The business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing landscape is constantly shifting and evolving. The two key drivers of this constant evolution are changes in customer behaviour and technology advances. Winning B2C marketing requires businesses to leverage new consumer insights to stay ahead of the competition and leverage technology to cost-effectively engage consumers.
In China, customer behaviour and technology advances are often packaged together, e.g. the all-pervasive WeChat messaging app that has evolved into a “super-app” that incorporates digital payment, e-commerce, food delivery and ride-hailing. As such, Chinese B2C marketing often requires rapid iteration and adaptation of global marketing playbooks.
To bring these concepts to life, this article highlights three companies that have mastered B2C digital marketing in China. These companies, which includes native Chinese companies, were selected based on their ability to stay on top of changing consumer behaviour, offering complementary services and creative leveraging of technology.
Founded in 2014 as a weight-loss mobile app, Qing+ has transformed itself into China’s version of Weight Watchers. This company’s original premise was simple, asking users to provide their existing weight, target weight, and weight-loss deadline. With this information, Qing+ app worked out a plan that included recommended daily diet and exercises. Users may also seek professional fitness coaches through Qing+ to supervise their weight-loss regime.
With data collected from its mostly female user base and an active community sharing feedback and numerous weight-loss selfies, Qing+ soon realised that it could provide additional complementary services. After evaluation, Qing+ launched services such as providing low-calorie takeaway meals, intense 7-day weight-loss boot camps, and 7-minute exercise videos.
As of Jun 2017, Qing+ has garnered over 30 million downloads and about 600,000 daily active users. To support its rapid growth, this company had closed C round funding of 60 million renminbi in May 2017.
Secoo was founded in 2008 as a platform dedicated to selling second-hand luxury goods. As China does not have an effective credit rating system or independent appraisal services for these goods, Secoo did not see any significant growth after three years.
Avocados are big business in China: China imported 32,100 tons of avocado in 2017, increasing more than 1,000 times from just 31.8 tons in 2011. China’s avocado imports grew 28% year-on-year in 2017, with the import value hitting an all-time high of USD 105 million. I have included avocado in this study as it is a prime example of a premium food product which is sought after in the increasingly affluent Chinese market.
Generally, Chinese are more familiar with sweet, crisp and juicy fruits, but the taste of avocado with its low water content, lack of sweetness and the high price meant that it wasn’t initially popular in China. In 2007, Mr. Zhao Guozhang, the founder of “Fruit Day” or "天天果园" based in Shanghai, liked the taste of avocado and introduced the fruit domestically. Mr. Zhao noticed that avocados met nutritional needs of different groups such as the elderly, children, pregnant women and vegetarians. Through physical stores, web pages, and Weibo, Fruit Day publicised the benefits of avocado’s different nutrients to different groups of people. Fruit Day also gamified their social network marketing, offering small prizes to enhance their avocado understanding.
Subsequently, avocado marketing took a life of its own, with nutritionists affirming the nutritional value of avocado, e.g. dietary fibre and potassium content per 100g. The popularity of the fruit attracted more suppliers seeking to meet the increased demand of more health-conscious and affluent Chinese consumers.
B2C marketers in China will need to build their own detailed dashboards to meld offline and online data together, see which campaigns are working, which need some refinements, and which should be scrapped altogether.
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