In 2021, Xiaohonshu has become a focal point for digital marketing campaigns of lifestyle brands in China. With approximately 100 million monthly active users, of which just under half are 18-24 and over 70% being born after the 90s, this booming Chinese platform is a crucial for reaching the next generation of China’s consumers.
What is Xiaohongshu?
Translated from the Chinese “Xiaohongshu” the term means “Little Red Book”. The English app is also called “RED”. “Xiaohongshu” is an app created in 2013 by Miranda Cui Fan and Charlene Mao Wenchao. It was originally intended for users to post reviews of products and services purchased abroad. It was made at a time when travel was usually made by only wealthy people. The app formed a community of residents of first and second tier cities.
In 2021, the app boasts over 300 million users, including over 100 million monthly active users. The app spans 200 countries and regions, providing its customers with an efficient service to deliver the best products from around the world.
Is Xiaohongshu Good for Foreign Brands?
For foreign brands entering China, Xiaohongshu’s recent dominance of the social recommendation market niche means it’s important to build a strong presence on the platform, especially if your brand plans on reaching younger audiences.
Being a social recommendation platform, Xiaohongshu is extremely suited to KOL marketing. Major international brands such as Louis Vuitton, L’Oréal and Haagen-Dazs have already been working with Xiaohongshu KOLs to stake out their brand presence on the platform.
Are there any other platforms good for foreign brands? Of course! Check best Chinese social media in 2021 for your next marketing campaign!
What is Xiaohongshu’s Place in the Chinese Cross-Border E-commerce Market?
Xiaohongshu’s share of the cross-border e-commerce market has skyrocketed to 25.9% in 2021 from 6% just two years ago.
As a social recommendation platform with e-commerce features, Xiaohongshu is more similar to Douyin than it is to its other cross-border e-commerce competition such as Kaola and VIP.com. As such, its influence in the cross-border e-commerce market goes well beyond the market share of goods sold.
In the cross-border e-commerce market, Xiaohongshu has positioned itself as the go-to review website. KOL and KOC (key opinion consumers) on the platform review products and users engage with their posts. It’s in this metric we see Xiaohongshu’s impressive reach – 8 billion post impressions per day.
Not only is it popular amongst brands and consumers, it is also backed by a variety of big names and institutions. In June of 2018, Xiaohongshu completed a US $300 million funding led by digital Chinese giants Tencent and Alibaba, with major firms such as GGV Capital, ZhenFund, Tiantu Capital, K11 Adrian Cheng, and Genesis Capital participating. In 2020, the platform launched talks to raise a further US $400 million to $500 million in new funds.
What Is the Userbase of Xiaohongshu Like?
Xiaohongshu’s userbase is overwhelmingly female, white-collar, and young. A staggering 87% of users on Xiaohongshu are female and 61% are under the age of 30. In addition, close to 40% of the userbase hails from China’s tier-one cities.
This demographic, with its high levels of disposable income and cultural openness, makes Xiaohongshu a prime platform for attracting young and wealthy customers.
What Industries are Most Suited for Xiaohongshu?
While the userbase’s interests vary widely, due to the demographics, the most popular content on Xiaohongshu predominantly caters to the interests of the demographic segment mentioned above.
According to a 2021 report from qian-gua.com, the most active interest categories for Xiaohongshu users are makeup (6%), skincare (6%), and fashion (5%). The next seven most popular categories are meals (4%), weight loss (3%), hairstyling (2%), photography and videography (2%), fitness (2%), personal hygiene (2%), and restaurants (2%).
Therefore, brands operating in beauty, healthcare, fashion, lifestyle, food and beverage, sports, hospitality, and parenting sectors the most suited for Xiaohongshu. This is not to say other sectors should not consider marketing on Xiaohongshu – the “other” category makes up the remaining 66% of interests.
How does Xiaohongshu Work?
Xiaohongshu is a visually-oriented social recommendation platform, with picture and video posts, which are dubbed “notes”. Its homepage layout is visually similar to Pinterest, with an infinite scroll of double-columned tiled visual notes. Pages for accounts are laid out similar to Instagram, with basic account statistics, a follow button, and a self-description.
The platform itself has four main functions
Xiaohongshu’s e-commerce functionality can be accessed in app via the shop feature. It has similar functionality and layout to its competitors Taobao and JD.com, supporting payments via both Alipay and WeChat. Livestreaming is an important component of its e-commerce feature, with recommended product livestreams on the homepage.
Browsing and Searching
The homepage of Xiaohongshu provides three tabs for browsing for content, “follow” for your network’s content and “explore” for nearby or recommended content. The search function allows for searching by keyword and hashtag, with results split into content and products.
Socialization and Interaction
As a Chinese counterpart to Instagram and Pinterest, Xiaohongshu’s socialization and interaction features are similarly oriented towards liking, sharing, tagging, and messaging. The app includes story features similar to Instagram and allows for pinned posts for accounts. Verified brands can also promote their brands and engage with customers through their official accounts and hashtag campaigns.
