The China advertising market is huge. And we mean really huge. Just take a look at these key stats:
- Advertising in China is a billion dollar business.
- China is the second largest global advertising market in the world.
- In 2019, digital advertising in China grew 30% on the previous year.
As an international business, advertising in China – to a population of almost 1.4 billion – is well worth the investment.
But before you start advertising (or even selling) in China, you need to know the basics. That’s why we’ve put together this massive guide to China advertising.
Here you’ll find everything you need to know about tapping into this sizable market and making the most of your China marketing endeavors.
Overview of advertising in China
Let’s start by looking at the bigger picture.
Top retail sectors
Judging by popular e-commerce platform Tmall Global, there are a number of big growth opportunities in China.
Mother and baby, beauty, technology, and health and wellness products are among the top-selling on the Tmall platform.
If you have the opportunity to advertise any of these products in China, you’ll find a receptive Chinese market.
The transition to online advertising
Advertising in China is undergoing a digital revolution. Marketers are moving away from traditional print and broadcast channels and towards online advertising.
This makes perfect sense. In 2018, Chinese internet users made up more than one-fifth of all internet users globally.
And as more of China’s population access smartphones and the internet year on year, online advertisers stand to reach even more people.
Chinese advertising regulations
Chinese advertising regulations on the content and presentation of ads might come as a surprise to some international companies.
For example, when advertising in China, you can’t use superlatives. Call your product “the best” and you may face penalties.
That’s why it’s essential to have native channel experts on your team. In-depth insider knowledge of the Chinese advertising market will help you to keep your advertisements on the right side of regulations.
Advertising in China during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, as people were confined to their homes, digital ad revenue in China grew an incredible 23%. Brands sought to reach customers through streaming services and apps rather than billboard or print advertising.
International brands also had to think outside of the box to keep their businesses afloat. Some brands advertised in China for the first time. Others refocused on the Chinese market in order to find the right level of demand for their products.
Whilst other economies struggled, China was the only major economy to register growth in 2020. The country also experienced record growth in the first quarter of 2021. During difficult times, global brands found (and continue to find) success in Chinese markets.
Top channels for advertising in China
So where are the best places to focus your Chinese advertising efforts?
Well, there are a number of popular Chinese channels to choose from.
What is WeChat?
WeChat is China’s most popular social media platform. It boasts 1 billion daily active users. In 2019, e-commerce companies spent 21% of their online advertising budget on WeChat alone.
WeChat is a Chinese hybrid of Facebook, Messenger and Paypal. It facilitates mobile payments as well as social media interactions.
For brands, WeChat offers a wide range of advertising opportunities. As well as a variety of ad formats, WeChat allows brands to create and promote their own WeChat stores.
How to get started with WeChat
Create a WeChat Official Account. This will be your brand page and the starting point for all WeChat marketing.
What is Douyin?
You might not realize it but you’re probably already familiar with Douyin.
Douyin is the original version of TikTok, only available to Chinese users. It had 600 million daily active users as of August 2020.
Douyin, like TikTok, is popular with younger demographics (those aged between 19 and 35) and around 60% of its users have a college degree.
The platform is built around short but highly shareable video content. From brand takeovers to influencer marketing to sticker advertising, there are plenty of ways to get your products in front of a Douyin audience.
How to get started with Douyin
First, you need to download and sign up to the Douyin app. You then need to request verification. Once verified, you’ll be able to build your Douyin following and start an advertising campaign.
What is Weibo?
Weibo is China’s answer to Twitter, and was launched in 2009. It’s now China’s most popular “microblogging” platform and it has around 530 million active daily users.
On Weibo, users can share text, images and videos. The platform originally imposed a 140 character limit to posts but this has since been increased to 2000. Other additions to the app include an Instagram Stories style function and live video streaming.
Weibo offers both organic and paid-for advertising opportunities as well as demographic targeting tools for advertisers.
How to get started with Weibo
You need to go to the Weibo website, set up a Weibo account and get verified. You then have the option to upgrade to a VIP account (at a cost of $17 USD per year) to unlock more features.
What is XiaoHongshu?
XiaoHongshu is a mix between Amazon and Instagram. It’s a place where predominantly young, female users discover luxury goods, like makeup.
Through the platform, users can access product reviews and influencer recommendations. They can also make purchases. It’s an immersive e-commerce experience, full of user-generated content.
How to get started with XiaoHongshu
To start advertising on XiaoHongshu, you’ll first need to register and submit your company details. Once approved, you’ll sign a XiaoHongshu contract and undergo an online training program.
Following the completion of your training, you can open a XiaoHongshu store and make the most of organic, influencer and paid advertising opportunities.
What is Baidu?
Baidu is the biggest Chinese search engine, accounting for over 70% of all searches from within China.
As with Google, businesses can promote their brand and their products through both organic SEO and paid advertising strategies.
How to get started on Baidu
You can register for a Baidu account through the Baidu website or via the Baidu Cloud login. Once successful, you’ll then need to create a Baidu advertiser account.
What is Toutiao?
