A report recently released by ‘Sogou Input’ and ‘Renmin University’ (one of the most prestigious academic institutions in China and the largest input software company) has revealed a number of fascinating insights about the Chinese digital market. From a marketing perspective this big data research reveals consumer’s digital behaviour and sheds light on how to more effectively target them. Big data is now more important than ever for accessing online user behaviours and trends which marketers in China must adapt to.
The Chinese Digital Landscape !
It is important to consider the importance of a domestic, academic report such as this. The Chinese digital landscape is completely different from the rest of the world due to the ‘Great Chinese Firewall’. With state censorship and online restrictions domestic platforms have developed in a unique online environment that is effectively cut off from the rest of the world. The Chinese internet actually functions more like a closed yet vast ‘intranet’ rather than the open source web we are used to in the west.
There are over 700 million internet users in China, that’s twice the population of the US with a 55% internet penetration rate that is now growing year on year by 8-10%. Mainland netziens are primarily located in or around urban area’s on the east coast where there has been greater development with more tier 1 and 2 cities. There is also increasing growth in tier 3 cities in the western and central provinces of China. By 2020 it is highly likely that that 75% of the Chinese population will be online, the vast majority of Chinese online activity is mobile.
Sogou Input software is hugely successful in China with 250 million users and a reputable company to produce such a report, they monitored and collected data based on users typing online using their software.
The report is based on data generated from the Chinese input method editor from june 2012-june 2016. Here are some of the key findings:
- Social media dominates with 90% of the most commonly used sites and applications related to social networks.
- The Chinese level of engagement is world leading, 35 billion words are exchanged by over 700 million users every single day.
- Users are far more active in the evening, most users are active on electronic devices at 10pm, the Chinese ritual is to search online and check their social media just before they go to bed, this is the optimal time for posting and engagement.
- Live streaming remains popular with opportunities for brands and businesses to set up engaging live steams in order to connect with consumers.
- Online behaviour is still geared towards financial incentives and monetization, giving red envelopes or ‘hongbaos’ is the most mentioned online activity.
- This traditional Chinese presentation of money as a gift in a red envelope on special occasions is a huge online phenomenon, marketers need to utilize hongbaos as an incentive to attract followers, for greater engagement and consumer relationship development.
- Online shopping is the second most important activity after social networking with WeChat (the largest social network) now launching micro e-commerce stores within the app, users accounts can be connected to their credit cards which facilitates ease of payment.
- E-commerce and social media working in conjunction with one another is an interesting Chinese digital development for marketers.
Education is a top priority:
- Arguably the most important finding is the huge priority on education. 41.6% of users mentioned education, with a growing middle class of Chinese with higher disposable incomes a quality education is becoming increasingly important.
- This presents huge opportunities for the education business in the west, particularly Australia, Europe and the USA.
- Education in China is the key to social mobility yet it is fiercely competitive due to China’s 1.3 billion strong population, it is thus not surprising that this is an important topic online, study advice and effective learning apps remain popular.
The report also compared internet usage amongst different ages groups. When browsing online people born after 2000 were typically concerned with leisure, entertainment and social networking whilst those born in the 1970’s / 1980’s mainly search for information, scan the news and contact others.
Sogou chief technology officer ‘Yang Hongtao’ said; “this report lets us see the fast development of internet culture in China by recording netziens’ information production capabilities and social discourses”. It provides a fascinating insight into a very different online environment that needs to be deeply understood to connect with the vast number of active consumers online.
The key to success in China is to increase visibility and e-reputation online. You can achieve this with a comprehensive digital strategy that effectively targets your market segment online:
1) Chinese Search Engine Marketing – SEA (search engine advertising) and SEO (search engine optimization – ranking highly in the natural search results)
2) Social media visibility and reputation – connecting with customers, creating and sharing content, customer services, microsite for brand and company reputation.
3) Forum e-reputation – The Chinese still often turn to forums for reviews by other users. This is a key area to develop positive reputation with conversational threads.
4) KOL’s – Key opinion leaders and influencers in China can be recruited on behalf of brands and businesses to tap into their large online following.
5) Chinese content marketing – A content based approach is king, Chinese netziens are searching for quality, Chinese content. Strategic content dissemination.