Short Videos – The New Powerful e-Commerce Weapon for Brands in China

The rise of short videos and their platforms has attracted a lot of attention from media, brands, and consumers for the past 3 years.

However, not many brands have scored successful campaigns on these emerging platforms as they do with more mature social media like Wechat and Weibo.

This article is dedicated to giving you an overview of China’s short video market as well as strategies for brands to capitalize on this trend.


I. China’s Generation Z is hooked on short video apps

Short videos are delicious, bitty snippets of content that China can’t get enough of. It has become an increasingly important component of user leisure.

Chinese people averagely spend more than 60 minutes daily on short video apps.

The time spent on these types of apps accounts for 36% of all time spent on entertainment apps in the first quarter of 2019, compared with 22% in the same period of 2018.

Short video apps are even more prevalent than online payment tools. At the end of 2018, 80% of China’s 829 million netizens used short video apps, according to a report from the China Internet Network Information Center.

Up to September 2018, Monthly Active Users of short video apps scale to 518 million, with an 8.8% month-by-month growth rate, according to QuestMobile report.

The rise of the short-form video is in line with the content consumption behavior of China’s mobile-driven internet users. As their time has become more fragmented, they long for something short but contain enough entertaining information. Also, because they are mostly consuming content via their mobile devices while they’re on the go, the shorter the content is, the better.

In 2019, with 4G being a rather universal network and 5G coming to commercial use, we can hope that this trend would continue to thrive.

II. Who are the viewers?

Short-form video apps have been around since early this decade in China, but their popularity has exploded over the past three years thanks to a growing new segment of consumers known as Generation Z.

The main users of China’s short video apps belong to the post-90s generation.

According to a report published in March 2017 by JIGUANG, a big data provider, users ages 16 to 25 make up 39.7 percent of the total, while users aged 26-35 are at 33.3 percent.

Meanwhile, over half of the users are female, making them 69.4 percent of the total number of users.

In terms of regions, 66.9 percent of the total come from third-tier and below third-tier cities in China. The top 3 provinces for viewer numbers are Guangdong, Henan, and Shandong.

Celebrities on the mainland use short videos to engage with their fans, while many Gen Z users had adopted the format as a way to express themselves. Consumers like to access these entertaining videos to fill in short breaks during the day and between other activities.

III. Short videos – an excellent way to engage customers

Frustrated by the increasing costs of acquiring followers on popular platforms such as Wechat and Sina Weibo, brands are looking to short video platforms as new channels to reach and connect with their target audience through quality content.

Short videos can be used for various types of promotional materials, such as product reviews, product showcases, promoting brand culture, and more.

With creative and meaningful content, short videos can deliver brand messages to a target audience strongly and impressively even in just 10 – 15 seconds.

Here I suggest a few content angles from which brands can have some ideas for their next short video campaigns:

1. Show How to Do Something

Showing your fans how to do something, for example, solve a problem/ challenge or use your product is perhaps one of the easiest ways to jump into creating short video content.

You can provide followers with creative ways to use your products or situations where your products can be applied which are uncommon to think of…

2. Showcase an Event

When a popular event or celebration is coming up on the calendar, it’s likely that others in your industry will be looking for relevant content to share. Clever brands get the jump on a season, event, or celebration by posting short video content that’s primed for sharing.

There are film companies that published movie trailers under short video form and attracted great attention.

3. Reveal a New Product

You don’t have to be overly promotional to showcase your products. You can make it fun and engage by using diverse effects from short-video apps.

4. Go Behind the Scenes

A short video is a fun way to let your fans see the people behind the business—to show what happens behind closed doors. Whether it’s a tour of your office, an event you’re attending or just some behind-the-scenes downtime, showing the fun side of your business can be more effective than just hawking your wares.

5. Interactive Campaigns

Another option is inviting followers to create and upload their own videos, possibly for the chance to win a reward or prize.

In addition, brands can choose to collaborate with KOLs who can export their high-quality content or help spread the word.

>> Tips for short video marketing in China:

  • Short videos are more suitable for brands in certain categories. According to their users’ characteristics (most of the users are young people), they’re particularly effective for brands in the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) category, fashion, cosmetics, and IT.
  • There are numerous short-video apps to choose from – take time to browse through the features and select the one most suitable for your business.
  • Remember that users love and appreciate creative content. Content quality is the key to successful campaigns.
  • Celebrities and KOLs now produce the most popular content. Campaigns that cooperate with celebrities and KOLs can achieve better results.
  • Through audience interactions with short videos, brands can better understand their preferences, rapidly improve their user experience, and come up with effective marketing plans quickly.
  • Share your videos through other platforms such as social media and your website. Attaching hashtags on popular topics may also prove useful for spreading the word.

KOLs on Douyin

>>Case studies

L’Oréal & Meipai

Taking advantage of the female-dominated demographics of short video platforms, L’Oréal conducted a Halloween campaign on Meipai, encouraging users to upload and share their Halloween makeup videos for a chance to receive a free gift from L’Oréal.

More than 11,000 users uploaded videos and the campaign videos got more than 60 million views.

Shanghai Disneyland & Meipai

Shanghai Disneyland launched a short video campaign on Meipai, where users were encouraged to upload short videos of happy moments at the park using the hashtag #The Most Beautiful Moment in Disney Shanghai (#最美上海迪士尼#). The purpose was to drive more traffic to their new park. Then Shanghai Disneyland randomly chose participants and sent them gifts and free tickets. This campaign attracted attention from families and young consumers helped increase park visitor numbers and promoted sales.

IV. Short videos reinforce the social commerce trend

Most of the social media in China are linked to e-commerce in some ways since browsing on those platforms is a big part of the customer buying journey. Consumers discover new products, read product reviews, and interact with brands on social media before making purchases.

As short video platforms also play as a social media where people socialize, have fun, explore content, interact with brands…, these sites have started to expand into the e-commerce business.

Douyin and Kuaishou are now selling products within the platforms.

Kuaishou is allowing selected users to open up what it calls “little shops” within its platform, where users and merchants can link to products from e-commerce marketplaces such as Alibaba’s Taobao as well as WeChat shop platform Youzan within their media posts.

Meanwhile, Douyin launched e-commerce features within their app earlier this year that also allows users to link products on Taobao to their postings.

Not only is video content eye-catching, but it also provides a channel for customers to see how a product looks and feels in real life. This shortens the customer journey, and customers are more likely to make impulse buys.

Short video platforms are giving their young users direct access to online shopping while they watch fun, entertaining videos.

Another advantage to sell on short video apps is that their young users tend to focus less on price comparisons, making monetization easier. For example, if they trust this KOL [key opinion leader], if they can afford this, and if that’s what they need, they buy it.

During last year’s Double 12 Festival (December 12), Douyin’s short videos drove over 200 Million RMB in sales for Taobao.

KOL Zhang Dayi prances along a street in Japan with her friends while wearing a polka-dotted yellow dress, which can be purchased through a Taobao link.

So brands can not only gain significant exposure by interesting and meaningful short videos, especially ones created in collaboration with KOLs but also generate direct sales from these efforts.




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