A Product Discovery and Recommendation Search Engine
In public interviews, Xiaohongshu representatives have stressed that it is a social recommendation platform first and foremost, not just an e-commerce platform.
As a social recommendation and product discovery platform, the app is driven by a strong product recommendation search engine. During 2019’s Double 11, activity on Xiaohongshu skyrocketed as it became the top search engine tool for consumers looking for products reviews and recommendations.
To develop an SEO campaign that takes advantage of Xiaohongshu’s recommendation engine, brands need to understand why users flock to the Xiaohongshu platform – to make rational and informed decisions when buying products. Content that succeeds on the platform is high in both utility and entertainment.
In many ways, Xiaohongshu can be compared to Pinterest. Users search for key terms or specific items, and when they engage with posts they like, the platform’s algorithm will immediately customize the feed to show similar posts. The bottom of every post also shows further recommended similar posts.
To appeal to on-page SEO algorithms for Xiaohongshu, you should formulate one to three keywords or a keyword phrase and have them appear in the title and first paragraph of your post. Just like the SEO of traditional search engines, long-tail key words can help companies occupy their niche in the market.
Off-page, the Xiaohongshu SEO algorithms take into account shares, collects, likes, views, and especially comments. Ensuring high engagement within the first 24 hours of your post is the key to an effective SEO campaign on the platform.
Why is Xiaohongshu the Most Trusted Platform in the Chinese Digital Ecosystem?
In the last few years, Xiaohongshu has successfully carved out its own niche in the highly competitive environment of the Chinese digital ecosystem. By appealing to a high income, high education demographic, Xiaohongshu has been able to attract a userbase that provides high value user generated content.
As a product review platform, it has created an environment encouraging detailed and reliable reviews of services and products. In addition, with its mature social networking features, users are able to spend time on there even if they’re not looking for specific products or services to buy, as the platform contains a wide range of interest-based educational content as well.
Due to its success as a review platform, Xiaohongshu has grown into a general entertainment app combining social media and ecommerce. With a highly active userbase due to the platform’s plethora of engaging features and strong algorithm for up-to-date content, Xiaohongshu has become the go-to app for many of China’s urban middle-class youth.
How Do You Register a Store on Xiaohongshu?
Xiaohongshu first set up e-commerce functionality on its platform in 2014, focused on connecting its platform’s userbase to retailers from around the world as a cross-border e-commerce platform. Since then, it has fully integrated e-commerce functionality with the platform’s various social media and search functions.
To take advantage of Xiaohongshu’s native e-commerce capabilities, you’ll need to register your store on the platform first. The prerequisite to registration is having opened an official account for your brand on Xiaohongshu.
Step 1: Opening an Official Account on Xiaohonshu
To open an official account head to Xiaohongshu’s official account application page.
The main documents required for opening an account on Xiaohongshu are
- Business registration papers
- Certificate of incorporation
- Customs registration form
In addition, you’ll need to provide the following supporting documents
- Company information
- For businesses registered outside of China: You must download the authorization letter from Xiaohongshu. Once you have filled out the form with basic information regarding the company name, holder’s name, and company address, you must scan it and upload it. Once that is complete, you will be able to download the other documents, which must be filled out in Chinese
- For businesses registered inside China: You must download the commitment letter, fill it out, scan it, and upload it.
- Logistics commitment letter
- Store operation authorization letter
- Brand information
- Application form
- Authorization form
- Trademark authorization
While there are many documents listed above, many are provided by the Xiaohongshu platform. Note that the registration process is only offered in Chinese.
Once you have submitted your documents, Xiaohongshu will process and audit the documents before providing a contract for you to sign.
Types of accounts you can register on Xiaohongshu:
When you register for an official account, you will be asked to select the type of account you wish to open: Enterprise Account, Advertising Account, Merchant Account, and KOL account.
Enterprise Account on Xiaohongshu
An Enterprise account allows for companies to establish their official brand presence on Xiaohongshu, with their account displaying a blue checkmark indicating an enterprise account. Other privileges include being able to enter the Brand Cooperation platform on Xiaohongshu, gaining extra functions and tools to interact with fans, and gaining access to multidimensional data reports and analytics.
How to submit an enterprise account on Xiaohongshu
You will need a Chinese mobile phone number. Account name shall be based on trademark, website, or software application.
- Trademark registration certificate or ICP record screenshot, or computer software copyright registration certificate.
- For Chinese Enterprises: Coloured Scan of Business license.
- For Overseas Enterprises: the original color scan of the valid business registration document, which shall be stamped with the company’s (colored) official seal or signed by the company’s person in charge and indicate the position in signature.
- For all: Letter of authorisation filled out account to the provided draft and sealed with company seal.
