China Calling: The Definitive Guide to Reaching 724M Mobile Users
When marketers think of the Chinese market, they usually see it as a massive opportunity, and yet – a complete mystery. While many understand that the market is colossal, they often perceive it as an impenetrable fort, which might deter them from further exploring the possibilities it brings. Even savvy marketers who are interested in pursuing this endeavor don’t know where to start.
But know this: while winning China is certainly a challenge, it’s definitely within reach – as long as you know what you’re doing. To help you get there, we have created the industry’s most comprehensive China playbook for mobile marketers, offering a play-by-play depiction of not only why, but how you can successfully win over China with your mobile apps.
So why should you be excited about bringing your business to China? Let’s look at the numbers: There are 724 million mobile users in China, 469 million of them regularly use their phones for payments. According to App Annie, in a little under a year, China has leaped ahead to become the world’s top revenue generator in the iOS App Store with about $1.7 billion earned – more than any other country in the world.
“China has a very large number of mobile internet users, and great potential to dig out the market value. The highly developed mobile terminals, social networks and mobile information platforms make today’s China a huge mobile market that cannot be ignored.” TOUTIAO.
Stats on mobile ad spend in China are just as impressive. The potential for mobile advertisers in China is clearly seen in the research results below, with almost double the investment between 2017 and 2020.
Mobile usage in China is off the charts. So much so that Facebook, which has been banned in the mobile-first country since 2009 is reportedly trying to find a new way in with a stealth app. This is one of many testaments as to the volume of the market, and how important it is to global marketers.
Mobile payments are another great example of how the Chinese have become savvy mobile users. While this is an area still finding its footing in many western markets, Mobile payments are all but mainstream in China, where smartphones are essentially wallets. Mobile payments are so common that users can even use them to pay when shopping at remote street markets and food stands. In 2016, the number of users paying with their mobile phones grew rapidly reaching 469 million at an annual growth rate of 31.2%. The clear leader in this department is WeChat with almost 55 monthly mobile transactions per user.
That being said, penetrating the Chinese market is still a challenge, so expect the unexpected. It’s different than everything you know and have encountered in the past, and there are hurdles along the way for you to be aware of and properly prepare for.
Wrangling the Android Beast
While the iOS marketing flow in China is the same as the rest of the world, it’s completely different on Android. There are over 300 Android app stores, and app developers need to generate different APK files and set up custom events for each store. The good news is that it is relatively easy to modify a single piece of code so you don’t actually have to start writing it from scratch every time. Yes, it’s a hassle, but definitely doable.
Android Measurement & Attribution
There is no holistic solution that addresses the Android market in China. So as a marketer, you have three options:
- Using attribution links – only possible with stores that accept them such as Tencent MyApp and Baidu Mobile Assistant. With these cases the attribution flow will be the same as the one you’re familiar with.
- An out-of-store workaround – for when measurement isn’t accepted or anyone seeks to upload an APK to a web page.
- The old fashioned way – meaning clients will separate data on their own as APKs are already separated between the different app stores. As such, channel data is gathered simply by the channel information in each install.
“Compared to the global market, there is a lack of effective ad measurement in China. With more and more challenges mobile advertisers are facing these days it is impossible to use one party’s data to achieve a loop monitoring. Thus, we need to rely on monitoring tools from trustworthy third parties, using their data as a bridge between advertisers and distribution platforms, to achieve a more accurate monitoring loop and thus improve ad performance. “ Baidu.
The media landscape in China is extremely fragmented. The media giants we know and love such as Facebook, Google and Twitter are either blocked or have voluntarily exited the country. To drive scale in China, marketers must ensure that their measurement provider is integrated with at least 20+ of the top domestic ad networks that cover over 70% of the traffic in China. These include Tencent Social Ads (WeChat / QQ / Myapp), in addition to Toutiao (News Master), Baidu Baitong, Baidu Baiyi, Xiaomi, 360 Dianjing, Momo, Kuaishou, Ipinyou, Domob, Limei, Youmi, etc.
“China’s unique internet model also poses challenges to international brands. In addition to the mobile media platforms found the world over, China has countless unique platforms dominated by domestic companies. For any brand to market its products in the Chinese market, cooperating with local partners and leveraging local infrastructure is a must.” Tencent.
Three things are key to keep in mind when localizing your app – finding a local partner, translation, and monetization. These three elements are heavily intertwined. A good local partner will help you make sure your translations are accurate and optimized to local syntax, terminology, and context, without compromising your global messaging. It will also assist you in choosing the best monetization options for your app, deciding an appropriate payment methods to incorporate, and walk you through potential in-app revenue share models.
Chinese authorities have very strict regulations in place on the mobile market, especially when it comes to gaming apps. Due to rampant gaming piracy in the country, all Android games must be subjected to pre-evaluation in addition to the standard app store review screening.
In order to launch an Android game in China, you’ll need to set up a local entity, fill in required forms, and then load your game onto a smartphone and send it to the authorities. Once your app is deemed appropriate for Chinese citizens, the game will be issued a publication number – which could take up to three months.
As for now these regulations only apply to Android games, but that could change any day. Since this process takes time, it would be wise for iOS developers to get this task rolling as well rather than wait until it is a mandatory step.
The opportunities China offers clearly outweigh the challenges. To learn more, download the complete playbook, offering:
- Extensive research from Chinese sources you won’t find via a standard Google search
- Tips for success by several non-Chinese advertisers who have China and share their insights
- In-depth instructions and specific tips from the biggest players in the market, including Tencent, TOUTIAO, Baidu, NetEase Ads, Xiaomi, 360 Total Security, and MOMO
- Actionable one-pagers summarizing the top media players’ offering, in English