billion active users despite the simplicity of the game, based on statistics published on January 15, 2018.

 

With the wave of new users coming in, “Just Jump” have shown higher level of creative design on game play, experiences, and business opportunities. For example, as the first partners for “Just Jump”, McDonald’s have received it’s creatively designed box within the game. When the character in the mini game lands on the McDonald box, the box will transform with it’s slogan displayed and music playing, with 20 bonus points for staying on the box for few minutes, ending with animation of flying fries and burgers with bonus scores.

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Another creative example from “Just Jump” is their Nike design. After landing on the designated box, the design of the box will change with “NIKE REACT”, staying for a few will have a go animation added and 20 bonus point. Because basic idea of the game is to jump, the game design have maximized the exposure of Nike shoes and expressed the brand image creatively.

 

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Making use of the unique designed boxes of “Just Jump” with bonus points have received a lot of attention and love from users while allowing other brands to obtain brand exposures.

 

McDonald’s was also able to partner with “Just Jump” to promote and market their offline activities to increase brand exposures and sales.

 

Profit Model of “Travel frog”

The purpose of mobile games like “Travel frog” is not to gain revenue form the game itself, but for the collection of users, and once users reach a certain number, it is able to insert advertisements, product placements and more to maximize it’s marketing potential.

 

Something to keep in mind is that “Travel frog” have also promoted tourism in Japan, and keyword searches related to japan, travel, specialties have increased by 150%.

 

Of course, there will be viral mobile games from time to time in China. The real challenge is to sustain within the industry and maintain its popularity.