- Other information: Other documents might be needed according to specific industry qualification requirements.
Application validation shall take 3 business days.
Advertising Account on Xiaohongshu
An Advertising Account is a Brand Station account with an additional function for running ads. Advertising accounts are charged a minimum non-refundable capital of 20,000RMB, with ad payments being deducted from this account.
How to submit an ad account on Xiaohongshu
Log in to business.xiaohongshu.com, enter “advertising qualification certification” in “qualification management”, and submit relevant qualifications for review. After the approval, the right of advertising can be obtained.
This function is available for cross-border account, but you might need to contact customer service.
Advertiser can be registered as a brand itself or a brand representative/agent.
This process takes up to 5 business days.
Merchant Account on Xiaohongshu
A Merchant account allows brands to start selling products and services with Xiaohongshu’s native e-commerce functionality. In 2020, Xiaohongshu has loosened restrictions to opening a merchant account, which previously only were open to companies with a registered trademark. Today, as long as a company has a valid business license, either in China or abroad, the platform will allow them to open a merchant account.
How to submit a merchant account on Xiaohongshu
Brands can create a merchant’s account directly or via an agency. One can start by registering using an email account via this link.
KOL Account on Xiaohongshu
A KOL (influencer) account on Xiaohongshu can be identified by a red check. On a KOL account profile, the red check will be followed by the occupation of the account owner. For example, Fan Bingbing’s account lists her as an actress while lipstick KOL Austin, aka 口红一哥, has makeup blogger listed next to his name.
Step 2: Opening an Online Store on Xiaohongshu
Now that you’ve successfully registered for an account, you can begin the process of opening your online store on Xiaohongshu.
Before you open your online store, you need to choose the type of business model that your company will run on the platform.
There are two options:
Xiaohongshu supports your products and buys them in advance
The company creates its own store
Below we list the steps leading to the opening of your store on Xiaohongshu
- Sign up for Xiaohongshu via company email.
- Fill in registration information, including:
- Basic information about the company (responsible person, trading model, headquarters address)
- Company qualification (business registration or registration certificate)
- Financial information (bank name and address, currency for calculation, SWIFT code and IBAN)
- Additional documents for companies selling products of various brands: power of attorney from brand owners to sell products on Xiaohongshu (with the official seal of the company)
- Once these steps are complete, Xiaohongshu will analyze your registration application and process it.
- The final step is to sign the agreement online and the paper version.
- The company has access to its online store, as well as to various training modules on the management platform Xiaohongshu
How Will the Official Account and Store on Xiaohongshu Look Like?
In general, this trading platform is similar to any other platform. The real value of posts on the platform is that the products placed on it are directly related to the online store. This is the home page of the brand’s official account with a small entry, consisting of its history and products, as well as posts and articles from buyers.
How Much Will It Cost to Start a Business on Xiaohongshu?
While setting up a store on Xiaohongshu is not cheap, the costs are competitive with other e-commerce platforms such as Tmall and JD.com.
Deposit on Xiaohongshu
The deposit for opening a store on Xiaohongshu is around 20,000 RMB (3500 USD). Unless there is a dispute or problem, the full amount will be returned to you once you close your store with Xiaohongshu.
Commission on Xiaohongshu
Xiaohongshu lowered its commission fee from 2% to 5% in 2020 to stay attract more merchants to the platform. To sweeten the deal, the fee is lowered to 3% if merchants have an Advertiser account with Xiaohongshu.
All of these payments do not take into account the cost of marketing and advertising, which are an important factor contributing to a successful launch on the platform.
These additional payments include advertising from reputable key opinion leaders (KOL), which will be discussed in this article later. Payments vary greatly.
On average, the most influential opinion leaders cost between 50,000 and 100,000 Yuan (7,300-15,000 Dollars, respectively). Middle-level opinion leaders request an average of about 10,000 Yuan (or 1,400 Dollars). Finally, less authoritative opinion leaders request between 3,000 and 5,000 Yuan ($440-730).
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About Logistics on Xiaohongshu
There are three main ways to implement cross-border logistics for selling on Xiaohongshu:
- Store goods in Chinese warehouses and use local logistics services (suitable for small, everyday goods).
- Use international logistics services to deliver a product (suitable for larger and more expensive goods).
- Use Xiaohongshu’s international logistics system, REDelivery.
It is on the last model that Xiaohongshu has developed a logistics network consisting of 7 international distribution centers, 10 transport centers, and 9 import processing centers. In addition, Xiaohongshu warehouses carry out quality control on products passing through the facilities while providing faster delivery times to customers.
REDelivery provides a 60-day free storage period for goods (excluding diapers, bedding, etc.), with storage fees kicking in after the end of the period.
