Our previous article on social shopping discussed its definition and how rapidly it has been adopted by Chinese consumers. To provide more details on how brands can leverage this new phenomenon, this article covers the most important elements of social shopping in China that need to be well understood and implemented properly in order to win the heart of Chinese customers in such a competitive marketplace.
Let’s start with the basics - a seamless buying environment is a key.
The key feature that made social commerce so popular in China is the "Buy" button that allows users to buy their favorite items without navigating outside the app. This is even more true for WeChat. The “Buy” button is intelligently embedded everywhere within the platform, from H5 campaigns to live stream. This allows the users to purchase their desired items at any time just by a few clicks. This painless purchasing experience has made WeChat a highly popular social shopping platform in China. WeChat pay is a popular payment method for both online and offline transactions, therefore the “Buy” button has convinced the users buying the items within WeChat, which reduces the effort involved in redirecting the users to the purchase page.
Other social network apps such as Facebook and Pinterest are also trying out methods to provide a similar interface in the US and later expand to other countries, but have so far failed to reach the extent WeChat has.
Choose your product and pay directly using WeChat Pay
Important elements of social shopping in China
There are 6 main elements that brands need to understand and adapt in order to succeed in China: these are KOLs, Live Streaming, Product Customization, O2O, Social CRM, Gamification.
Who are KOLs?
Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are celebrities, leaders, experts or any other people with influence and reach whose opinions act in favor of a brand (or more) to market their products. Using endorsement from KOLs has been one of the most popular techniques to improve social marketing and improve sales. With the sudden rise in the use of social media, the number of people following various KOLs over social platforms like WeChat, Youku-Tudou, Weibo, etc. have spiked up. The actions and recommendation of these KOLs have a long-lasting impact on the buyers’ mind.
Why KOL works?
“Followers feel a sense of community and trust the influencer to share accurate information with them” - these are the words of Vincent Marion and Sophie Coulon of Francelysee, an authority regarding French products within F&B in China.
The major reason behind the success of KOLs is the faith that people have in them. There is a special bond between every KOL and their followers that motivates them to purchase products their idol is endorsing. Generally, KOLs are experts in a certain field, which makes them trustworthy sources of information for any products or services that they are endorsing. This endorsement adds to the assurance for the buyers when considering a product or service. As KOLs have a large following on social media, product endorsements can reach a huge number of customers in a more friendly way than the typical advertisements from brands. Thus, opinions by KOLs are turning out to be a successful way of social marketing.
2. Live Streaming
Live streaming is one of the most popular methods that brands have been using to promote the products and services on social media in China. Recently, Maybelline proved that having KOLs live streaming is an effective way to boost the sales of its cosmetics products. Maybelline promoted a live stream of a very famous Chinese model and actress, Angela Baby. The stream was hosted on the popular video-sharing app Meipai.
This livestream helped Maybelline sell a whopping 10,000 lipsticks in only 2 hours. What contributes to the success of this campaign was a direct link embedded in the live stream for customers to make purchase seamlessly. Another similar instance was observed on WeChat where Givenchy sold merchandise worth 1.2 million RMB.
3. Product Customization
Another great tactics brands are using is allowing product customization via social platforms. Longchamp allowed users to directly customize their bags, in order to implement a color and design of their choice. This made it possible to purchase a custom bag while using the popular chat application itself. Similarly, Burberry also provided a campaign for its customers to order a custom individual name ornament plate directly via WeChat.
Customize your Longchamp bag
4. O2O Experience
China has been proved a perfect ground for online to offline (O2O) experience, which can greatly enhance the engagement of customers. Recently, SK-II, a well-known cosmetic brand from Japan, has launched a WeChat campaign for the connection between the SK-II mark online and offline. In this campaign, SK-II invited customers to participate in a “perfect PITERA” treatment in one of its stores in China.
Another example was Roger Dubuis and its “Race Against Time” campaign. The campaign was designed so that, upon paying a reservation fee, customers would be invited to the physical stores where they would finalize the purchase.
5. Social CRM
Social CRM is a great tool to provide a better experience and encourage more purchases. In our previous article, we covered how brands can fully utilize them to keep in touch with the fanbase, improve the understanding of their customers, have higher ROI and increase engagement. As a further proof of how important these CRMs are to brands when implemented correctly, Swatch recently launched a similar system by connecting their global and Chinese CRMs, in order to localize their CRM strategy to China.
Several brands also utilize games and applications over WeChat to engage users directly with the brands, especially as WeChat is becoming more and more a mobile-gaming platform. Games made by brands allow users to stay in touch with them and earn discounts or coupons for their purchase with the brand. Tissot and Club Med created successful gamified campaigns to engage their audience more and add more followers.
New features are coming
WeChat provides a number of tools and features that can be customized easily for the brands to engage with the buyers easily - but the story has just begun! WeChat has more features coming to provide a larger playground for brands. Previously, WeChat restricted the visibility of its posts to only the sharer’s friends, or an official account’s followers, which also limits the potential for content to go viral. However, in the updates last December, WeChat has introduced the “brand zone” - a new feature that allows brands to display many customized contents to non-subscribers. These contents, which can be WeChat official accounts, boutique stores, H5 campaigns, etc. can be discovered through searching. It is possible for brands to customize the contents under brand zone, as well as linking one section to another. This new feature is expected to be a good assistant for any brands to boost their sales.
With the rapid adoption of social shopping, it is expected that more and more features will be launched in the near future.
We can conclude that the social shopping ecosystem in China has evolved greatly and is still changing rapidly day by day. Therefore, it is extremely important for any business to adopt the best strategies to reach more users and achieve the best return on investment. The right approach to social shopping will help brands easily develop a bonding with their customers and achieve an exponential growth in their sales and profits in a particularly competitive market like China.