The biggest trends shaping the Chinese market

As a Western brand marketing in China, the appeal of this vast and valuable market is clear. However, China is also a challenging market, due to its size, complexity and rapid evolution – driven by myriad changes that include economic, cultural and technological development.

Once you’ve gained a base understanding of your target Chinese market and the demographics that shape it, it’s important to understand the biggest trends that are likely to impact it. Marketing trends in China can hit fast, enabled by sophisticated digital technology and customers who love exciting, new and personalised experiences. So here are some of the main trends to know and factor into your Chinese digital marketing campaigns for 2024:

No More Loud Live Streaming

Western brands have long been using integrated live-streaming on Chinese e-commerce and social media platforms and enjoying the benefits of traffic generation and sales. However, younger generations are turning away from aggressive live-streaming strategies. Gen Z customers particularly seek content that focuses on engaging storytelling and personalised, unique experiences. They want connection and authenticity, rather than intrusive and traditional live selling streams. This means seeking a different, more meaningful approach for your brand.

Using social media for search

Some social media channels have integrated search engine features so that users can find products within the app itself. This offers a new customer journey that brands can capitalise on with the right keywords. Research shows that half of WeChat users search different terms and keywords on the platform each day. Western brands can create e-commerce stores on key platforms and then invest in their ongoing optimisation. Consider too that 90% of Little Red Book users visit the platform to carry out pre-purchase research, leading to 300 million search volumes daily!

Ubiquitous VR and AR

Chinese customers are true digital natives and they love technology! Already, virtual reality and augmented reality are transforming shopping experiences and customer engagement in China, in a way that isn’t yet seen fully in the West. Chinese revenues for AR and VR technologies are expected to reach $7.8 billion by the end of this year. These trends are integrated into industries that include retail, education, entertainment and even healthcare, whether to experience a virtual product in a digital realm or to travel immersively using VR. Western brands have the opportunity to consider how these technologies can be leveraged within their offer, to engage Chinese customers and offer something novel, meaningful and compelling.

Evolution of Influencer Marketing

Most Western brands are familiar with KOLs, but this influencer market is evolving too. Today, Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) and micro-influencers are becoming increasingly credible for meaningful, valuable and authentic brand experiences. These online influencers have smaller audiences, but they are highly concentrated to specific demographics. Brands that can connect with the right target demographic have a strong chance of success with the right influencer collaboration. This trend is important because it shifts away from big-time celebrity influencing, to authentic and small daily experiences, between micro-influencers and followers who have a more personal relationship.

WeChat Search and SEO

Baidu indexes WeChat articles and these can rank highly on SERPs, offering brands a chance to become highly visible for target keywords. Again, it shows the importance of creating quality, optimised content that works for both Chinese social media users and searchbots.

A Desire for Personalised Marketing

A particular trend that has been growing for some time in China now, relates to personalised marketing. Millennials and Gen Z customers in particular seek products and services that have been designed for them – and they will spend premium prices if it means they can get a tailored shopping experience and a unique product designed around their needs. Many brands have worked to satisfy this need by transforming consumers into ambassadors or co-creators, with options for customisation that includes entirely bespoke pieces (for example, designer brands such as Longchamp offer bespoke bags via WeChat mini-programs). It’s worth noting that these affluent customers are very quick to explore competitor brands if they find a better UX or more appealing brand elsewhere.

The growth of user-generative content (UGC)

High-value content in China is increasingly being driven by user-generated content, rather than online advertising campaigns. The growth of Little Red Book is a key example here. These types of content are heavy drivers of purchasing decisions, as UCG helps to create a sense of confidence in authentic recommendations. The most popular type of UGC is video, but testimonials or reviews are a close second. This type of content also includes social media posts, images, ratings and live streams; all content categories for Western brands to consider.

Ethical and sustainable purchasing

Chinese customers increasingly want to buy sustainable, ethical products too, often from smaller, high-end brands with clear ethical values. This drive towards sustainable, environmentally friendly and values-led marketing is similar to the drive seen in the West, and the ‘value mindset’, also means that Chinese customers want quality products, rather than fast quantities. Yes, pricing must still be competitive, but the focus is on how products are sourced, made, distributed and recycled, with the entire supply chain under scrutiny. This offers challenges and opportunities to Western brands alike.

Find out more

These digital marketing trends in China are hot for 2024, and Western marketers should seek to understand them fully before developing marketing campaigns. Often, it makes sense to focus on a few trends initially, rather than trying to do everything at once!

It can be valuable to use the services of a Chinese digital marketing agency to assist with this kind of strategic development. Market Me China is here to help your Western brand navigate the complex, huge but exciting Chinese market, with its rapid evolutions and technological shifts! Our team of digital native language speakers have years of professional experience and are perfectly placed to help your Western company build a successful brand in China.

We deliver a range of services to suit your needs, working as a flexible and expert extension of your business and evidencing our results to prove our ROI. Please contact us in the first instance to find out more, and to discuss how we might help you reach your goals!