In addition, with China’s 2019 regulations for domestic and cross-border e-commerce, foreign companies must merge with Chinese entities, such as cross-border e-commerce companies registered in China, to get through Chinese customs. This makes utilizing Xiaohongshu’s REDelivery an attractive option for foreign companies looking to sell their goods in China.
Best Marketing Practices on Xiaohongshu in 2021
KOL marketing on Xiaohongshu
A ubiquitous marketing term in China, KOL stands for key opinion leader. They are the Chinese counterpart to influencers in the West. Their audiences trust their taste and recommendations. They serve as a bridge between brands and their massive following, often from a specific demographic.
As a social recommendation platform, Xiaohongshu is the perfect platform for KOL marketing. Not only does Xiaohongshu have a platform culture that encourages authentic and in-depth content, but also an algorithm calibrated to connect audiences to exactly the content they want to see. This has made KOL marketing on this platform a highly effective digital marketing strategy for brands.
Xiaohongshu lets your brand interact directly with KOLs
In 2019, to combat a rise in fake products and reviews on the platform, Xiaohongshu implemented higher standards for KOL accounts. This led to what was eventually termed the “KOL purge”. Along with these new guidelines, Xiaohongshu launched a new tool to help brands and KOLs find each other, the Brand Cooperation platform. KOLs now are managed through multi-channel networks, or MCNs, registered with Xiaohongshu to guarantee quality.
Why choose KOL marketing on Xiaohongshu?
KOL marketing is one of the most important aspects of making Xiaohongshu work for your brand. KOLs have an audience that trusts their taste and recommendations. As consumers in China are shifting more and more to word-of-mouth recommendations when they look for products to buy and trends to follow, KOLs provide the leverage for your brand to become one of their audience’s talking points.
To get the most out of KOL marketing, it’s important to pinpoint your product’s target demographic. By choosing a KOL that belongs or is influential to that target demographic, your brand messaging will resonate with audiences through your KOL’s own image and style.
Advertising on Xiaohongshu in 2021
Xiaohongshu offers two types of native ad placements: pop-up and integrated advertisements. With the recently announced Athena ad system on Xiaohongshu, brands now have more marketing options, such as bidding on top rankings for keywords. However, it is important to note that Chinese consumers, and especially the demographics on Xiaohongshu, rarely trust in-app ads – they trust their KOLs.
Sales Strategies on Xiaohongshu for 2021
There are endless marketing possibilities on Xiaohongshu, and international companies are advised to partner with local marketing and communications agencies to ensure the best results. New to Xiaohongshu? Check our Most Cost Efficient Marketing Strategies on Xiaohongshu guide
1.Use both components of the platform
As noted, Xiaohongshu is both an e-commerce platform and a social network. In this regard, one cannot separate one from the other: it is important to use a single marketing strategy that includes both components of the platform – social and commercial.
Work with Xiaohongshu is divided into 4 stages.
An average user behaves in the following way: First, viewing of the platform.
Then, identifying interests (certain posts/articles). This leads to the third step – buying.
Finally, once the product has reached the recipient, the final stage of the cycle is writing a review/comment regarding the purchase.
2. Know your target audience
The company should know its target audience well. The Little Red Book Community is mostly young women.
And although this trend is beginning to change, as the number of users from third tier and lower tier cities is increasing, brands still need to adjust their products to the needs and interests of their target audience.
3. Attract Key opinion leaders to your marketing companies
As explained earlier, Xiaohongshu is the best platform for holding KOL companies and getting quality content tailored to your target audience.
Firms should therefore work with influential media personalities to ensure that their target audience receives quality and relevant content.
4. Focus on creating your content
On Xiaohongshu, content plays a crucial role. Companies should make sure the content is of a high quality.
Write detailed articles about product values, how to use products. Also, make sure you choose the most appropriate images that will emphasize the merits of the brand.
Do not hesitate to write long posts – the key to success lies primarily in deep analysis of user preferences, and in the proximity and relevance of their content.
5. Take advantage of holiday sales
The Chinese e-commerce industry boasts a large number of events and holidays that companies can use to increase brand awareness and sales. The most important dates for Xiaohongshu are as follows:
The most famous day is Singles’ Day (or 11/11 – 11th of November). Usually on this day companies arrange incredible discounts and special promotions. A month later, there are also big sales (12/12), but not as large as those on 11th November.
March 8th is Women’s Day (“NuShengJie”), which is one of the most important for Xiaohongshu, as the main audience of the platform is women.
On Xiaohongshu, “Black Friday” transformed into “Red Friday”.
The anniversary of the creation of Xiaohongshu (June 6) and other events are celebrated on the platform by holding various actions.
6. Learn how to use SEO on Little Red Book
As noted earlier, SEO strategy is very important in order to increase the visibility of the brand on the Internet. Xiaohongshu or Little Red Book is a very competitive platform, so you need to pay close attention to every detail. Keywords should be appropriate and not too popular.
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