Staff Writer
Jan 31, 2022

How businesses can adapt — and thrive — in the fast-paced China market

As we get ready to bid farewell to the Year of the Ox and welcome in a year of fierce prosperity with the Year of the Tiger, the eternal question remains: How does a brand successfully adapt to the China market?

How businesses can adapt — and thrive — in the fast-paced China market

The answer: a careful balancing act of cultural sensitivity, staying up-to-date with the latest advertising regulations, and keen awareness of the mainland Chinese digital landscape.

Turn and face the change

In 2021 alone, marketers had to navigate a number of regulatory changes to China’s digital advertising landscape — July saw the introduction of new regulations on advertisements for private tutoring in China, while August saw revised regulations on medical beauty advertisements. In December, new guidelines on operating algorithms were announced in a bid to create a safer online experience for China’s netizens. 

While keeping track of the status quo may seem like a handful, the key to successfully planning your 2022 China marketing strategy is to understand the cultural nuances and differences between Chinese and other global consumers. As one of the most developed and fast-growing e-commerce markets in the world, understanding the mainland Chinese digital ecosystem is essential for brands looking to succeed.

The dominance of digital 

Research from QS Search, a one-stop China digital media agency, confirms that China’s advertising trend in recent years has been a push to embrace the digital. According to a study by the agency, 32.9% of China’s advertising market belongs to in-feed native ads. Following behind are short video platforms, with a 17.4% market share in China’s advertising market. The remaining market dominance belongs to SEM (search engine marketing), on platforms such as 360, Baidu and Sogou. 

In the past year, there has been significant growth in KOL marketing. Brands in China now cooperate with KOLs, who help brands promote their products on livestream sessions and short-form videos, providing IWOM (Internet Word of Mouth) to Chinese netizens and driving instant conversions.

High risk, high reward

To celebrate the best digital marketing changemakers and risk-takers who have adapted to the China market with aplomb, QS Search established the China Digital Excellence Award in 2017. The first of their nature on a global scale to celebrate businesses’ China digital marketing campaign success, the awards recognise the unconventional marketing strategies deployed when mitigating go-to-market risk. 

This year, in light of the unprecedented difficulties as a result of the pandemic, the awards will be paying tribute and celebrating those businesses which have shown the most resilience, determination, and growth in the face of uncertainty. Highlighted award-winners from 2021 include Mouser Electronics (Hong Kong) Limited, which received the “Most Valued” award; WorldFirst Asia Limited,  which received the “Most Localized” award; and igold (领峰贵金属有限公司), which received the “Most Creative” award. 

Mouser Electronics, a global distributor of semiconductors and electronic components, increased its brand reach through SEM by engaging search platforms 360, Sogou, and SM.CN, which was complemented by in-feed native ads on question-and-answer website Zhihu, popular video platform Bilibili, and microblogging platform Weibo. The multi-pronged approach not only increased its brand awareness in China, but also its sales placed by mainland Chinese consumers online. International business payment gateway WorldFirst Asia Limited, which is under Ant Group, worked closely with QS Search’s digital specialists in both Hong Kong and China to establish a strong presence in the online payment operator market. Meanwhile, igold implemented innovative approaches on different China media platforms to successfully acquire high quality customers and partners in its targeted regions.
While planning and strategizing new marketing material for the new year, QS Search’s director of business development, Argos Hue, stresses that businesses must choose the right agency and media consultant for them. Hue, who emphasised the importance of developing an appropriate marketing strategy for each client, stated, “Instead of doing what everyone else is doing, understand the needs of your client first.” 
With this in mind, Hue advises businesses to broaden their digital marketing approach and incorporate various digital marketing solutions into their marketing strategy. Instead of spending most of their marketing budget on BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent), China’s big three technology titans, businesses can consider other Chinese media hosting platforms such as Kuaishou, Ximalaya, Zhihu that can also lead to high ROI.  
Founded in 2014, QS Search is an integrated China digital media agency based in Hong Kong. It specialises in providing businesses with China advertising solutions — from paid search, native ads and banner ads, to advertising audit and risk assessment. A leader in the B2B digital marketing field, QS Search continues to serve and assist businesses from around the globe. By partnering with full-service agencies around the world, QS Search aims to deliver a world-class service level to its international clients by targeting China’s 1.4 billion market.
Looking to diversify and expand your brand’s China digital marketing strategies in the Year of the Tiger? Find out more here

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