Initially, RED started as a community where people could post the best items they bought abroad and guided others to those deals. Since being founded, the platform has quickly evolved and now describes itself as “a sharing platform for young people’s lifestyles through a deep-rooted UGC shopping sharing community”.
It was founded in 2013 by Miranda Qu and Charlwin Mao. Qu was listed among the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company and was also named one of the 25 Rising Businesswomen of 2018 by Forbes China. In 2018 the company completed a funding round of over $300 million led by Alibaba, and its valuation has reached over $3 billion.
The platform combines user-generated content, e-commerce, and its social recommendation engine to help users discover and purchase products, share recommendations, and provide helpful tips.
RED can be seen as a combination of Instagram and Pinterest. You can interact with content and other users, curate your content in the platform's obsessive visual layout, save posts you like and connect with brands. RED first pioneered the ‘everything is shoppable feature’, the ability to tap on any post to get links to the products that feature in the post, which Instagram has now followed suit with the implementation of this feature. It also shares some of Amazon's characteristics with its in-depth, authentic user reviews.
According to Statista, as of March 2020, RED had a total of approximately 300 million registered users.
According to CBNData, in 2019, 86.1% of Xiaohongshu users are female, while 83.7% are Millennials (age under 35), and 62.5% live in 1st- and 2nd- tier cities and 70% of new users are Gen Z- born after 1995.
The platform has become so popular; this is mainly due to the Chinese consumers push for a lifestyle upgrade with premium, widely-known products. Unlike previous generations, Chinese millennials and Gen Z want to spend their disposable income on high quality and luxury products. The platform's strength is also due to the Chinese consumers' lack of trust for ads and disregard of fake online reviews; these savvy, educated consumers seek word of mouth, lots of options and reliable product recommendations when making purchasing decisions.
RED differs from traditional e-commerce platforms like JD, Tmall etc, as RED relies more on discovery and impulse purchasing. Users will browse other users' product reviews and recommendations and purchase a product when they catch their eye on something interesting. While users on JD and Tmall explicitly search for one product, then compare prices and sellers.
RED also differs from popular social platforms such as Weibo and WeChat. RED is an open platform, meaning users can see everyone's post; it is a highly content-driven platform as users write original content that is lengthy and detailed. Users on RED are casual as they don't have a specific purpose and they might or might not find something they would like to buy. Comparatively, Weibo and WeChat are semi-closed and closed platforms. KOLs produce content and pictures or users post about their daily lives in the moments, and users can see posts from users you follow or sponsored posts on the home page or only see friends' posts in the Moments.
Another distinct feature is its Taobao integration. Therefore, RED posts now appear in the reviews section on Taobao and Tmall, which are integrated with Weitao posts. By clicking into the post it will show the entire post on RED.
Stay tuned for our next blog coming up soon on ‘How Brands can leverage RED with success' which includes recent brand case studies'.