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Should Global Brands Invest Efforts in Chinese Short Video Apps?

Maria Krisette Capati, Author

08 August 2019

Did you know that Chinese users spend more than an hour watching 15-sec videos?

So, just imagine a typical urbanite working in a megacity spending more than an hour train ride from the apartment to office. How many videos do you think the urbanite has watched for the entire commute?

Watching these videos can be addictive. For example, Douyin’s infinite scroll and auto-play of videos make you binge-watch unconsciously.

READ MORE >> 5 Chinese Video Platforms to Explore for Your Digital Marketing Efforts

In China, there are a ton of choices when it comes to short video apps. They come in different features. They also cater to a variety of audiences. But the two most popular short video apps in China as of this writing is Douyin and Kuaishou.

Short video apps as a way to connect and express

Although each one has its own unique set of user-base, they both share one thing in common. It offers users the platform to express themselves aside from building followers and connecting with others.

The question now is: should global brands invest efforts in Chinese short video apps? Luxury brands like Christian Dior and Michael Kors are early adopters of this trend.

With Douyin having mostly female users and located in top tier cities, there are opportunities on how to sell and promote to them. Given that Douyin also has its sets of e-commerce features like mini-programs for brands and sellers to promote products and services.

Here’s an overview of what Douyin and Kuaishou users

Douyin Kuaishou
Daily Active Users 250 million users 120 million users
Monthly Active Users 500 million MAU 400 million MAU
Age of User Base 18-30 years old; mostly female 18-30 years old
Location of User-Based Mostly from top tier cities Mostly from smaller and third-tier cities and rural areas

(The data are based from 2018-2019 aggregated reports from CNNIC and other sources).

How to engage with young Chinese users with short video apps

Christian Dior, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton and Channel are some of the global luxury brands that use Douyin to engage and generate sales via short video apps.

Douyin is popular among young Chinese social media users. Although the app was criticized for its mass-facing content that may affect brands’ images, still it’s a platform unlikely to be overlooked these days.

Kuaishou, on the other hand, is popular among young people living in developing cities or rural areas. Once you browse the feed, you’d know how different the content is from Douyin. Think of the famous adage, “anything under the sun”, and that’s what you get. Most of the videos feature the day-to-day lives of locals.

It’s not the ideal place for luxury brands to build engagement, though. But there are still other ways to do it with such a segmented market.

But overall, here are the things you can do with these short video apps.

  1. Create your own official account and start a campaign – Michael Kors is one of the first early adopters of Douyin. After one week of its launch, has garnered 30,000 users spontaneously shared the videos they created related to the brand and resulted in 200 million videos.
  2. Be creative with stickers and GIFs and photos – Douyin launched its branded Michael Kors stickers specifically made for the brand’s products. Open screen advertisements, discovery pages, search boxes and station message added some spice to the posts that direct them to the Michael Kors account.
  3. Use KOLs to spread the messages – Most brands often leverage on Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs since they have a huge number of followers. This will help them spread the message or promote products or services. Michael Kors, for example, worked with influencers like Wu Jiaxi, Jie Ge, and Ling Yinyu to ensure they get exposure to multiple channels.
  4. Relevant memes and comic videos – With Kuaishou, much of the content you’ll see there are memes and comic videos. Most of the content and videos are humorous and relatable to young Chinese users. Users that have huge following or community are publishing content about food, eating, shopping, funny videos, tutorials and among others.

How effective are these short videos for conversion and sales?

should we use short video apps in china

So far, the most popular social media apps are WeChat, Sina Weibo, and QQ. While each social media app has specific features that help marketers target their audience, short video apps seem to be on the other side of the spectrum. It means the effectiveness of these platforms is still yet to be proven at this time.

Practitioners and marketers are also divided when it comes to conversion and sales.

How come? Some brands are cautious like Louis Vuitton when it launched a two-day campaign on Douyin in December 2018. The supposed target users viewed the ad in their Douyin feeds and were able to click through the link that led them to the sales page of the luxury brand. According to Jiemian, a Chinese media outlet, the click-through rate was higher than the industry average.

Although there’s no doubt that short video apps can help in driving traffic to the main page or sales page, including gaining more brand exposure, the question is the platform itself can convert those clicks into sales.

Here’s the hard truth. According to Kantar WorldPanel, “Given the premium and exclusive nature of goods, the sales-conversation rate generating from marketing on Douyin will be relatively low. In other words, there will be more people viewing the content but [far fewer] people purchasing products.”

It means that not all Douyin users can afford luxury goods. Douyin’srecent e-commerce features integration may also disrupt e-commerce and social media activities, giving brands more opportunities to sell and promote their merchandise.

But for now, short video apps are useful for marketing and brand awareness. With a solid, localized marketing strategy coupled with creative content and videos, the possibility for engagement and exposure will always remain.

Should you invest efforts in short video apps? For engagement and brand awareness, you can put some efforts, but better explore other options if you want to convert clicks to sales in your pipeline.

In the end, WeChat, QQ, and Sina Weibo are still irreplaceable.

What do you think of Douyin and Kuaishou? Do you think they will add value to your marketing efforts?

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china market writer

Maria Krisette Capati

Krisette or "Sette" for short is a professional writer and copywriter who loves to cover disruptive technologies, digital trends in China, and a myriad of geeky and innovative topics. She's the Content Strategist at AZ-Loc and currently manages the English website and in-charge of the social media channels. She has been writing about China markets, business, and startups since 2012. She has gained her expertise as a China internet specialist and is fascinated by its business ethics, language, and culture. She's a major of Business Management and Entrepreneurship and an advocate of faith-based non-profit organizations. When she's not writing or dabbling with Sophie and the team, she satiates her wanderlust as a digital nomad. 

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