When selling products online, understanding the paid advertising landscape in China is critical to success. China has the largest eCommerce market in the world, and paid advertising can be a great way to reach potential customers. But with so many options available, it can be difficult to know where to start. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at paid advertising in China and how it can help you increase your eCommerce sales. Stay tuned for more tips and insights on how to succeed in China’s vast online market! Thanks for reading!
China Online Advertising Platforms
One of the biggest factors in the success of your online advertising in China is choosing the right online advertising platform for your native advertising campaign.
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Among the 1.402 billion people in the Chinese population, over 1 billion have access to the internet, and more than 926.8 million use social media. It is a large audience that any business would look forward to being able to reach, but you must always keep in mind your ideal customers and what online advertising platforms they prefer the most.
How much does it cost to do paid advertising in China?
The cost of advertising in China is not cheap — an annual budget of $100,000 would be on the lower end of the scale, so you should choose the best platform for your business to maximize your Chinese advertising budget. Here are some of the most popular ones.
WeChat Paid Advertising: for the Big Brands
WeChat is the reigning king of social media in China — it surpassed 1 billion monthly active users in 2018, and in 2020 it had 1.2 billion. It began as an instant messaging app, but after 10 years of being active, it now has an entire ecosystem of utility, allowing users to make payments (similar to Apple Pay or Google Pay), order food, call a taxi, book movie tickets, play games, post photos, videos, and more. Due to its large userbase, most types of brands will find the platform a good way to advertise.
Their main types of paid ads on Wechat are:
- WeChat Banner Ads — Banners with information about your brand and a call-to-action that appear at the bottom of posts published by a WeChat Official Account.
- WeChat Moments Ads — Ads that appear within a user’s timeline or feed. It is the most popular type as it offers the highest exposure, but it can be a bit more expensive.
- WeChat Mini Program Ads — Ads that appear within “Mini-Programs” or “Mini-Games,” which are 3rd-party apps that run within the WeChat app.
- WeChat Subscription Ads — If you create a WeChat Official Account, you can target your followers directly by creating automatic welcoming messages or sending e-vouchers or news.
Weibo: the Facebook Ads of China?
Sina Weibo is sometimes referred to as “Chinese Twitter,” because of its similarities to other micro-blogging platforms. Weibo currently also has a live streaming platform, eCommerce integration, and Weibo Stories (similar to Instagram). In 2020, it had 523 million active users and 224 million daily active users. It can be a good platform for companies targeting a younger consumer base because around 30% of its users are under 20 years old and 48% are 30 to 39 years old.
The main forms of Weibo paid advertising are:
- Fan Headline — Ads that appear at the top of the timelines of your followers and their connections for 24 hours.
- Fan Tunnel — Similar to a Fan Headline, but it targets all of Weibo instead of just your followers and their connections.
- Weibo Search Engine Ads — Ads that appear among the results of specific keyword searches.
- Display Ads — Banner-style ads that can appear in various places, such as the “Explore” section of the app.
Baidu Ads aka Google Ads Counterpart
Baidu is not primarily a social media platform but instead a search engine, similar to Google. It is the second-largest search engine in the world, and it offers 57 different web services aside from its search engines, such as Baidu Maps, Baidu Wangpan (similar to Google Drive or Dropbox), and Baidu Baike (similar to Wikipedia). Over 75% of the Chinese search market uses it, which makes it a great tool for marketing in China. Baidu Paid Advertising is appreciated by marketers and brands looking to boost their traffic:
The following paid advertising options are available:
- Search Ads — Classic PPC ads similar to those on Google Ads.
- Baidu Brand Zone Ads — Similar to Search Ads, only one brand can appear for a specific keyword per search.
- Display Ads — Banner-style ads that are also similar to those on Google Ads.
