Mobile in the Year of the Horse: unlocking the potential of Chinese market

With the Lunar New Year just behind us, the world’s largest human migration is underway in China. To usher in the Year of the Horse, hundreds of millions of Chinese traveled back to their hometowns and villages from cities where they currently live or work. Over the 40-day period around China’s most important festival, experts have estimated that 3.6 billion passenger trips will be made, truly an unprecedented number. Baidu used location data from the 200 million smartphones on its network to create this amazing, real-time heat map showing where people are traveling.

As we gallop into the Year of the Horse, the growing affluence of the Chinese consumer makes China a market that many brands hope to crack. The challenge in unlocking the potential of Chinese market will be to understand the cultural context and some of the trends that will shape the race will include micro-content, gamification, programmatic buying and location-based targeting.

Micro-Content – More brands continuously competing for a share of consumers’ limited attention through various different media has resulted in the shortening of consumers’ attention span and level of interest in brand messages. More and more, consumers read and catch up on news on the go, and do not have the opportunity to spend large amounts of time interacting with brands or even with each other. The success of Sina Weibo to Snapchat shows how the length of messages has consistently grown shorter. Shorter and snappier content is therefore the way to go.

Gamification of Mobile Ads – Along with micro-content, interactivity is the key to securing and maintaining the attention of the technology-enabled consumer. Branded apps and games that tap on the competitive nature of consumers and incentivize their interactions in some way or the other will get more traction than others. This year will definitely see more marketers using gamification to compel consumers to click on the ads.

Programmatic Buying – The art of buying and trading media on an automatic basis using technology and data, programmatic has gained significant recognition in the sphere of online advertising. Programmatic buying provides mobile marketers the opportunity to optimize media buying on real-time basis and marketers using programmatic will be able to target China’s vastly segmented population better and in a more cost-efficient manner.

Geo-Targeting – With programmatic improving the marketer’s targeting capabilities, real-time location based marketing will further enable marketers to hone in on their target consumers. As location technology improves, marketers will also have the opportunity to get creative with their location-based campaigns, increasing relevancy and therefore consumer engagement.

We saw some great examples of mobile and integrated marketing this Lunar New Year, including WeChat’s Red Envelope App, which allowed users to give their friends and families ‘hongbaos’ using their mobile devices. The app keeps the cultural context of the Lunar New Year hongbao tradition in mind and injects a bit of fun into the process. Users could allocate up to 200 yuan in the virtual red envelopes, and were also given the option to distribute the money at random in the form of a game. The social aspect of the app made it a big hit in China and such campaigns will be the ones to set brands apart from their competitors in China.

Rohit Dadwal
BY Rohit Dadwal ON 18 February 2014
Managing Director, Mobile Marketing Association Asia Pacific Limited