Announcing The First Forrester Wave Evaluation Of Digital Agencies In China

After many months of hard work — setting criteria, selecting the eight most significant digital agencies in the market, conducting in-depth briefings and customer references, and countless hours of analysis and evaluation — I am pleased to announce that The Forrester Wave™: China Digital Agencies In China — Strategy And Execution, Q1 2015 is now live.

Why is this report so important to marketing leaders in China right now? To reach China’s 670 million online consumers (a number that continues to grow rapidly) and engage with them, marketers in China need more digital marketing support from their agencies. As such, digital agencies play a more important role than ever, as they:

  • Manage a rapidly growing digital marketing budget. As online ad spending in China has almost doubled over the past two years, leading agencies in China are seeing an increasing shift of ad budgets from traditional media to digital — so these agencies must support more complex digital marketing plans and campaigns.
  • Expand to a broader spectrum of digital services. With the rapidly evolving digital landscape in China, digital agencies are constantly adding new digital services — including social marketing, mobile marketing, customer experience strategy, CRM, and eCommerce — that go far beyond web development and online advertising campaigns.
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Join Forrester's 2015 China Digital Marketing Online Survey

Forrester’s 2015 online survey for digital marketing executives in China is now open. If you’re a marketing leader who is involved in digital marketing in China, please take this opportunity to provide your perspective.

Why is your input important? Through this survey, we will:

  • Understand your key challenges in digital marketing. Marketing leaders in China have larger digital marketing budgets — but they also bear more responsibility and face a more complicated digital marketing environment.
  • Outline your pain points in working with digital agencies. Marketing leaders in China have more digital agency options than ever before, but their expectations of digital agencies have changed along with their shifted responsibilities.

We will use the results to help marketing leaders in China:

  • Understand key trends to prioritize your digital marketing efforts. This data will help you benchmark your key focus for digital marketing in 2015.
  • Select the right digital agency to meet your most important needs. We will soon publish our first Forrester Wave™ evaluation of digital agencies in China, which will help marketers assess and select digital agency services. This data will help you customize the Wave to select the right digital agency to help you overcome your top digital challenges.
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Use WeChat Now, But Use It Wisely

Over the past two years, WeChat has been a very important part of my research. And it should be on your radar as well. I’ve been particularly focused on gauging its innovations and exploring potential monetization possibilities. Most importantly, I’ve been evaluating how marketers can leverage WeChat from the time when it wasn’t ready to be a scalable marketing tool through to today, when all marketers need to understand how to use WeChat wisely.

With a whopping 468 million monthly active users, WeChat has been the focus of marketers for a while; as of July 2014, WeChat had 5.8 million public accounts. However, marketing leaders face challenges in using WeChat for marketing:

  • WeChat is a private social platform. The tactics that work on open social platforms like Weibo do not necessarily work on private social platforms like WeChat. Many marketers still wrongly attempt to use WeChat as a platform for news announcements.
  • WeChat provides limited ad formats and APIs. Although we do see Tencent considering the possibilities of introducing display ads in Moments (WeChat’s timeline) and laying the groundwork for search advertising by partnering with the local search engine Sogou, so far the only available advertising opportunity for marketers is purchasing display ads in public account articles. Many marketers also complain about the limited APIs that WeChat provides to them.
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Huawei Experiments With Mobile Ads On A Taxi-Hailing App: A Great Start With Room For Improvement

Taxi-hailing apps are gaining momentum globally, and China is a very important battlefield for both international players like Uber and local players like Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache. While the battle for market share and consumer loyalty is ongoing, monetization has also appeared on the agenda of these taxi-hailing apps. Pioneer marketers have started to experiment with mobile advertising on Didi, and Huawei is one of them.

On December 17, 2014, Huawei sponsored Didi’s lucky money in its first attempt to place mobile ads on Didi for its newest smartphone, the Huawei Honor 6 Plus. Huawei has embedded the product name, ad copy, and images in Didi lucky money and aims to reach the more than 100 million Didi users and their friends on WeChat. Huawei has created four opportunities for ad exposure:

1. Banner ad on the menu page of the Didi app

2. Full-page ad when the user clicks into the banner ad

3. Sponsorship of Didi lucky money shared in WeChat

4. Full-page ad embedded in Didi lucky money

This ad campaign has certainly created buzz and attracted attention. However, Huawei could improve its implementation by:

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Social Marketing Boosts The World’s No. 3 Smartphone Giant, Xiaomi

China’s Xiaomi became the world's third-largest smartphone maker by market share for the first time in the third quarter of this year; it trails only Samsung and Apple and has surpassed its Chinese competitor Lenovo. As a somewhat new brand founded in 2010, Xiaomi’s achievement is impressive. Among the many factors contributing to Xiaomi's rising success, social marketing is, without doubt, a prominent one.

Xiaomi’s recipe for success contains three social ingredients:

  • Adopt various social platforms and tactics to engage with fans. Xiaomi has successfully integrated social into its marketing RaDaR and turned 11 million social media followers into super-loyal “Mi Fans.” It uses Weibo to attract new users (reach); its branded online community to provide detailed product and service information (depth) and to generate brand loyalty (relationship); and WeChat for customer service (relationship).
  • Extend the social frenzy offline. Xiaomi is a digital disruptor, but its social marketing success isn’t limited to the online world. Xiaomi values the power of its fans on social media and extends it offline. It named its annual new product launch event after its fans – the Mi Fan Festival. Xiaomi also holds gatherings for its fans in more than 100 cities in China and organizes events, such as the MiBand Run, to enhance the relationship between its fans and the brand.
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Points And Coupons Are Key To Winning The Loyalty Battle Between Taxi-Hailing Apps

Back in June, I published a blog post on the ongoing loyalty battle between taxi-hailing apps in China. Since launching their loyalty campaigns, Didi Dache and Kuaidi DaChe have expanded to more and more cities and are fiercely competing with each other with dueling rounds of promotions. Five months later, we have a winner — at least for now.