- In-Feed Ads — China native ads that appear in-feed across Baidu-owned platforms, such as Baidu’s search engine homepage, the Baidu app, and Baidu Tieba (an online forum)
Douyin: Powerful native Ads
TikTok is now one of the most popular social media apps in the world, and it first began as Douyin in 2016. The two apps are similar, with the main differences being their names and the fact that TikTok is hosted separately to circumvent Chinese censorship laws. An app centered around sharing short videos, it currently has over 600 million daily active users. Companies targeting young, tech-savvy consumers can look to Douyin as their choice for online advertising in China — 80% of its users are under 30 years old. In addition, 60% have college degrees and 65% are women.
Their paid advertising options are:
- Open Screen Ads — Ads that “take over” the entire screen when a user launches their app.
- Integrated Feed Ads — Ads that blend in with organic content on users’ feeds.
- Sticker Ads — Ads that let brands create “stickers” and overlays to use when users are editing videos.
- Influencer Marketing — Ads where you pay influencers or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to produce and post sponsored content on their accounts.
Toutiao: same targeting algorithm as Douyin, different audience
Toutiao or Jinri Toutiao is a news-focused mobile platform for content creation, aggregation, and distribution. Its name translates to “Today’s Headlines” and it focuses on using advanced AI algorithms to provide users with news stories or headlines that they will be interested in. With over 120 million daily active users, 85% of which are between 18 to 30 years old and 37.8% of which are self-employed, freelancers, or private company owners, mainly living in Tier 1 or Tier 2 cities, Toutiao can be a good platform for B2B companies.
It offers two types of paid ads:
- Feed Ads — Ads that appear within users’ feeds that allow brands to use images or videos.
- Full Cover Open Ads — Ads that fill up the entire screen, either with a single banner or several smaller images.
Strategies for Effective Paid Advertising in China
Can foreign companies advertise in China? Yes, they can — but to maximize the effectiveness of any online advertising in China, these four key strategies should be upheld.
Focus on Building Strong Brand Recognition and Reputation
Your brand image is a large part of success in China. Whenever you run any Chinese advertising campaigns, think about how you are presenting your brand to potential consumers and how it will be received.
Follow It Up With Customer Service
Chinese consumers value good customer service, so always ensure that your ads have contact information and you are ready to respond to any questions from people that click on your ads.
Collaborate With Chinese KOLs
KOLs are called leaders for a reason — their followers idolize them and trust their opinions. If you want Chinese consumers to trust you, KOL collaborations are the number one way to earn that trust.
Learn About Advertising Regulations
Unlike the West, there are stringent government regulations when it comes to advertising in China. Businesses that do not follow the rules can face hefty fines, ranging from 100,000 RMB (around 15,700 USD) to 1 million RMB (around 157,000 USD). The platforms you are advertising on can also reject your ad or remove parts of its content if it does not follow regulations. Make sure to research the specific regulations that apply to your industry beforehand.
Tips for Avoiding Common Mistakes Made With Paid Advertising in China
- Adapt your content for Chinese audiences instead of assuming your advertising strategies in the West will work for Chinese advertising.
- Invest in translators that are fluent in Chinese — poor localization in your ads will turn customers away.
- Choose only the social media platforms that make sense for your business and update them regularly. Trying to establish a presence on all platforms may lead to some of your accounts being neglected.
- Learn the significance of Chinese cultural symbols and use them respectfully, such as colors, numbers, dates, and more.
Case Studies of Successful Paid Advertising in China by GMA
If you are curious about what the best practices for paid advertising in China are, take a look at some of these case studies:
A luxury real estate company from Dubai wanted to attract more Chinese customers and generate more leads. Through strengthening their branding and e-reputation and the use of Baidu SEO, WeChat and Weibo management, the campaign resulted in:
Double traffic from SEO with 13 main keywords
- 120+ leads in one month on the website contact page
- Good position from off-site and on-site promotion
- 1,100 new followers on Weibo and 400 on WeChat
A French jewelry brand that wanted to promote its products. Through the use of Targeted Ads (for girls interested in fashion), social media campaigns, and KOL promotions, the campaign resulted in:
- 1,266 new followers and 12,238 views on WeChat with four articles
- 2,251 new followers, 171,800 views, 440 shares, 702 comments, 422 likes on Weibo with 12 posts and one event