China’s digital landscape is constantly evolving for brands, and 2017 featured new developments across China’s top social media platforms, mobile apps, and e-tailers. After tracking brands’ digital intelligence across sectors, L2’s APAC research team has compiled five key trends brands should be following in China for 2018.

Short Video = Social Reach

With short video viewers predicted to total 353 million in 2018, brands have discovered that these platforms are key for reaching China’s social media users. Thanks to its connection with Weibo, short video platform Miaopai has become a magnet for branded content as brands de-prioritize official Youku accounts. Brands’ Weibo posts with video earn three times more engagement, according to L2’s China: Online Video Insight report.


Omnichannel

As China’s growing e-commerce sales cut into those of brick-and-mortar stores, brands will continue to connect the in-store shopping experience with their WeChat accounts, sites, mobile payments, social channels, and other mobile apps. E-tailers like Alibaba and JD.com led the push toward omnichannel as they ramped up offline investments over the past year. Alibaba’s “New Retail” omnichannel initiative announced earlier this year was on full display during this year’s Singles’ Day e-commerce festival.

Rival Ecosystems Battle for Influence

China’s top two e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com continued to develop their tech industry power alliances this year, further cementing rival ecosystems allowing brands to connect social and sales channels. After upping its stake in Weibo in 2016, Alibaba has been making it easier for brands to use the social platform to drive traffic to its e-commerce sites, while JD.com’s partnership with WeChat was further developed by the JD-Tencent Retail Marketing Solution data-sharing program launched in October.


E-Commerce Disruption

It’s not just JD.com cashing in on the power of WeChat as group-buying platform Pinduoduo’s gamified shopping app has swept the platform. Pinduoduo’s social model encourages friends to buy together for discounts, and now takes up a significant chunk of some brands’ online sales. For example, 10% of all online sales of Blue Moon laundry detergent are now through the platform, with sales expected to continue expanding.

E-Tailers Go High-End

To protect themselves from the gray market and reach a vast user base, premium and luxury brands warmed up to Tmall this year after it unveiled its new Luxury Pavilion platform and cracked down on the gray market. LVMH launched several brands on Tmall, including watchmaker Tag Heuer and beauty brand Fresh, while Loewe held a flash sale for the Qixi Festival. JD.com is forging ahead with its own luxury ambitions after partnering with Farfetch and launching its own luxury platform, setting the stage for a continued competition over high-end brands in the coming year.

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