If you want to prepare an effective marketing plan for your business in China for 2019, you should first look at the new marketing trends to see where the odds are. As online marketers, of course, we always want to respond to the latest developments. Thus, we see that measurable performance is the starting point for marketing strategies, which has an impact on the target group’s approach.

Personalization is the most important new marketing trend, you won’t be surprised. But have you heard of location-based marketing, account-based marketing, or ephemeral marketing? We have put the 7 most important online marketing trends for you on a list. Without any further ado, let’s begin.

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1. Most important new marketing trend, personalization & customization

In 2018, we see one overarching new marketing trend: Everything on the online marketing level revolves around personalization. Because the social media user is increasingly overwhelmed by a tsunami of content, custom-made marketing becomes an increasingly prominent role. Due to an excess of incentives, the consumer’s tension is shrinking, but it grows its blind spot for generic content, in both form and message. So: how can you attract and hold the attention of your target group?

Millennials, the largest target group you can reach on social media in China, are known to be open to relevant campaigns: personalized, tailored content that they are really interested in. Because they are inadmissible to traditional forms of advertising, it is a challenge to create a personalized online experience and become so relevant.

This involves a translation of data into content. The more it is known about the recipient, the more relevant and thus more effective your message is. It is not only millennials who want a personal approach. Personalizing content and then interacting with the target audience, should be your top priority in 2018.

2. Mini-Video & live-streaming

A development that we have already noticed in recent years, and especially in China, is the advance of video and live streaming. Video content is the fastest-growing ad format. From next year onwards, it will be the mainstream marketing tool, included in the content plans of brands and companies, and supported by the social media culture of ‘ mobile-first ‘. Our expectation for 2019 is that 80% of the social media content will consist of video.

3. Ephemeral Marketing

If there is one app on the basis of ephemeral marketing, then that is Snapchat and its Chinese counterpart Douyin. Ephemeral content stands for content that disappears after it is viewed (or after up to 24 hours) and owes its popularity to generation Z (born after 1995). Ephemeral content is not intrusive but strengthens the sense of exclusivity, fast action, and fear of missing out (FOMO). It also fits perfectly within the tendency of authentic brand content.

Do not push, but trigger the curiosity with vanishing content. It makes ephemeral marketing an extremely engaging new form of marketing. In addition, we notice that ephemeral content is also becoming more and more conversion-oriented.  Ephemeral marketing is a ‘ keeper ‘ in 2018.

4. Location based Marketing (LBM)

Know where your target group is. In 2019 we take this literally, in fact, the trend of location-based marketing (LBM) continues next year and will further narrow the gap between on-and-offline. Location-based marketing uses the locations of your target group to make contact at a time and place relevant to them. The form of this is very different: from sending push messages with coupons as soon as a consumer joins the store to showing WeChat ads during events and concerts.

  • Offline vs online

But it doesn’t stay online. Location-based marketing offers opportunities to strike a bridge between the online and offline world. Preferably as personalized as possible and cross-device: from billboards to smartphones. Are you at the Shanghai Railway station and missed the train? The coffee shop on the corner allows you, calculated at that time, to know via a WeChat ad that there is a discount code for cappuccinos today.

The Dutch company ING already experimented with this concept with advertisements on digital billboards in different cities. The message on these signs was identical to the advertisement that was shown on the user’s mobile screen, which was at that time nearby.

  • What about privacy?

Since LBM is used with Wi-Fi and GPS signals to locate the user, this marketing method becomes a sensitive point that we do not want to ignore: privacy. Users should give apps permission to use their location but are not always aware of the scope of the privileges. It is therefore essential to find the balance with LBM. A balance between the perfect form of custom-made marketing and a tool that threatens to scare your target audience with too personalized content.

5. China KOL – Key Opinion Leaders

If a brand message does not succeed, it may have several causes. One of them is the originality and authenticity of the content. Many marketers, for example, notice that the target group is increasingly affected by fake company values. In 2018, there is, therefore, a definitive turnaround: All online marketing expressions must be authentic. A realistic representation of reality will be rewarded with the user’s appreciation.

