Marketing on Douyin 2023: What Do Brands Need to Know to Sell on Douyin?
How to do Marketing on Douyin? With Douyin’s increasingly robust ecommerce integration, it will only become more important for brands to begin establishing a presence on the platform. In this article, we’ll dive into strategies and case studies for the various ways to leverage Douyin for growing your brand’s market share in China.
China’s social ecommerce environment is both unique in its pioneering technology and its size. According to Research and Market’s 2023 report, China’s social ecommerce market is expected to reach 430 billion USD by the end of 2023, making up close to 29% of China’s 1.49 trillion USD ecommerce market.
As a pioneer in the social ecommerce space, Douyin is one of China’s leading social ecommerce apps. Douyin has established itself as a crucial part of Chinese digital marketing strategy. This has made it an indispensable platform for brands selling to Chinese consumers, the majority of whom have turned to the internet for their shopping.
According to a 2022 survey from E-marketer, China is the only country in the world, by a wide margin, where adults prefer shopping digitally over in-store. 54% of Chinese respondents preferred shopping digitally compared to 16% for in store. The only country with as much enthusiasm for shopping online was the UK at 34%.
What is Douyin?
Known as Tik Tok outside of China, Douyin was launched by parent company Bytedance in 2016. Like its global counterpart, Douyin was created as a short video social media platform.
Douyin is second only to WeChat, China’s ubiquitous super-app, in terms of popularity as a social media platform. According to a 2023 survey by Statista, 72.3% of surveyed participants use Douyin, ranking behind WeChat’s 81.6%, but beating major competitors like QQ, Baidu Tieba, Xiaohongshu, Weibo, and Kuaishou.
Like Tik Tok, Douyin is extremely popular amongst millennials and Gen Z. In 2023, of Douyin’s 730 million monthly active users, one in three are under the age of 26. This makes Douyin the channel of choice for reaching the next generation of consumers.
Douyin’s early userbase was mostly young, female, and metropolitan. After exploding in popularity, the platform has retained a younger more metropolitan user demographic. Just under half of Douyin’s userbase hailed from China’s tier one and two cities in 2022, resembling fellow social ecommerce platform Xiaohongshu’s userbase distribution. This contrasts with Douyin’s competitor in China’s short video space, Kuaishou, where two thirds of its userbase hail from tier three cities and below in 2022.
Douyin vs Tik Tok: What Are the Differences?
First, let’s begin by talking about how Douyin differs from Tik Tok, an app most readers should already be familiar with. On the surface, the two apps look identical save for the fact Douyin is in Chinese.
However, the two apps have some major differences. The fact that users from Douyin can’t access Tik Tok and vice versa, combined with the different regulatory restrictions both apps operate under mean they have developed very different ecosystems:
Recommendation Algorithm on Douyin and TikTok
Douyin has a different recommendation algorithm from Tik Tok. Because Douyin is targeted at only mainland China, as opposed to Tik Tok targeting a global audience of multiple regional markets, Douyin is able to better fine tune its algorithm for the Chinese market.
Tik Tok’s algorithms give smaller creators a chance to reach wider regional audiences, allowing for the creation of a more community driven content landscape. Douyin on the other hand gives stronger weight to established top accounts, resulting in it being more of a media platform. This means Douyin’s For You page usually features larger accounts than Tik Tok’s.
In addition, Douyin’s keyword search algorithm also gives accounts with more followers more exposure and prioritizes verified enterprise accounts.
The result is that Douyin’s algorithm is geared towards large accounts, making it extremely well suited for KOL marketing in China.
Content on Douyin and TikTok, the differences
A combination of the differences in algorithm and the cultural differences between Chinese Douyin users and global Tik Tok users result in a different set of content doing well on Douyin compared to Tik Tok.
On Tik Tok, popular content is more personal, arts-based, and entertaining. Douyin, on the other hand, features content that is less personal (Douyin offers a computerized voice to narrate videos) and more educational.
To create content that will succeed on Douyin, we recommend formatting your content for the Douyin platform and localizing for your brand’s local target demographic.
