The Chinese New Year starts in just over a week and it takes over every aspect of life in China, but also... our newsletter :-). We’ll discuss how it’s celebrated by Chinese consumers, what events Chinese platforms roll out for the occasion, and, of course, what’s trending.
As for other topics, Tait just published a guide to a shopping-recommendation platform on the blog, and we also talk about search engines in China - what happened to Bing, and why “Baidu is dead”?
Have you heard of Shenme Zhide Mai (什么值得买)? It basically translates to “What’s Worth Buying?” It’s a platform that helps people find good deals on both physical and digital products in China, and is mostly used by… men! Go to our blog post to get a better understanding of how it works.
Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, gets temporarily blocked in China. The search engine is not too popular among Chinese users - it occupied approx. 2% of China’s search engine market in 2018. However, it’s one of the last survivors among major foreign Internet companies within the Great Firewall of China. On January 23 it was temporarily blocked in China making it seem like Russian Yandex was the only one left standing… but now, Bing is back! Not that it makes much of a difference... except for me as I still use it when I can’t access a VPN. Users saying Bing’s a “lame search engine,” apparently have never tried searching English terms on Baidu. - Read more (English)
“As a search engine, Baidu is dead.” - claims an ex-journalist on WeChat (in Chinese). The post brought netizens’ attention to the fact that most of the organic results on Baidu refer to Baidu’s own platforms, such as Baijia. “Baidu.com is no longer the place where you search for online content in Chinese, but an in-site search of its own content,” Fang said in his post. Baidu claims that only 10% of the organic results direct to its own content - but the results from Baijia are of low quality and include fake news. - Read more (English/Chinese)
Baidu’s strategy should not surprise anyone as the recent trend shows a strong segmentation of the Chinese Internet. Weibo, Douyin, WeChat, Taobao - all the major platforms started creating their own closed competitor-excluding ecosystems. Baidu is no different - it heavily promotes its own content in order to monetize it. The question is if that’s what users expect from a search engine? The most popular comments (with thousands of “likes”) say “if Google doesn’t come back to China, Chinese netizens will go looking for it.” Or: “Baidu is only alive as long as Google is banned.” Or: “All I get from Baidu are ads.”
When discussed in our office, Phoebe summed it up: “Everyone knows what Baidu does, and we still use it. It’s just the headline of that post was extremely catchy so it got so popular.” However, Baidu has indeed lost significant market share to other competitors over the last few years. Read our post on popular search engines in China.
Peppa Pig goes viral as China prepares for the year of pig. Peppa Pig has been extremely popular in China since 2016- and not only among children. She has also become a symbol of some subcultures. However, at some point in the last year, the government tried to crack down on this movement, banning Peppa from social platforms in China and rolling out its own animated pig.
However, Alibaba will release a Chinese New Year-themed Peppa Pig movie in February, and its promo video (not a movie trailer!) is something EVERYONE is talking about. It’s a short movie itself, is more targeted towards parents than children, and is a way of explaining how Peppa belongs to Chinese culture. And is also heart-warming. See the video here and a full coverage here (video in English).
Of course, Chinese e-commerce platforms are now blown with short movie-related products proving that in China, you can sell everything if you catch an opportunity… - Read more (English)
Douyin as the official social media platform for CCTV Spring Festival Gala. Douyin will roll out new challenges and activities, stickers, trending topics, and other features to boost “national-level” social interaction for the Gala. It also encourages people to record and share the highlights of their family reunions and show off Spring Festival symbols, such as red couplets and red envelopes. The platform’s overseas app, Tik Tok, will simultaneously be promoting the videos outside of China broadcasting the highlights of the celebration to its overseas users. - Read more (Chinese)
If it doesn’t indicate how important short videos have become in China, then I don’t know what else could ;-) Here’s our blog post on Douyin and other short video apps.
Baidu gives away 1-billion CNY worth of red envelopes for Chinese New Year. The Internet giant suddenly replaced Tencent who’ve cooperated with the CCTV Spring Festival Gala since 2015. The Gala was watched on Chinese New Year’s Eve in 2018 by over 1.1 billion people. The red envelope hunt will start on Jan 28 and will peak on New Year’s Eve. People watching the Gala and following instructions given by the host will have to use one of the apps in Baidu’s ecosystem to win a prize. It’s a huge competition for Alibaba’s red envelope hunting that started last week. - Read More (Chinese)
So, what about Tencent then? They, obviously, rolled out their own events. QQ’s Chinese New Year event relies on social connections. The main event is all about in-app mini-games, and if you win a red envelope and immediately share it with a friend - you can unlock cash prizes and “discount treasure boxes”. They also invited eight celebrities to give away even more red envelopes. That’s a hell of a way to make sure everyone hears about your event! - Read more (Chinese)
Chinese New Year is a great opportunity for platforms to increase user numbers - not too many are willing to waste a chance of winning a red envelope! Brands can also benefit, participating in the giveaways or rolling out their own events. Chinese New Year is a special time of the year, and consumers do expect some kind of a gift from brands. Similar to Christmas for westerners, right?
The biggest annual migration of modern humans has just started. In the period between January 21 and March 1, it is estimated that the number of people travelling for Chinese New Year will reach almost 3 billion in 2019. The most popular means of travel are cars (2.46 billion) and trains (413 million), however flights (73 million) noted a 12% increase compared to the previous year. - Read more (Chinese)
One reason is that Chinese society gets wealthier, but truth to be told, there’s also another major reason. Although fast trains are probably the most convenient ways to travel in China, getting a train ticket for the time of Chinese New Year is basically impossible. Train tickets are usually sold out the second they’re available. So, for example, I chose to travel home by airplane solely because that was the only way to get home at all, unless I want to walk... Which doesn’t make me too happy as the airplane ticket prices skyrocket before and after the holiday.
New year, new me, new plans. Have you heard it before? According to the report, 98% people did not fulfill their top (Lunar) 2018’s resolution of spending more time with their family, 73.6% of city residents did not talk to their parents more than twice a month. Over 60% of the city residents only spend time with their parents in Chinese New Year.
Other resolutions that got abandoned are travelling more and saving more money. The top resolution for 2019 is to buy a new car, according to 97% of the respondents.
As for the plans for 2019’s Chinese New Year celebration, most people plan to spend the week with their families. However, it’s not the same as it was when I was a kid. The holiday lost its special atmosphere of visiting neighbors, eating special seasonal treats not available otherwise, etc. Now everyone can attain these things year round, people choose to travel instead of reuniting with their families, and it’s often impossible to visit the whole family scattered across China. - Read More (Chinese)
“Medicinal” or “pharmaceutical” cosmetics are now banned from e-commerce platforms. According to the latest State Drug Administration’s notice, cosmetics promoted as drugs, medicinal, pharmaceutical are now illegal. The related keywords have already been banned from Xiaohongshu and Taobao. Popular brands such as Avène and La Roche-Posay have already started modifying their branding, and now put more emphasis on “skincare” and “skin protection”, avoiding the banned areas. - Read more (Chinese)
International brands choose selling direct to Chinese customer over building a network of retailers. Thanks to Chinese e-commerce platforms that push overseas, international brands can now sell directly to customers in China, instead of establishing joint-ventures or cooperation with local retailers. The perks of working with e-commerce giant is more accurate data collection and using the platform’s advertising system. It’s also easier to spread the word online when you can link your Taobao or WeChat store. - Read more (English)