4 Smart Ways of Advertising in China

4 smart ways of advertising in china

Whether you are already present in the largest e commerce market in the world, or if you are planning on entering the Chinese market, you just can’t get around advertising in China. 

We have already spoken in-depth about the different online channels in China. In this China Gravy article we present which advertising methods there are in China, which one is right for your business, and which target audience you can reach.

Marketing and Advertising in China

With 1.94 trillion USD in sales, China is the largest e commerce economy in the world. Hence, the Chinese advertising sector has also developed exponentially in the last decades.

Around 98% of the online traffic in the Middle Kingdom comes from mobile devices, compared to 50% in the rest of the world. Thus, mobile advertising and optimizing your content for smartphones and tablets is crucial for successful advertising campaigns. Also, keep in mind that users “on the go” may interact differently, they scroll quickly, and click impulsively on things that stand out.

In terms of popularity, luxury goods from abroad are extremely sought-after. In particular, cosmetics, fashion and jewelry, as well as baby products and organic food, which are associated with higher quality and stricter testing.

Keep in mind that the Chinese government controls the content that is published in the Chinese online universe. It is best to avoid any sensitive topics in your advertisements.

So much for the introduction. Now, get ready to discover the 4 essential platforms for online advertising in China:

  1. Baidu
  2. WeChat
  3. Sina Weibo
  4. Douyin/TikTok

Are you ready? Let’s get started and learn how to advertise in China online.

1. Digital Advertising in China with Baidu

With a market share of 65%, Baidu is the clear search engine leader in the Middle Kingdom. While Baidu’s main rival Sogou may only have a market share of 17%, its strong suit is voice search, a booming trend.

Who do You Reach?

If you want to target Chinese consumers in mainland China, Baidu is your weapon of choice.

How to Advertise

Since Baidu is a search engine, you can choose from 4 search engine marketing (SEM) options:

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. Pay-Per-Click (PPC)
  3. Display Advertisement
  4. Baidu Brand Zone

SEO is a great method, and a “must” to rank high on the results pages of search engines in the long-run. It is sustainable compared to SEA (PPC, display ads), which requires constant investment to “buy” new leads or impressions. SEO is “free”, meaning it doesn’t cost money to buy leads. But you do need to invest time if you do it yourself, or money, if you pay an SEO agency to do it.

marketing to china

Click here for a detailed essay on the difference between SEO and SEA on Baidu, and how to utilize it for your business. And we have compiled the essential dos and don’ts around Baidu SEO in this article.

With Baidu display advertising you pay per 1,000 impressions. This means 1,000 people see your ad, regardless if they click on it or not. This is called CPM, cost-per-mille. Interactive texts and images are great to spark the interest of the viewer.

The concept of Baidu brand zone is similar to PPC, but brand zone is a monthly paid service. It allows you to rank first on the search results page with your brand. Therefore, it is ideal to raise brand awareness for your brand and products, but rather costly. The advantage compared to PPC advertising is that brand zone has a significantly higher conversion rate. The formats include brand images, links to your website, plain text, video, and flash animation.

2. Digital Advertising in China with WeChat

If you regularly read our articles, you already know that Tencent’s WeChat is by far the favorite app of Chinese consumers. They use it for literally everything – from chatting to shopping, from research to buying tickets, and more. The latest statistics list WeChat with 1.16 billion monthly active users across a wide range way beyond the Chinese middle class.

Who do You Reach?

The big advantage of WeChat is that it is also used outside of China, by Chinese and international users. You can, therefore, access this international target group for your products and services, for example, for tourism.

In fact, around 7% of WeChat users, more than 70 million users, are located outside of China. They are a mix of expatriate Chinese and international users. Thus, WeChat provides businesses with a unique opportunity to target Sinophile people in China, the United States, and around the world. That sounds pretty awesome, right?

How to Advertise

First of all, you need an official corporate account for your business, verified by WeChat. Choose among the subscription account, the service account, and the enterprise account (WeChat work). Your individual business objective determines, which account is best for you. Keep in mind that overseas companies can only register a service account. For a subscription and enterprise account, you need a company registration in mainland China.

From there, having your own shop in WeChat (an H5 page or an in-app mini-program) is the best way to convert leads into sales. Having your own shop solution saves you money in the beginning and keeps you independent as you don’t rely on third-party providers to handle your store. It is also easier to engage with your audience in your own shop, where it’s all about your brand.

