Chinese marketing trends 2020

Jan 1, 2020

What should you prioritise going into 2020?

The Chinese digital marketing landscape is always changing and rapidly. To help you keep on top of it for this coming year, here are our expert predictions for 2020. 

1. Content Trends: Less Text, More Short Videos

2. Platform Trends: Live-streaming and Vertical Communities 

3. Influencer Trends: KOCs and KOBs

4. Market Trends: Continued Decentralisation of E-commerce  

1. Show Me - Less Text, More Short Video

Content is key. But what kind of content do consumers want? If you guessed storytelling then you’re on the right track. Chinese audiences are captivated by a good narrative and they prefer one medium for stories above all others. Short video.

Whether it's Douyin (TikTok) or live-streaming, video content has captured the attention of China’s consumers and as the demand for it grows the attention span for reading any kind of text continues to shrink. 

This is important because traditional brand loyalty as you might imagine it doesn't really exist to the Chinese consumer, not in 2020. Chinese consumers are always looking for the best and it is less important to them from which brand they get it from. Lots of text on a screen, no matter what brand has written it, is not as engaging as video.

This year audiences expect to and will see more branded content in the form of short video.


Video content has captured the attention of China’s consumers

Douyin, and its twin app Tik Tok for the western market, has taken short video as a form of communication and advertising to a new level, with over 400 million DAU in China alone. 

2. New Platforms - Which Will Rise in 2020?  

Last year was a breakout year for Bytedance the creators of TikTok with hundreds of millions of downloads that rocketed the user base up to 500 million. In 2019 the platform truly stepped into the spotlight - perhaps helped by the ever-growing demand for short video not just from China but globally. 

If you’re not on Douyin, it's something to consider especially if your audience falls in its most active demographic of 16 - 24. Looking forward though which platforms are going to see big growth and success this year? 

After looking at trends from the last year we have identified two factors that indicate whether new Chinese social media platforms will see growth in 2020. 

Factor 1: What kind of platform? The kinds of platforms that will see growth in 2020 are live-streaming platforms (Huya, Yizhibo, Douyu [gaming], etc. and e-commerce living streaming - live streaming developed by e-comm platforms, like Taobao and JD.)

Factor 2:  Is it a vertical community platform? Vertical community platforms are websites, apps and social media platforms that specialise in one specific area of interest. These will grow along with interest in the topic as users with specific interests seek out a platform to connect with others. 

Copyright: CBN Data

Looking at these factors it's hard to predict one specific platform that will thrive this year. However, vertical platforms that implement live-stream are a good place to start. 

The rise of one platform often results from the rise of one medium. Meaning there might be a slew of apps/platforms that have the potential to be a breakout app like TikTok. 

This also means that the platform that does it best so to speak will be the one that continues to grow. Like TikTok exemplifies the wide adoption of vertically scrolling ultra-short videos. But it was hardly the first. Kuaishou, the second most popular app in this category, predated Tik Tok by at least three years.

Ultimately, it depends on the platforms' positioning, marketing strategy and branding of itself. Also, speaking of Kuaishou predating Tik Tok, the recurrence of trends is also observed in the recent development of social media in China. Short video was first thought to be a massive trend back in 2014. But it made its comeback even stronger over the course of 2018 and 2019.

China is seeing a rise of vertical implementation of the live streaming industry. Gaming will be the next “big thing”, with Huya and Douyu leading the way.

3. A New Kind of Influencer - KOCs and KOBs

Copyright: Digital Agency Network

As we enter 2020 KOLs, key opinion leaders, are old news. What we’ll see this year is the growth of different kinds of influencers. I’m talking about KOCs and KOBs. 


If it sounds like alphabet soup, let me explain: KOCs are Key Opinion Consumers and KOBs are Key Opinion Businesses. 

KOCs are similar to KOLs but on a smaller scale. They often have a following of hundreds instead of hundreds of thousands. Their product reviews are trusted because their audience is made up of friends or personal acquaintances. 

Brands have taken notice and have started seeing success using a network of KOCs and it looks like 2020 will be the year this trend takes off. 

Key Opinion Leaders are respected because they are authorities on specific topics. KOBs are similar in this respect and can use their platforms for thought leadership and driving discussions of key topics within their field.

By virtue of being a professional organization, businesses already have some credibility but to become a KOB they must work to cultivate their network, content and influence to reach a wider audience.

Why is this important? This means brands have more options when it comes to influencer marketing - whether its a smaller budget for KOCs or collaborating with other brands to increase exposure these are all positive developments. 

4. The Continued Decentralisation of E-commerce

E-commerce continues to grow in China as the rest of the world looks on in amazement. However, the big platforms Alibaba and JD’s growth has slowed as other platforms implement their own eCommerce solutions.

This trend will continue to grow in 2020 empowering small brands to sell online themselves without the need for giant platforms and giant stock. 

As the trend of  E-commerce decentralization grows so does the opportunities for e-commerce live-streaming another trend that smaller brands can also take advantage of. Deloitte estimates in 2018 the revenue generated by services related to live-streaming reached 545 billion dollars, signalling the rapid rise of the new form of communication. China is once again championing this turn, with top live-streamers’ income reaching new heights along with it. 

Chinese audiences have taken notice too and "Take away products (带货)" or drive sales [by live-streamers] have become more common in online discussions.

Li Jiaqi, the undoubtedly hottest online personality in China of 2019; he started to livestream on Taobao to test and sell beauty products in 2018, and soon became an online sensation, with over 33 million followers and a record of driving over 1 billion RMB sales on Singles Day.

In short, for Chinese digital marketing, there are two things to look out for in 2020.

1. Content-wise, consumers will see more and more branded content in the form of short videos.

2. Ad placement will focus on live streaming, gaming, reality shows and other places with a high concentration of users, like popular social media platforms.

We predict these trends along with KOCs, KOBs, and wider E-commerce opportunities will shape the digital marketing world in this coming year in China.