Toutiao is also known as Jinri Toutiao. This translates into English as “today’s headlines”.
As its name suggests, Toutiao is concerned with current events. It’s an online platform dedicated to sharing news stories.
Powerful AI technology ensures users are always shown a personalized feed of stories.
This functionality, along with excellent targeting tools, means brands find it easy to reach relevant demographics within Toutiao’s 260 million monthly active users.
How to get started on Toutiao
Because registering for a Toutiao account requires a Chinese phone number and an upload of your ID card and business license, it can be a long-winded process for non-Chinese businesses. Partnering with a local advertising agency like AdChina.io helps to simplify the process.
What is Tencent?
Tencent is the company that owns WeChat – the most popular social media platform in China. But that’s not the only website in Tencent’s portfolio.
The company owns lots of other popular platforms, including QQ, Tencent News and Tencent Video.
When brands pick Tencent for advertising in China, they get to reach millions of people through over 100,000 different apps.
How to get started with Tencent
You need a Chinese business license to advertise with Tencent. This means setting up a local base for operations in China or working with a local Chinese agency.
What is QQ?
QQ is part of the Tencent family. It is the most popular instant messaging platform in China and has a reach of around one billion users per month.
Mobile QQ (the mobile version of the original site) functions as a one-stop app for music, games, entertainment and chat. It attracts a young, teenage and predominantly male audience.
Brands love the Mobile QQ app because it has excellent, built-in shopping and advertising capabilities.
How to get started with QQ
Download QQ International and set up an account. Added functionality is only available if you upgrade to a VIP account and you’ll need a Chinese bank account to do this.
What is Zhihu?
Zhihu is effectively China’s bigger and better version of Quora. It’s a question and answer website with over 420 million registered users.
As well as answering questions, Zhihu provides ebooks, audiobooks, live seminars and educational courses through Zhihu University.
Brands can create standard newsfeed ads as well as posting Zhihu answers. They can boost these too, ensuring they get seen by more users.
How to get started with Zhihu
To advertise on Zhihu you need to open a Zhihu business account. To do this, you need to have a business base in mainland China.
If your business doesn’t meet this criterion, you can still open an individual account to promote your business on a smaller scale.
What is Pinduoduo?
Pinduoduo is a uniquely Chinese platform. It’s also the fastest growing e-commerce site in China, with over 640 million monthly active users.
Pinduoduo is all about social e-commerce. It encourages customers to engage in “team buying”. Working as a group, users effectively bulk buy and get better prices on products.
Brands selling on Pinduoduo can attract customers by live-streaming or partnering with KOLs (key opinion leaders). They can also promote flash sales and promotions.
How to get started with Pinduoduo
International businesses have to sign up to Pinduoduo and submit the relevant documentation. They also need to pay a refundable deposit of between $1500 and $7600, depending on their industry.
Once your application has been approved you’ll sign a Pinduoduo contract and be able to start selling.
What is Tmall?
Tmall is China’s biggest B2C e-commerce site. For the first quarter of 2021, sales on Tmall accounted for around 63% of all transactions on B2C platforms.
Tmall Global is the platform’s sister site and it makes it easy for international businesses to sell to customers in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
Once you’ve set up a Tmall Global store you can use both SEO tactics and paid-for Tmall advertising on the platform to spread the word about your brand and your products.
How to get started with Tmall Global
It can take around 90 days to set up a Tmall Global account. You need to decide which type of store you want to set up and then provide all relevant documentation. You’ll also have to pay Tmall fees before you can launch your store.
What is JD?
JD is China’s second biggest B2C e-commerce site and Tmall’s main rival. Like Tmall, JD has a sister site – JD Worldwide – which helps to connect Chinese customers with international brands.
JD.com has over 240 million registered users. Eighty percent of them are aged 18 to 45 and 65% are college educated.
Brands can set up JD Worldwide stores to sell their products to a Chinese market. They can also run banner ads on the JD site.
How to get started with JD
You need to contact the JD Worldwide Business Development Manager relevant to your industry. You’ll then need to send over all necessary documentation, complete the approval process and pay fees before setting up your JD Worldwide store.
China advertising: how to get started
No brand can start selling and advertising to the Chinese market overnight. It’s a process that takes time and a lot of thought.
Firstly, you need to find the right Chinese platforms for your brand by conducting thorough research.
What are the demographics of a platform’s user base? What do users do on the site? And what do you need to do as a brand to reach those users?
Next, you need to think about your China market entry strategy.
What sort of presence will you have on the ground in China? Will you set up local operations or work with a Chinese agency?
Then it’s time to start your Chinese advertising campaign.
Remember that your promotions have to fit with a Chinese user’s buyer journey. They have to adhere to Chinese advertising regulations and they need to demonstrate awareness of Chinese culture.
If you could use some help getting your Chinese advertising initiative off the ground, check out an AdChina.io sales demo.
At AdChina.io we know the Chinese market inside out. With the help of our mainland China team, you can open accounts on popular Chinese platforms and create successful advertising campaigns for your new Chinese audience with ease.