In the long run, being present on Tmall Global with your brand and products ensure a wide reach and a high number of sales, even though it’s more expensive to be present on that platform.

To generate leads, WeChat marketing offers a number of options:

  1. Content Marketing
  2. WeChat Groups
  3. Influencer Marketing – discover the hottest Wanghong, KOL, and KOC influencer trends
  4. WeChat Advertising – read about this topic in more detail
    • Moments
    • Banner Ads

As you can see, WeChat is its own ecosystem with lots of opportunities to present its products and services. Keep in mind that the market is getting saturated and therefore providing a real benefit and an authentic interaction is the key to success.

Suitable for Which Businesses?

WeChat shops, both as an H5 (HTML 5 app) or mini-program, are ideal for smaller brands and foreign companies that are new to the Chinese market, to test the waters. Bigger brands find a more suitable environment on Tmall and JD.

3. Digital Advertising in China with Sina Weibo

Besides WeChat, Weibo is one of the most popular social media platforms in the Middle Kingdom. With almost 500 million monthly active users, Sina Weibo is a popular place for businesses in China to engage with their audience.

Who do You Reach?

Compared to WeChat it addresses a younger generation, offering more trending content. Outside of China, Sina Weibo is still interesting for people who have a connection to mainland China, but not for everyone else.

How to Advertise

Just like with WeChat, you will need an official Weibo business account (Basic, Medium, Advanced) to do any brand outreach. Click here to read about this in detail. Depending on the package you choose, your business can benefit from specific promotions, events, coupons, private messages, data analysis, and social listening.

wechat advertising

Once that is done, you can choose from 5 basic advertising options:

  1. Weibo Influencer Campaigns
  2. Weibo Paid Ads
    • Fensi Tong – specific targeting options, including interests, gender, location, and devices
    • Sponsored Posts – content promotion to (potential) followers
    • Weibo Tasks – reposting
  3. Weibo Lottery
  4. Cross-Promotion – B2C and B2B promotion
  5. Organic Growth – through quality content

Keep in mind that the e commerce giant Alibaba invested significantly in Sina Weibo. While external links from Weibo to other e commerce stores are limited, for the time being, a continuous development on Weibo towards e commerce can be expected. Plus, links from Weibo are a valuable social signal for Baidu SEO to improve your search engine rank.

Suitable for Which Businesses?

Online advertising on Weibo, “China’s Twitter”, is more targeted and cost-effective with a lower minimum ad spend compared to WeChat. This makes it more attractive for businesses with a smaller budget.

4. Digital Advertising in China with Douyin/TikTok

While video apps like Youku and Tudou are slowly disappearing, Douyin/TikTok is on the absolute rise! Particularly among teens and young adults.

Who do You Reach?

TikTok is among the fastest-growing social networks in the world with more than 800 million users worldwide. Its creative 15-seconds short videos particularly appeal to a younger audience, who love to sing, entertain, and simply have fun.

How to Advertise

Video advertising is not only fun, but it also hits the nerve of our time. Promote your brand with these 3 advertising options:

  1. Influencer Marketing
  2. Brand Takeover
  3. In-Feed Native Ads

Click here to discover these TikTok marketing options in more detail.

Suitable for Which Businesses?

As TikTok targets a more niche audience, your advertising dollars spread further. Reach generation Z with trending content like hashtag challenges, fun short videos, and more.

Advertising in China – The Takeaway

Building a presence in the largest e commerce economy in the world, China surely is a great strategy for international businesses. If you choose to do so, you basically can’t get around advertising in China.

You have now gained insight into the advertising industry in China, how to advertise in China online, and the 4 best platforms for efficient online advertising in the Middle Kingdom: Baidu, WeChat, Sina Weibo, and Douyin/TikTok.

The hottest trends we observe continue to be live streaming, live chatting and AI, social search optimization (SSO), Xiachen (selling to lower tier-markets), and working with key opinion consumers (everyday consumers as influencers) for a more authentic and relatable online experience.

Also keep in mind that China has a rigorous and strict list of what is forbidden when advertising products on services, for example, any misleading content, superlatives, and addictive items like prescription drugs.

Do you still want more? Click here to discover 5 pro marketing tips for Western companies to boost their business in China.

Marketing to China is a smart way to reach a Chinese audience around the world. In particular, if you work in high-demand niches. If you don’t know where to start or want a helping hand, the professional team at China Gravy is here for you with many China digital advertising services. We are your SEO expert for China and know lots of Baidu SEO tools and tricks.

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