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Digital Marketing in China: How to Enter the Market Effectively

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Digital marketing in China is constantly evolving, making it essential to stay updated with the latest trends for success. Moreover, it is crucial to understand that China’s digital market is distinct from other global markets.

Chinese social media platforms are entirely different from those in the West, Chinese consumers have different shopping habits, online advertising is not the same, and since Google is banned for all internet users in China, optimizing for other search engines is necessary for your website.

This article will delve into what digital marketing in China entails, the current state of the digital landscape in the Asian country, the main pillars of digital marketing in China, and the regulations governing this market.

If you are interested in doing digital marketing in China, don’t hesitate to contact InfluChina, a Chinese influencer agency dedicated to boosting the online presence of foreign companies in the Chinese market through strategic collaborations with native influencers.

1. What is digital marketing in China?

Digital marketing in China refers to the set of strategies aimed at promoting a brand on the internet. It differs from traditional marketing by incorporating channels and techniques that allow real-time results analysis.

Digital marketing in China has become the first necessary step for any company looking to penetrate the Chinese market, driven by the high digitalization of Chinese consumers, the advantages of this business approach, and the benefits it offers to both companies and customers.

Digital marketing in China involves a range of strategies designed to promote a brand online.

Chinese users have access to websites, social media platforms, online marketplaces, and search engines completely different from the rest of the world. However, most foreign companies entering digital marketing in China are unaware of the complexity of its digital sphere.

The current digital landscape in China

Digital Marketing in China - The current digital landscape in China

China has more than 1.4 billion inhabitants, with 70% having internet access. Additionally, China generated double the sales of the United States in 2023, with 77% of total sales occurring online, highlighting its global relevance.

It’s important to note that China has over 1.4 billion people, and 70% of them have internet access.

To understand digital marketing in China, we must recognize that online Chinese shoppers are continually increasing. According to ICEX data, they grew from just over 500 million in 2017 to nearly 900 million in 2024.

With over 70% market share, Baidu is the most popular search engine in China. It offers a variety of forums, video platforms, encyclopedias, and libraries, creating a comprehensive ecosystem.

Digital marketing in China - The Current Digital Landscape in China

WeChat, with over 1.3 billion monthly active users, is undoubtedly the most popular social media platform. Other popular platforms include Weibo, Xiaohongshu, Douyin, and Kuaishou, which we will explore throughout the article.

The Alibaba Group, owning Taobao (the largest consumer e-commerce platform) and Tmall (the largest business e-commerce platform), is an undisputed leader in the e-commerce market. However, there are also many other platforms like Pinduoduo, Kaola, and JD.com.

2.Pillars of digital marketing in China

After providing this general overview of digital marketing in China and understanding what it entails, it is important to look at the main pillars of digital marketing in China.

The following key points are essential to capitalize on your company’s presence in China. Without these, you will be invisible to the Chinese consumer and businesses in the vast Asian country.

Chinese social media

As we all know, Chinese social media has become the primary and most effective digital marketing strategy in China due to its development and evolution, user engagement, and wide range of functionalities.

digital marketing in China - Chinese Social Media

Therefore, companies interested in digital marketing in China must first and foremost establish a presence on the main Chinese social media. InfluChina highlights the most important ones.

Companies interested in digital marketing in China must have a presence on the major Chinese social media platforms.

WeChat

Founded by Tencent, WeChat is a multifunctional Chinese social network that has become the largest and most widely used in China. It offers messaging services, payments, online games, online stores, bill payments, workgroup creation for companies, and much more.

According to Statista, WeChat has 1.3 billion monthly active users, indicating the success of its features among users. It is also available in twenty different languages, including Spanish.

WeChat has 1.3 billion monthly active users, indicating that its features have resonated well with users.

WeChat users in China are primarily between 25 and 30 years old, with 19% of the user base being over 41 years old. Additionally, it is estimated that more than 26% of mobile phone users in China use WeChat for more than 30 minutes a day.

This social network is vital for digital marketing in China because companies can generate authenticity and loyalty by making regular posts, writing articles, and interacting with users. This makes WeChat crucial for establishing presence and brand awareness.

Douyin

Another essential social network for digital marketing in China is Douyin, known as the Chinese TikTok. Created by ByteDance, this platform allows users to share short videos, participate in challenges, conduct live streams, comment on other videos, and follow their favorite influencers.

digital marketing in China - Douyin

This important social network already has over 600 million monthly active users, who use the app for an average of one hour a day, making it the highest among all social networks, second only to WeChat.

Douyin’s user base mainly consists of young people: 21% are under 24 years old, 29% are between 24 and 30 years old, and 39% are between 31 and 40 years old, according to Statista. The remaining 11% are over 40 years old, highlighting the importance of Generation Z on Douyin.

21% are under 24 years old, 29% are between 24 and 30 years old, and 39% are between 31 and 40 years old.

The main advantage of Douyin in digital marketing in China is the high viral potential of content, generating unparalleled reach and interactions, and increasing brand awareness among a larger audience.

Xiaohongshu

Another significant social network for digital marketing in China is Xiaohongshu, the Chinese Instagram. Founded by Charlwin Mao in 2013, it has become a platform integrating product reviews, user-generated content, and e-commerce elements.

In China, Xiaohongshu, also known as Little Red Book or “RED,” is the most popular social commerce app. Initially created as a tool for sharing shopping tips and product reviews, it has evolved into a full-fledged social commerce platform.

digital marketing in China - Xiaohongshu

In China, Xiaohongshu, also known as Little Red Book or "RED," is the most popular social commerce app.

