Four Digital Marketing Trends in China To Know for 2018

With the holidays right around the corner, most of us are getting ready to celebrate with family and friends, as well as look ahead to the new year. As a digital marketing strategist, one of the most important things on my to-do list is planning out 2018 China digital marketing strategy for my clients.

It’s been a busy year – a lot has happened in the digital space in China – and I’ve been doing my best to stay on top of the latest trends. I’ve put together an overview of some of the biggest marketing trends from 2017 and offer some insight into how they should guide your B2B marketing in China for the coming year.  

China Digital Marketing Trend 2018

1. Mobile Usage Continues to Increase

As of June 2017, China had 724 million mobile Internet users, which accounted for 96.3 percent of the total netizen population, a substantial jump from 90.1 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, the market for Internet advertising was 290.27 billion RMB and mobile ads accounted for 60.29 percent of that number. Back in 2014, mobile ad only accounted for six percent of the Internet ad market – that’s 10x growth in just three years! iResearch projects the percentage will grow to 80 percent by 2019. 

Mobile Ads market

In my own experience managing several Baidu PPC accounts daily, I have seen firsthand that mobile usage is on an upward trend. Baidu is trying to attract more advertising dollars by providing mobile-friendly features, such as call extension and enhanced CPC bidding on mobile, which has drawn marketers’ attention.

Insights for digital marketers:

Visitors to your site expect a smooth and user-friendly experience whether at they’re using a computer or a mobile phone. As paid search and other marketing tactics are leading traffic to your mobile site, you need to be serious about evaluating your mobile site performance and prioritize mobile optimization in 2018.

Also, paid search marketers need to carefully analyze the ROI from mobile and desktop campaigns and better allocate budget across devices. When you run campaigns on mobile, remember to follow the guidelines outlined in Baidu’s Mobile Search UX Whitepaper for Advertising 2.0 released in June 2017.

2. WeChat is more important than ever for business

At the Tencent Global Partners Conference, WeChat announced that the app had 902 million daily logged in users by November 2017. There are 3.5 million monthly active official accounts which are serving 797 million official account users. The data showed that WeChat still dominates the social media landscape and using the official account to attract people’s attention has become more difficult.

Meanwhile, data shows that unlike western countries, Chinese people like to use instant chatting tools to communicate in the workplace. WeChat is the most frequently used tool, preferable over phone and QQ (another social media/instant messaging platform).

Working Communication Tool

Insights for digital marketers:  

Competition for audience using WeChat official accounts is increasing. B2B marketers need to put more effort into targeting the right audience and providing customized content to win the niche market.

Moreover, as Chinese people like to use WeChat for business, marketers should work more closely with the sales team to provide a seamless journey for visitors and buyers via WeChat. To make WeChat an integral part of your China digital marketing strategy, think about more than quality content, consider using WeChat to communicate with prospects, such as creating a QR code for people to easily follow your account or generating a conversation window so visitors can quickly contact you. 

3. News feed ads are on the rise in China

News feed ads are familiar to most western markers – Facebook launched it in 2006 and Twitter followed in 2011. Since then western advertisers have invested significantly in this format because it delivers highly targeted ads based on a user’s browser history, needs, and interests.

However, news feed ads are a relatively new advertising product for Chinese marketers and it gained more traction in 2017. In fact, data shows that mobile news feed ads are the most preferred marketing tactic now and businesses in China are likely to invest more in it in the future.  iResearch predicted that the growth rate of the newsfeed ads in China will be over 50 percent and the advertising market will be 142.5 billion RMB.

Newsfeed ads market

Also, many media platforms have worked hard on developing a news feed ads product that will not annoy users and instead appeal to their interests. For example, Baidu introduced mobile news feed ads at the end of 2016 and made it grow in 2017 by advocating its unique integration with the organic news feed based on user search behavior data.

Insights for digital marketers:  

For B2B marketers, since news feed ads can precisely define user interests, it’s a paid product that’s worth experimenting with. As Baidu has launched the news feed ads product on the PPC platform, marketers can leverage their current Baidu account and integrate PPC and news feed ads to test the water, track performance, and measure results.

Keep in mind, the content for news feed ads needs to be carefully created to be both interesting and relevant to your target audiences.    

4. Targeting the right audience needs to be a priority

More than half (57.2 percent) of ad spend in China went toward the Internet in 2017. That means the digital marketing landscape is more competitive than ever. In order to  generate a good ROI, marketers need to care more about talking to the right people at the right time via the right tool. How to define the right audience and generate customized content becomes the primary question to all those practicing marketing in China.

Social media platforms, such as Weibo, WeChat, and Tieba, and search engines (Baidu) have launched advertising products focusing on people targeting in order to increase marketing performance.

Baidu’s people targeting product has grown more sophisticated this year. It started in 2016 with a simple version only targeting people’s interests. However, it was recently upgraded. Now, marketers can use the people targeting feature to filter out people’s age and gender, their interests, browsing history by URLs, and keyword search history.

Baidu People Targeting

Insights for digital marketers:

B2B marketers should take advantage of the precise targeting options available on social media platforms and Baidu. These tools provide a great opportunity to create an integrated marketing plan with paid campaigns that target a specific audience across various platforms. If implemented correctly and with consistent optimization, marketers can achieve higher quality of the traffic and improved ROI.

Final Thoughts

The digital marketing landscape in China changes fast. As we close the books on 2017, these four trends aren’t going anywhere and will continue to greatly impact China digital marketing in 2018. I hope this post will give you some ideas as you plan out your online marketing program for the new year.

What trends from 2017 do you think will influence B2B digital marketing strategies in China the most in 2018? Let us know! 

“KoMarketing takes PPC management to a completely different level of focus on performance and commitment to client business goals.”

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