Sandy Ma, media director, Greater China Region, for GSK and a judge of the Festival of Media Asia Pacific Awards 2017, outlines how mobile is re-shaping marketing strategies in the region.
Media and marketing trends in China today
It’s a mobile world! The mobile internet economy in China is certainly one of the most impressive and strongest growing in the world with 72% growth this year. Naturally, these changes are reflected in digital ad spend: in 2016, more than half of the digital spend went to mobile, and for 2018 this share is projected to be at 78%.
This growth is centred on three areas: social, e-commerce and video. With almost a billion people on social platforms, China is probably the most socially active country on earth, registering 21.7 billion social interactions per month on mobile devices. With more than 800m users on WeChat alone, Tencent is the clear leader and generates 65% of its revenue from mobile.
Secondly, e-commerce is dominated by mobile and continues to grow. The overwhelming majority of all e- commerce value is generated via mobile already. For example, on shopping event Double 11, 82% of the $17.7bn sales were from mobile devices. In comparison m-commerce sales in China are four times those in the US and were growing 50% faster in 2016.
A third area of mobile growth comes from mobile video. In 2016, 440 million mobile users were consuming online video primarily on platforms such as iQiyi, Youku and Tencent Video. Some 6.7 billion hours of content are consumed each month on these three platforms alone: that is more than 760,000 years of video content every month.
Mobile as a single platform to access to shopping, entertainment and communication also makes life for users outside of the centers, and all, much easier. That’s why, combining this ease of reach with positive business growth in lower tier cities makes it interesting for us to expand our approach to communication.
The fuel for all this is content. Title sponsorship for ‘The Voice of China’ started with RMB 40m ($5.8m) in 2012 and sold last year for over RMB 400m ($58.3m) to give just one example. Think about all the different content co-operations happening in this market.
In a nutshell, are the two most important areas we are looking into at the moment.
The coming 12 months
From a macro point of view, there are some uncertainties in terms of spending power of the consumer in the light of stabilising growth, uncertain national property and stock markets as well as a challenging global economy, especially when looking to the US.
The mobile evolution will continue leading to a stronger concentration with Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. Accessing and leveraging their respective ecosystems with all their great access points to consumers will be key.
One element to achieve this will be data. We will keep on working on how to access relevant data sources, interpret and use them in a meaningful way even if we have to deal with walled gardens. This includes also how to activate meaningful segments in a programmatic way given all the market specifics. As we are moving into more data driven advertising, we are working on how to orchestrate our communication across all the different touchpoints and optimise properly in this dynamic market.
This leads to the more general point, keeping pace in this fast changing market. How can we make use of the developments like AI, AR or VR, OTT, dynamic creative, Live Video Apps to name just a few areas we are interested in and developing tests for in 2017 to be ready for the future.
Lastly, as mentioned, content marketing is exploding and, in addition to getting the attention of the consumer, there is an intense competition for attractive content.
First of all, there is not the Chinese consumer but different groups with different needs. A consumer in northeastern Jilin will probably face a totally different lifestyle than somebody in southern tier one Guangzhou. But they expect brands and media to keep up with their own specific fast changing and dynamic life.
So while mobile is a must, just pushing products is not enough anymore. You have to deliver great and engaging stories: this can be exciting content, new products or special promotions and products, especially for e-commerce and relevant to different user groups.
“WeChat is a very important social channel, as consumers engage directly with your brand”
One related and unique aspect is that the consumer is moving to an app world, with WeChat recently launching mini-programmes for all different aspects of life, while keeping people longer in the WeChat app itself. This has an impact how people are paying attention to information and how content is being consumed.
Together with Twitter-style Weibo, WeChat is a very important social channel, as consumers engage directly with your brand, seeking for additional information also from peers and more often influencers. People are following these key opinion leaders to know what’s going on, which products or topics are hot at the moment.
This is, again, a very fast, direct and dynamic approach of engagement of consumers with content and also with brands.
How is GSK changing its own media strategy
It starts actually with our mindset. We are more flexible, more open to new approaches where we test, learn and apply in a very dynamic way. In order to understand our consumer and how to engage better we will continue to get more data-driven, more mobile, more sales-oriented, more social and more content producing, and all this across all devices which of course leads to increasing share of spend for digital and content related initiatives.
With new screen opportunities emerging, we will definitely continue to concentrate and optimise on how we plan and invest to best reach our consumers. The reason why cross-screen interactions are so critical is that it impacts all key brand metrics: multi-screen engagement has an impact on brand awareness (+34%), purchase intent (+56%) and recommendation (+54%) versus engaging on only one screen.
Cross-screen programmatic will allow us to minimise wastage as we will have a much better command over the number of contacts a single customer will have with our brands. Yet, more importantly, we can create seamless interactions that will increase the effectiveness of our communication.
When we are able to literally follow single customers as they move from screen to screen we can create much more elaborate and engaging storylines. We are already investing more in content because we see the positive effects, for example through our cooperation with Bactroban Amazing Race China across all screens delivered outstanding results on all key metrics.
For facilitating all the areas mentioned, we will increase our effort with cooperation, so we will continue to work closely with market partners like Alibaba to leverage their full ecosystem and understand the consumer in a better way.