It is an excellent channel for increasing brand awareness and followers by connecting directly with your audience. Xiaohongshu also helps boost conversion rates in sales by driving traffic to major marketplaces through calls to action, links, and buttons leading to e-commerce platforms.

Weibo

Weibo is an open network platform focused on content sharing, visibility, and community building. The term “microblog” is a literal translation of the platform’s main functions.

Weibo is an open network platform that focuses on content sharing, visibility, and community building.

Weibo has developed a range of unique features that set it apart from the competition, allowing it to stay ahead and provide numerous opportunities for brand promotion in digital marketing in China.

digital marketing in China - Weibo

Weibo’s features include sharing posts, photos, videos, external links, files, and instant messaging. Users can also search for information or advice using hashtags (#), create microblogs and surveys, follow specific topics, and participate in games and promotions for e-commerce purchases.

BiliBili

Bilibili, also known as B-站 (B-station), is the fastest-growing platform among Generation Z in China, making it crucial for brands targeting this audience in their digital marketing efforts.

Bilibili is an online entertainment platform offering a wide variety of genres and formats, such as videos, live streams, and mobile games. The site satisfies the diverse and changing interests of its users and communities by providing an immersive entertainment experience and high-quality content.

digital marketing in China - BiliBili

Generation Z plays a significant role on this social network, making up approximately 80% of Bilibili users. In most lower-tier cities, the average user age is 21 years.

Generation Z is highly significant on this platform, comprising approximately 80% of Bilibili's users.

Compared to other Chinese social networks, Bilibili has a majority of male users, accounting for 68% of the total, while female users represent the remaining 32%.

Collaboration with Influencers

Companies are using Chinese influencers to drive consumer purchasing decisions and boost sales. Therefore, working with Chinese influencers is key to your digital marketing strategy in China.

Partnering with these influencers to promote your products or services can be very effective because they are seen as authentic and trustworthy and often specialize in specific fields.

digital marketing in China - Collaboration with Influencers

For this purpose, you can contact InfluChina, a digital marketing agency in China that focuses on enhancing the presence of foreign companies through strategic collaborations with Chinese influencers.

Live streaming

Live streaming involves watching and listening to someone in real time, with no edits or cuts. It allows you to watch videos and interact with the person live.

This method has become very popular among companies interested in digital marketing in China because consumers see the influencer or brand as real and authentic during the live stream. This perception increases interest in the promoted product or service.

This method has gained great popularity among companies interested in digital marketing in China because consumers see it as highly truthful and authentic.

digital marketing in China - Live Streaming

SEM campaigns on Baidu

Search ads and display ads are two types of ads on Baidu Ads. Search ads appear as search results based on user queries, while display ads appear as banners. Together, they form the search and display campaigns essential for digital marketing in China.

digital marketing in China- SEM campaigns on Baidu

Baidu offers several ad formats within these two types, and the choice depends on your objectives, what you want to show in the ad, and your budget:

  • Baidu PPC Ads: These appear as search results when keywords match. They usually include an image and up to three lines of text.
  • Baidu Brand Zone Ads: These ads help people learn about a brand by including links to the brand’s official website, specific products, information, or offers and promotions. They appear at the top of the search results page (SERP), have a higher price, and are paid per CPT (Cost Per Time).
  • Non-branded Ads: These are triggered by user queries and their cost is determined by CPC (Cost Per Click).
  • Baidu Feed Ads: These ads blend with organic content and can appear on the homepage, among news articles, or in other spaces.

Choosing the right ad format is key to achieving your digital marketing goals in China.

3. Regulations in digital marketing in China

Knowing the regulations in digital marketing in China is crucial. We will first look at the prohibited sectors and those with strict regulations, essential for any interested company. Then, we will review the verification process for foreign companies opening commercial accounts.

Prohibited sectors

The government prohibits advertising for certain industries, and platforms have advertising restrictions. Government regulations prohibit advertising for companies involved in:

  • Violence
  • Terror
  • Obscenity
  • Superstitions
  • Pornography
  • Drugs and pharmaceuticals
  • Gambling

In addition to general advertising limitations in China, industries like alcohol, tobacco, and investments are subject to specific regulations and strict controls.

Verification of companies for account opening

In China, company verification is essential for opening accounts on social networks and platforms like Baidu. Generally, the requirements are quite detailed and strict, and the process can take several days to complete. Some common requirements include:

  • Contact information of company operators
  • Brand registration paper translated into Mandarin
  • Letter of request and third-party authorization
  • Company name and logo
  • Chinese legal entity
  • Business license
  • Compliance with platform regulations
  • Partnership with Baidu to register an account on the platform
  • Tax identification number
  • On social networks like Douyin, at least 10,000 followers are needed for verification
  • Published videos or posts
  • ICP license and commercial license for mainland China
  • Annual fees

Meeting these requirements ensures that companies can effectively establish and manage their digital presence in China.

digital marketing in China - Verification of companies for account opening
FAQ

Frequently asked questions about digital marketing in China

Digital marketing in China refers to the set of strategies aimed at promoting a brand on the internet.

Choosing the best social network for digital marketing in China depends on each one’s peculiarities and advantages, but the main ones are WeChat, Douyin, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, and BiliBili.

The best digital marketing agency in China is InfluChina, dedicated to boosting the presence of foreign companies in the Chinese market.

In digital marketing in China, prohibited sectors include those related to terror, pornography, gambling, superstitions, violence, obscenity, drugs, and pharmaceuticals.

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