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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The Ongoing Loyalty Battle Between Taxi-Hailing Apps In China

Taxi-hailing apps like US-based Uber and UK-based Hailo are gaining momentum globally. As with other segments of the Internet industry, the taxi-hailing app market in China is also mainly about local players. After rounds of fierce price battles earlier this year, two players — Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache — continue to dominate the market and leave no room for smaller competitors and newcomers. This battle wasn’t just between two niche apps; it was also a struggle between two Internet giants’ mobile payment services: Tencent’s WeChat Payment (for Didi) and Alibaba’s Alipay (for Kuaidi).

Price wars may be an effective way to acquire new customers. For example, Didi went from 22 million to 100 million users in just 77 days by spending RMB 1.4 billion (about US$225 million). That’s less than $3 per new customer. However, it’s a poor strategy to gain customer loyalty. For months, users have switched back and forth between apps simply because of slim (and temporary) price differences. Only recently have Didi and Kuaidi begun to take different approaches to engendering customer loyalty:

  • Kuaidi adopted a loyalty rewards program in cooperation with marketers and eCommerce platforms. Based on the number of rides they complete in a given quarter, Kuaidi divides customers into five loyalty categories: Normal, Silver, Gold, Diamond, and Ultimate. Customers earn different numbers of points for each completed transaction, depending on their level. They can use these points to purchase coupons — either Kuaidi Coupons, good for a discount on their next taxi fare, or other coupons provided by marketers and eCommerce platforms such as benlai.com.
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Introduce The Marketing RaDaR To China

Marketers in China are becoming more aware of the effectiveness of their marketing spending. They will no longer blindly spend a lump sum on China Central Television’s ad auction, for example. Home appliance giant Haier Group recently announced that it will stop spending on traditional magazine ads and maintain paid editorials only.

As Chinese consumers increase the time they spend on new channels such as social and mobile, it's more important than ever for marketers in China to optimize all touchpoints to reach and make an impact on their target audiences, especially when it comes to the new challenge of multichannel and multiscreen orchestration.

My recent report Sharpen Your Mix In China With The Marketing RaDaR illustrates how the RaDaR framework (first introduced by my colleague Nate Elliott) can help marketers successfully prioritize resources across their entire marketing mix in China.

RaDaR refers to “reach and depth and relationship” — three types of channels. Smart marketers are beginning to embrace a four-stage customer life cycle, from discover, to explore, to buy, to engage, then back to discover, and different types of channels support different stages of the life cycle:

  • Reach channels support discovery. Chinese consumers use channels such as in-store promotions and online search to discover brands.
  • Depth channels support exploration and purchase. Chinese consumers use channels such as consumer review sites and friends’ recommendations to research products and services they want to buy.
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What’s Next For WeChat?

As mobile messaging apps become increasingly popular across the globe, China’s WeChat (the top mobile social app in China, which has reportedly surpassed 600 million users) is often compared with other mobile messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Japan’s Line. Of all such apps, WeChat has the most complicated features; it goes beyond messaging and keeps adding new features and further evolving existing ones. Among the many possibilities, three stand out:

  • Exploring location-based business. Chinese consumers have been using WeChat’s QR code functionality for a while to get discounts and rewards from offline stores. WeChat also has an advanced scanning feature, the street view scanner (available for the Chinese version of WeChat 5.0 or higher only). The scanner not only shows street names but also nearby stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and other locations. WeChat has recently cooperated with Dianping (China’s Yelp) to upgrade its location check-in feature on Moments (WeChat’s timeline, on which users share photos and texts) from cities to specific stores. WeChat’s successful cooperation with taxi-hailing app Didi Dache has also enhanced its location-based capabilities. All of these features pave the way for WeChat to be able to provide location-based marketing.
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How To Reach Your Unique Mobile Audience In China

Does mobile mean on-the-go? That's not always the case, especially for Chinese consumers. My recent report, Chinese Mobile Consumers Are An Attractive But Unique Audience, tells how mobile marketing differs in the largest smartphone market in the world.

Marketers see great potential in Chinese mobile consumers for three reasons:

  • It's the largest smartphone market in the world, and it's growing fast. According to Forrester’s global smartphone forecast, China’s smartphone installed base will pass the 500-million mark in 2014, more than the US and Western Europe combined.
  • The number of mobile Internet users has skyrocketed in China. It surpassed the number of PC Internet users in June 2012 and is growing twice as fast as the number of overall Internet users. In 2013, the mobile Internet population accounted for more than two thirds of the total online population in the country.
  • Chinese consumers appear to be among the most sophisticated mobile users in the world. According to our Consumer Technographics® data, more than half of online metro Chinese mobile users access the Internet via their devices several times a day, and a quarter daily. These numbers are higher than those of even major metropolitan cities in the US and UK. Metro China also takes the lead in advanced mobile activities, including social networking, downloading and using apps, purchasing products, and checking finances.
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