On November 5, Kuaidi announced that it had captured 60% of the taxi-hailing app market in China, overtaking former market leader Didi. Kuaidi hasn’t just won market share — it’s won the customer loyalty battle, which is more important. According to EnfoDesk, active Kuaidi users open the app 15.82 times on average, while active Didi users only do so 12.55 times.

How did Kuaidi manage to flip the game in just five months? Simply put, Kuaidi’s customer loyalty program works better. My previous post outlined the different approaches that Didi and Kuaidi took to engender customer loyalty: Kuaidi adopted a loyalty rewards program and provided points and coupons to loyal customers, whereas Didi leveraged the power of social to replicate the success of its Lucky Money campaign.

So why did Kuaidi’s points and coupons beat Didi’s lucky money in the race for customer loyalty?

  • Predictable rewards beat random rewards. Kuaidi users earn a certain number of points for each completed ride and can use these points to purchase coupons — so loyal Kuaidi users get rewards that are predictable and can be accumulated. In contrast, the amount of money that Didi users get from each lucky money reward package is completely random.
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Forrester’s First Asia Pacific Social Media Advertising Spending Forecast

As social media adoption continues to grow in Asia Pacific (AP), so too does marketers’ spending on social advertising. Forrester’s just-published Asia Pacific Social Media Advertising Spending Forecast, 2014 To 2019 report projects that social media ad spending will continue its rapid growth over the next five years. In this period, marketing leaders in Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea will increase their investment in advertising on social media (excluding mobile messaging apps) at a 21.6% compound annual growth rate, reaching $5.8 billion by 2019. The rapid pace of growth is mainly due to:

  • Low market maturity coupled with a large and active social media population. Collective social ad spending in these five AP markets end up being less than half of that in the US in 2014. The maturity of the AP social ad market is low considering the large numbers of people in the region who use social media, and as this market matures it will grow faster than in the US.
  • Increasing social media consumption will continue to boost ad spending. The percentage of the online population using social media in the five AP markets will increase by double digits from 2014 to 2019. Forrester projects that further Internet adoption will bring even more consumption of social media.
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How To Develop Effective Mobile Marketing Strategies In China

Our Chinese Mobile Consumers Are An Attractive But Unique Audience report showed how marketers in China are facing the most promising — yet most complex — mobile market in the world. To help marketers overcome mobile challenges in China, we’ve recently published a follow-up report, Drive Effective Mobile Marketing In China.

Mobile is changing the daily life of Chinese consumers; the phone-addicted population (ditouzu) is growing fast. With high adoption and usage of mobile devices, consumers in China are experiencing the mobile mind shift: the expectation that they can get what they want in their immediate context and moments of need. However, marketers in China are not keeping up with consumers. Why? They aren’t thinking about mobile strategically:

  • They hold false assumptions on how to reach Chinese mobile consumers. Most marketers in China still think in a traditional way: They assume that consumers in tier one cities are the most active mobile Internet users; that Chinese mobile users can actually use the mobile Internet on the go; and that a city-tiered approach in mobile marketing will be successful.
  • Their mobile marketing strategies are still experimental. Although many marketers in China have tested mobile, only few have incorporated it as a consistent marketing channel. Marketers only spend a very small portion of their ad budgets on mobile.
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Case Study: Improving Social Media Measurement In China

Ever since we published the Social Media Measurement In China report (and accompanying blog post) last year, marketers in China have been constantly asking us if we have any case studies. This year, we interviewed Nestlé China, one of the few marketers in China that has started to measure the link between social media metrics and business outcomes rather than basic volume and engagement metrics. The result: our new Case Study: Nestlé China Raises The Social Media Measurement Bar For Its Ice Cream Brands report.

Nestlé China's ice cream business unit has two major brands: BenNaNa and Five Rams. BenNaNa is an unusual ice cream stick with a peelable jelly shell that shapes the ice cream, which is eaten just like a real banana. Because of its playfulness, BenNaNa is the No. 1 kids’ brand in China and is also popular among young consumers. Five Rams, a local brand that has been based in Guangzhou for more than 50 years, was licensed by Nestlé in the 1990s. As a regional brand, Five Rams is the category leader in Guangdong province.

Nestlé started using social media in 2012. For the first two years, the company confined its social marketing efforts mostly to Sina Weibo, as it had tested other platforms but did not find any that generated good performance. Starting this year, the Nestlé marketing team added WeChat to its social spectrum and gradually shifted its efforts to this rapidly growing mobile social platform.

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Possible Ways To Monetize WeChat

Mobile messaging apps are super-hot, but it’s still early days for monetization. WeChat, the largest mobile social platform in China, has been focusing on building a large user base globally and maintaining stickiness by upgrading its functionalities constantly. With the strong support of Internet giant Tencent, monetization is not an urgent concern for WeChat yet, but it has paved the way for many monetization options.

There are three options that could work well in monetizing WeChat:

  • Mobile gaming. Online gaming is Tencent’s best strength and the primary source of its revenue, so it’s natural for the Internet giant to want to transfer that strength to mobile. For example, when Tencent launched its first WeChat game, the Candy Crush-like Tiantian Ai Xiaochu, it soon became the most downloaded game in the app store. In-app purchases in games will become an important money generator for WeChat.
  • Mobile commerce and payments. Selling products on the WeChat platform is not new; last year, local smartphone brand Xiaomi sold 150,000 units in 10 minutes on WeChat. But with the successful launch of the new WeChat Payment service and its cooperation with JD.com, China's second-largest eCommerce player, mobile commerce and payments will soon become scalable on WeChat.
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