Julienna Law
Jan 18, 2021

How brands should navigate Douyin’s 600 million daily users

With over 600 million active daily users, Douyin offers brands broad access to increasingly important consumers: China’s Gen Z and millennials.

How brands should navigate Douyin’s 600 million daily users

Like its global counterpart TikTok, Douyin has taken the internet by storm. Available only on the Mainland, the ByteDance-owned platform has amassed 600 million active daily users as of August 2020—up from 400 million users at the start of the year—thanks in part to Covid-19. With similar core functions, much of the content on Douyin is what you’d find on TikTok, from dance challenges and cooking hacks to pithy educational videos.

Unlike its sister app, however, Douyin is far more advanced in its e-commerce capabilities. By enabling direct links to e-tail sites like Taobao and Suning, Douyin can support users that want to monetise their content—whether it’s through sponsored challenges, shoppable livestreams or online stores. In fact, over 22 million creators made more than $6.15 billion on the platform over the past year, said Kelly Zhang, the ByteDance China CEO, this past September. Moving forward, the company plans to invest $1.5 billion in traffic resources to help double that income in 2021.

Given the platform’s swelling popularity and social commerce potential, several brands have been shimmying their way onto the platform—with mixed results. When Gucci launched on Douyin last April, many netizens complained that the official channel looked like a “knock-off fan account” due to its questionable influencer choices and inconsistent visuals. Meanwhile, Dior—Douyin’s first luxury adopter—has struggled to maintain high engagement rates despite its successful 520 Confession Balloons campaign, which earned over 300 million views last year.

Although it’s not without hurdles, Douyin remains a key opportunity for brands to reach Gen Z and millennials. So, what are some things they should know about the app’s users? From trending topics to favourite travel spots, here are five takeaways from Douyin’s 2020 Data Report.

Generational interests vary

Although Douyin is driven primarily by China’s youth, brands should not ignore its other users’ unique interests. For example, while post-00 consumers gravitate towards anime, their post-90s peers prefer to watch the news. Older generations, on the other hand, generally consume more lifestyle content: post-80s users like fashion, post-70s users like weddings, and those born in the 60s enjoy watching videos of cute kids.

Brands

Interestingly, what each generation consumes differs from what they create. In other words, China’s post-90s may like watching informational videos, but they’re more interested in filming cute content. Meanwhile, post-80s users tend to capture scenery, post-70s people shoot food photography, and their post-60s counterparts aren’t shy about getting down on the dance floor. Brands should note these generational preferences if they want to tailor their content to specific demographics.

Quarantine hobbies took off

Since millions were stuck indoors over the first half of the year, content surrounding at-home activities skyrocketed. Videos about making cakes in a rice cooker received 9.3 billion views, while 36 million people tuned into Tsinghua University’s livestream for online classes. Fitness also found a new home on Douyin, with 14 million people participating in online workouts. Although China has mostly returned to normal, brands should take note of the trends that are here to stay, particularly Chinese consumers’ growing health-consciousness.

China’s online economy received a boost

In Hubei, where the virus was first detected, Douyin joined forces with Xinhua News Agency to help governors livestream local specialty products and promote small enterprises. And, according to Douyin’s data report, this move was a success. Over 40,000 Hubei merchants sold $633 million in goods on the platform, helping to stimulate the province’s economic recovery. Although shopping on Douyin is still quite limited to low-end products, the campaign’s success illustrates both Douyin’s strength as a social commerce platform and a notable rise in impact-conscious consumerism.

Brands

Domestic tourism exploded

With Covid-19 creating global lockdowns, China experienced an uptick in domestic tourism, and Douyin was there to record it all. On National Day 2020, which kicks off China’s Golden Week holiday, the average daily check-in volume (using the app’s geotag feature) at national attractions was ten times higher than during the Spring Festival in January at the height of the pandemic.

As one of the most-praised cities, Wuhan received the most likes at 8.3 billion (rising nine spots from last year), followed by Beijing and Chengdu at 6.8 and 5.3 billion likes, respectively. Hangzhou, Chongqing, and Xi’an also made Douyin’s top-ten cities list. The list isn’t a surprise, seeing as all these locations also topped China’s Business Network’s 2020 ranking of new first-tier cities based on business attractiveness.

As travel restrictions carry over into 2021 and domestic shoppers continue to look within China’s borders to meet their luxury needs, brands should not only consider their brick-and-mortar locations throughout the country—particularly in China’s new first-tier cities—but also recognise the importance of Chinese festivities beyond the Spring Festival and Singles’ Day.

More than an entertainment app

Self-touted as China’s largest knowledge and arts platform, Douyin offers users more than just a laugh. Aside from memes and music covers, the app hosted 15 million knowledge-based content videos in 2019, with cooking, foreign languages, and school subjects attracting the most views. Naturally, the world-shaking pandemic shifted the national conversation, and in 2020, videos about preventing and controlling the virus reigned supreme (over 42 billion plays). These numbers reiterate an appetite for different content types on Douyin, which brands can help satiate with their own creative messaging.

Tapping Douyin in 2021

Although Douyin’s down-to-earth vibes seem like a stark contrast to luxury’s sophisticated aura, the platform provides broader access to China’s Gen Zers and millennials: the consumers who will soon become luxury’s most important. These 20-somethings already play a key role in shaping what’s trendy and cool in the eyes of their elders. But to really resonate with this crowd, companies will need to step up their social media strategies. That may involve participating in trends, creating challenges, or experimenting with e-commerce functionalities to play up their brand’s online personality while also having a bit of fun.

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