Digital marketing in Asia is booming. The Asia Pacific Digital Factbook notes that in excess of 40% of the world’s internet users are located in the region, with digital ad spending already accounting for 25% of total media ad spending. This is going to increase rapidly - estimated that companies across APAC will more than double spending by 2018, up from $46.59bn in 2014 to $96.40bn.
In China, 85% of consumers now choose a digital channel as the first step for product research, while 86% have browsed in a bricks-and-mortar shop before buying online. This is being enabled by a massive growth in the use of mobile. Mobile is becoming increasingly important across marketing, as campaigns are implemented across all devices rather than exclusively focusing on desktops. This is having a particular impact in Asia Pacific, where the affordability of smartphones is seeing them introduced to areas where they would previously not have been an option. Markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and China have over 70% smartphone penetration. A study from Flurry Analytic further revealed that Asia’s mobile app usage increased by 77% last year, and mobile internet ad spending is to rise to 20.2% of all digital ad spending by 2019 as marketers see the benefits.
Social media platforms in China are vast, even in comparison to those in the United States. They are also unique to the country, and for marketers attempting to entering the region from abroad, they can be difficult to understand. WeChat, for example, has in excess of 355 million users and functions as a hybrid of WhatsApp and Twitter. The format presents a huge opportunity for marketers, but it requires specialist knowledge to utilize effectively.
We sat down with Wilson Dai, Digital Marketing & Communication Director at Ctrip, to discuss the digital marketing scene in China, ahead of his presentation at the Digital Marketing & Strategy Innovation Summit, which takes place in Shanghai this September 6–7.
How did you get started in your career?
I started my career in the luxury traditional retail industry. I worked in Christian Dior in Paris in France - at that time the luxury market was growing very fast, I cherish the memories of that period.
However, after a few years, I felt the traditional retail industry needed to change. It needed fresh digital elements. When I came back to China, the e-commerce market was pretty good - better than the European market. For example, the Ctrip call center is a 24 hours service, and they can solve so many emergency holiday problems without anyone needing to bring cash to shopping malls. Everyday, we see the rise of a new generation of Chinese consumers, who follow the latest apps and like to join with digital engagement.
Ultimately, I felt the retail industry needed the real O2O (online to offline)/New retail business model. I wanted to learn about Internet companies, so I chose to join Ctrip group, because I noticed that Ctrip was doing an International traveler business and helping so many shopping malls and duty free stores to get TA clients, and it has a strong CRM database (it has more than 1 billion downloads, and it has high level, premium customers).
How do you think digital marketing in China differs to the European market?
I think Chinese consumers are more active on the internet and engage more with digital marketing. So many young people like to use apps and play online games through their smartphones. However, digital campaigns still need to focus on quality, rather than just quantity as some do.
The European market is less volatile, and they have a very good political environment for e-commerce organizations. People are also more trusting of the provenance of what they are being sold. For example, I have visited the biggest luxury e-commerce platform company in Europe, YOOX. They can sell one 10,000 euros product through their platform, but in China, normally clients will ask the first question is: it is fake or real? This means digital marketers in China need to be more creative in finding solutions to earn the clients’ trust and loyalty.
How have you seen digital marketing change over the course of your career? What changes (new technologies etc) excite you in the future?
I think the world is changing everyday. New technologies can improve our digital campaigns significantly. AR/VR, for example, is being used for good in new retail digital campaigns, while the blockchain is on the rise too. Big Data and AI are also providing more convenient services to our clients. We have recently developed detailed tracking technology and marketing operation algorithms to help us make the correct digital marketing plan for the ‘thousands of authors’.
Can you tell us a bit about the O2O business model of the ‘New Retail’?
A successful O2O business model allows you to select the TA clients, and lets the TA flow to the target sale points. So you need to use the CRM, and choose the right time to push the H5 pages, and let customer enjoy receiving that information.
So the digital marketing person needs to have a correct timeline, and have a good strategy to let the TA clients go to the retail stores. In each digital engagement, we hope to have a high interaction rate.
How else does Ctrip.com’s approach to digital marketing differ from others? What specific challenges do you face, and how are you overcoming them?
This is a good question. Ctrip is an OTA platform, so we are not selling the cosmetic goods or fashion clothes, we are providing the services. The most popular services are overseas travel services, like flight tickets, hotel reservation, and shopping coupons, and delicious restaurant coupons also.
My primary challenge at work is that our products’ average price is more expensive than the other e-commerce platforms in China, so we need to create so many ideas to augment the clients' experiences. Our digital campaign is MOVING, our customer is moving, they are travelling and they are driving or they are at their overseas destination, so we are doing the more complicated digital campaigns, it is not just a case of asking someone to buy one thing directly when they are at home or at the office.
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