The success of influencer marketing cannot be separated from this development. But the deployment of influencers is nothing new, right? Nevertheless, 2018 is described as the year of the rise of influence. This has everything to do with a shift in brand campaigns, where the emphasis on relevance and authenticity has come to lie. Where brands competed for the largest key opinion leaders (KOL) until recently, the ball is now in the court of the micro KOL. An influencer with millions of followers gives no guarantee. The use of a micro KOL with less, but for your brand, relevant followers, is much more effective, on the other hand.

It is expected that brands and influencers in 2018 are more likely to have a long-term relationship. This means that there is no longer the search for influencers per campaign, but that a brand will collaborate with two or three influencers, who are engaged for a longer period of time. These influencers are loyal to the brand and serve as an extension of their own content creation team. With a sophisticated, relevant strategy, you can make the connection between influencer and target group work to your advantage. A clever marketer, therefore, makes a budget free for influencer marketing next year.

6. Direct interaction with your customer

Contact between company and consumer should be quicker, more direct, and more accessible. Direct chat contact is therefore also next year one of the trends that will develop further. The most obvious platform is WeChat, with over a massive 900 million users daily. And by far the most popular social media app in China. So it is not surprising that more and more companies are considering using WeChat, for example, community management or other forms of communication with customers. After all, the customer is online anytime, anywhere and expects the same from the company of whom the customer has purchased products or services.

  • Chat Bots

The direct communication style of social media like WeChat also creates high expectations: faster response times and the possibility to really enter the conversation with a company. With chatbots, we see a direct and fast, but automated alternative. Chatbot software simulates human conversation and monitors sustainable customer relationships. Although an automatic reaction is generated, the bot remains personal, polite, and always available. Chatbots are attracted to companies with large amounts of customers because one-to-one interaction remains possible.

7. Account based Marketing

In 2017, we saw that B2B companies are increasingly being forced to choose a data-driven approach. In this way, they gathered valuable knowledge and insights into the behavior of the target audience. The meticulous and creative linking of data to content has made the latter more relevant and more valuable to the recipient. In 2018, therefore, account-based marketing (ABM) is an excellent opportunity to transform personalization on the internet into truly relevant leads. This requires close cooperation between the sales and marketing departments within your company.

In account-based marketing, you identify your potential customers or clients according to their background in specific industries or companies. This identification allows you to customize and adjust all your online campaigns to the individual level. For example, easily optimize your website for potential customers. This way you make sure that when your prospect is on your website, the site adapts directly to this particular user. That is a custom-made website header, a personalized introduction and conclusion, and a title or headline specified on this visitor’s branch. Including the recognizable logo of course.

Result? A lower bounce ratio on your website and more valuable leads. A relevant site provides value for the user and more conversion for you as a marketer. With this form of marketing, you can increase your online returns considerably.

Know exactly who you want to target

However, personalizing online content also requires extensive target audience research. For B2B also applies: the better you know the target group, the more specific you can reach them. Do you know exactly who you want to target? Then account-based marketing becomes really interesting.

Tight integration of account-based marketing gives a lot of possibilities. Don’t just limit personalization to your homepage, but pull it through to perfectly targeted campaigns through all your channels. From social media content to fully personalized landing pages, from relevant email traffic to personal discount actions. This way you are relevant at every stage of the customer’s journey or potential lead. Keep in mind, too many, too wide, or unspecified target groups make ABM aimless rather than purposeful.

China Marketing Trends: Let’s wrap up

Many challenges in 2018, but also many new opportunities! What’s the keyword? Personalization. To shake off the competition and generate more range and conversion for your brand, you will need to know what your target group is moving to. Therefore, keep the trends for 2018 closely monitored, but with a critical look. Not every brand needs to follow any trend. Be authentic, stay close to your company’s core values and work on the trends that make your brand stronger.

Need help to take your business abroad? Gentlemen Marketing Agency is a specialist in marketing to China. Feel free to contact us.

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One Comment

  1. Hi there

    I will be in China later this year and in the process of researching companies to help me start my online english teaching platform.

    Could you kindly assist me and give me more information regarding this please.

    Thank you in advance.

    Yours sincerely


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