Ecommerce Integration on Douyin, Marketing on Douyin and sales conversion
Douyin has a much more advanced set of ecommerce functions than Tik Tok. While Tik Tok has implemented integrations with Amazon and Shopify, these are restricted by region, limiting its potential as a social ecommerce platform.
Douyin integrates ecommerce platforms like Taobao and Jingdong, while also running its own in-app ecommerce platform.
Launched before Tik Tok’s foray into the livestream sales, or live shopping, trend, Douyin Live’s livestream sales integration is a fully developed feature. It features tight integration with Douyin’s native ecommerce functions, including in-stream one-click buying buttons.
Mini Programs on Douyin in 2023
Douyin, like other Chinese super apps such as WeChat, Alipay, and Baidu, have launched mini programs. Mini programs function as lightweight apps within Douyin. This allows Douyin users access to third-party functionalities without leaving the app or needing to install a new app. As with Douyin’s other functions, mini programs have ecommerce functionality enabled.
Mini programs on Douyin now include traditional services such as ride hailing and food delivery as well as innovative applications such as augmented reality makeup try-on mini programs.
Other Features on Douyin
Douyin also features a variety of other features that are not found on Tik Tok, such as in-video search, location tagging, enterprise accounts, pinned posts, full length movies, and brand official account hashtag challenges.
Marketing on Douyin in 2o23
With strong ecommerce integration, Douyin is well suited for a variety of digital marketing strategies. Below, we explore a few strategies. These strategies do not need to be mutually effective; oftentimes brands will utilize multiple strategies in tandem for a comprehensive Douyin digital marketing campaign.
Douyin’s Paid Traffic
As mentioned above, Douyin’s algorithm prioritizes larger established accounts when recommending content. This means that marketing on Douyin in the beginning is harder, and that brands just starting out on Douyin will find it difficult to gain traction if they don’t have an initial base of followers.
Douyin offers a paid traffic service called Dou+ to increase the exposure of your posts. It’s important to note that this is not the same as bot followers (水军) – these are real followers and Dou+ is an official service offered by Douyin.
On Dou+, you can choose between paying for likes and comments and paying for followers, set the amount of exposure time, and fine tune for target demographics.
For brands without an initial follower base, it’s important to create a strong content plan before diving into paid traffic for this strategy to be effective. When paying for traffic in the beginning, we recommend paying for likes and comments before paying for followers. The risk with paying for a large initial follower count is that these followers may be accounts that don’t engage with content and follow accounts for the sake of following. As Douyin recommends your content first to your followers, having low-engagement followers will negatively impact your content’s ranking in Douyin’s algorithm.
Sponsored Posts on Douyin
Paying Douyin for ad placements is the most traditional digital marketing model brands can employ on Douyin. Ocean Engine (巨量引擎) is the main platform help you buy sponsored posts on Douyin. Only businesses can register for an account on Ocean Engine and must provide their Chinese business registration documentation.
Pricing varies as there is no fixed cost for Douyin ads, however, the minimum spend for sponsored posts is 5000 CNY. You can choose between paying for exposures, clicks, and shares. We recommend paying for shares as it has the highest ROI.
KOL/KOC marketing also know as influencer marketing on Douyin
While the above two methods involved paying the platform for marketing, KOL marketing involves working with a KOL directly or working with a KOL agency. KOL marketing provides a way for brands to reach their target audience without having a popular brand account.
KOL marketing is highly effective on Douyin due to Douyin’s algorithm prioritizing larger accounts. KOL marketing can take a variety of forms on Douyin. This could be KOLs promoting your brand via their content, promoting your product with ecommerce links in their content, to KOL hosted livestream sales of your product.
KOC (key opinion consumer) marketing, also known as product seeding, works by sending your products and/gifts to various KOCs to review and promote your product. Thanks to Douyin’s strong ecommerce integration, KOCs can add links to your product in their posts, directing traffic to ecommerce sales of your product.
