If you have been on Chinese social media in the past few months, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a good chance that you heard chatter around a term -- 私域流量, pronounced as si yu liu liang. It can be most accurately translated as Private Domain Traffic.
In fact, not only in China, Private Domain Traffic has been receiving a lot of attention in the developed markets both in the US and UK, as a possible route to recovery, especially in the retail sector.
Private Domain Traffic (PDT) is not a new term born in recent months out of turmoil. It was coined as early as 2017 at the start of the heyday of Chinese social media and e-commerce.
To understand it, requires a deep knowledge of China's digitally oriented economic ecosystem, but we can use a simple analogy to illustrate the gist of it.
Think of it as a drainage system for a house with an underground tank. When it rains, the system gathers all the rainwater and saves it in a tank. Now, liken each drop of rain to an online user, and there you go, the water saved in the tank is your Private Domain Traffic -- a customer pool that can be seen as "owned" by a brand.
1) It's free and highly accessible. After customers purchase a product or a service, they are retained after the transaction happens. Customers are "ushered" into a social community that is constantly engaged by the brands even after their purchase is made. Every user/customer whom the brands may have spent money to convert from the vast internet or "Public Traffic", is now within reach when a new marketing campaign comes up.
2) It provides brands with an opportunity to offer better customer service by speaking directly to customers on social media and to establish a long-term relationship with them. It's a way to increase customers' lifetime value.
A common tactic for Chinese KOLs to retain a loyal viewership, is to ask their viewers to join a WeChat group to receive the most up-to-date content released by the KOLs and also engage with other fellow community members.
This tactic was soon adopted by many other KOCs and WeChat vendors -- people who make a living by selling products to their contacts on WeChat. Since 2018, businesses and brands began to employ this method to engage and retain new customers.
There are a few notable benefits of Private Domain Traffic. Apart from the accessibility I mentioned above, another is that through the direct, brand-to-customer communication, businesses are not only giving care to individual customers, they can also communicate their business values and culture directly to them. This creates a bond between brands and customers that is emotional rather than purely transactional.
In our work at PingPong Digital, we have encountered countless cases where clients seemed to find it difficult to cultivate brand loyalty by communicating their branding to Chinese customers. By way of Private Domain Traffic, it is not only possible, but branding becomes the focus.
When you are greeted and cared for by a brand like a friend, it is hard for you to not have a positive experience, and to not want to share this amazing experience with others.
Chinese businesses have already realised the importance of Private Domain Traffic as a great competitive advantage among the increasingly fierce competition in the public media space. It could potentially save brands a significant amount of advertising budget in the mid to long-term that is dedicated for remarketing, since a long-term relationship with the customer is already established.
First, the foundation. Pick the right platforms and target the right audience to advertise your products and services -- you still need to gather all the raindrops first.
Secondly, convert them to your "owned traffic" by offering them good content, attractive offers or nice/unique customer service, then pick a channel to reserve your traffic -- as of now, WeChat is still a favourite thanks to its closed ecosystem, meaning customers will have only trusted contacts in their feed.
Then, brands need to constantly engage with their customers. The most effective approach is to create suitable personas for your brands. It can be a shopping assistant or a stylist, recommending gift ideas for customers. Or it can be a product specialist, offering deeper insights into the products or services you wish customers to purchase. Or it can even be a personal assistant providing the best personal care to your customers.
In this way, you are keeping your customers in the palm of your hand, and your customers will see you as a trustworthy friend not just a business/brand. That's the charm of Private Domain Traffic.
If you would like to learn more about Chinese marketing, then get in touch with PingPong Digital’s award-winning team, they have offices in New York, the UK and China, and are widely considered by many as the go to agency for all your Chinese marketing needs. An official partner of Weibo, Douyin (TikTok), Toutiao, and affiliated partner of WeChat and Baidu, they are the trusted name in Chinese marketing.