With Douyin’s brand account hashtag challenges, brands can also work with KOLs and KOCs via having them promote and participate in brand hashtag challenges.
The most important aspect of this strategy is finding KOLs and KOCs that resonate with your brand’s target demographic.
Livestream sales on Douyin
Douyin Live has tight ecommerce integration, making it ideal for the livestream sales, or live shopping, model. Livestream sales consists of livestreams showcasing products to a live audience who can interact with the host and buy products in-stream. Because of its immediacy and engaging nature, livestream sales have become one of the hottest trends in Chinese digital marketing strategy.
While third party ecommerce links are allowed in posts, Douyin Live has blocked them for livestream sales.
There are two different livestream sales strategies for brands:
First is through having KOLs and KOCs sell your product on their own livestreams. This is recommended for brands just starting out, as these accounts will have an established audience and more experience in selling live in front of a camera. For this option, KOLs and KOCs will take a cut of the total sales of your product.
The other option is brand account livestream sales where businesses sell their own product on livestreams from their own accounts. This method is suited for businesses that have already built up a strong following on Douyin. We can see this with brands like Coach, Under Armour, Louis Vuitton, etc.
Putting it All Together: A Douyin Digital Marketing Campaign Case Study
Knowing Douyin’s features and Douyin marketing strategies, how do we develop a comprehensive marketing campaign for the platform? Below we look at Audi’s 2020 Douyin marketing campaign for the launch of their A4L series as a case study in leveraging multiple Douyin features in one campaign:
KOL/KOC marketing: First, Audi enlisted various KOLs and celebrities to establish the luxury visual identity of the campaign. With this campaign, Audi became the first luxury car manufacturer to adjust their marketing campaign visuals for the vertical aspect ratio of Douyin. The videos, coproduced with KOLs and celebrities were released as a Douyin compilation, allowing viewers to binge watch.
Sponsored Ads: To increase exposure, Audi bought splash page adverts, banner adverts, and sponsored posts on Douyin.
Hashtag Challenge: For more grassroots engagement, Audi also set up a hashtag challenge for their fans, #做更强大的自己 (be a stronger you), by inviting KOCs with over 10,000 followers to participate. This helped inspire user generated content and hype ahead of the Audi A4L launch. On top of this, Audi leveraged Douyin’s stickers to let users brand their UGC with Audi visuals.
Livestreaming: After that, to encourage interaction between Audi fans on Douyin, they also created a “Automobile Enthusiast Scene” group to guide livestream activities during the livestream launch of the Audi A4L
Final Tips on Setting Up Your Digital Marketing Campaign on Douyin
Today, Douyin is on the path to become a super app. Functioning as a short video platform, social media platform, ecommerce platform, and livestream platform all-in-one, Douyin offers brands a multitude of different options when it comes to digital marketing. Before we end this article, we’ll provide you with a few final tips to help you on your brand’s Douyin journey:
- Create content users can engage with, be it filters, stickers, hashtag challenges, or interactive mini programs. For example, luxury brand Cartier’s 2020 hashtag campaign #MakeYourOwnPath invited users to challenge each other to dance battles with Cartier’s filter. This resulted in thousands of UCG content and over 1.1 billion views.
- Create an enterprise account for your brand account. This allows you to add a brand video to your page, create a call to action linking to your ecommerce (can be third party platforms), conduct brand account hashtag challenges, and launch mini programs.
- Establish a flagship store on Douyin’s native ecommerce platform. A flagship store provides credibility and allows brands to integrate their ecommerce more tightly with the rest of the Douyin ecosystem, such as by offering vouchers. Major brands have already set up flagship stores on Douyin, such as L’Oréal Group, which sold 3.4 million USD in GMV within a week of opening.
- Invest in quality visual content. Douyin is first and foremost a visual platform. Your content is competing for eyeballs with not only other brands, but with other accounts. Ensure your content stands out and appeals to the local audience. A major difference between content on Tik Tok and content on Douyin is that educational content has as much appeal to Douyin users as entertaining content. Leverage this to your brand’s advantage!
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