Opinion: Content is king in China – just look at Douyin

    Jessica Quillin and Bryce Quillin, co-founders of It’s A Working Title, make the case for why a highly differentiated content strategy is critical for engaging Chinese luxury consumers.
    Image: Douyin
    Bryce QuillinContributor
    Jessica QuillinContributor
      Published   in Retail

    Luxury brands interested in marketing and selling products to China need to learn how to continuously build value for consumers and understand how, where, when, and what they want to shop for across various online and offline touchpoints. A tailored and market-specific content strategy is essential for luxury brand growth in China.

    No company recognizes the value of content strategy in luxury commerce more than Douyin. The ByteDance platform identified content strategy as critical to its corporate strategy of bringing affluent consumers more tailored, story-based experiences.

    According to a white paper co-authored by Ocean Engine, Douyin, and Deloitte in 2023, “Chinese luxury consumers have higher requirements for content” than consumers in other global markets.

    While it might seem odd to suggest that luxury brands can learn from the corporate strategy of the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin’s core focus on content strategy, or what it calls the “Ocean Engine Douyin Luxury Gravitation Model,” is compelling.

    How Douyin learns from users#

    The platform demonstrates a deep understanding of its users and how to curate experiences and content that they want to participate in. Its content-centric infrastructure facilitates a seamless and enjoyable end-to-end customer journey, from interest to search to purchase.

    Douyin advertises its “Luxury Gravitation Model” as an integrated platform for luxury brands combining content, marketing, and business. It is built on what Douyin calls the “Fact+S methodology,” which aligns content through live broadcasting and short videos, marketing through advertising placement, and products through e-commerce, search, and shopping centers.

    Douyin’s content-centric infrastructure facilitates an enjoyable end-to-end customer journey. Image: Getty Images
    Douyin’s content-centric infrastructure facilitates an enjoyable end-to-end customer journey. Image: Getty Images

    This content strategy provides an immersive and diversified content environment, underpinned by a strong in-platform advertising environment and embedded tech such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). It features an analytics dashboard to study and capture user behavior and an end-to-end business ecosystem driven by sophisticated content operations that allow brands to create, manage, and track content across the entire customer journey and content lifecycle.

    The strategy is attuned to the content habits of Chinese consumers, whose behavior and ideas of luxury differ from those in other global luxury markets. Creating content for the Chinese consumer requires specific localization strategies, most of which may not be intuitive to brands based outside of China.

    As the Douyin-Deloitte report says, “Chinese consumers want to have a deeper understanding of luxury brands. They want to see product reviews and unboxing, but also want to understand the story behind the brand. Short videos and livestreams are the best mediums for authentic and interesting content filled with stories and surprises.”

    Around 34% of affluent Chinese consumers believe short video product descriptions are more detailed, and 28% believe short videos have richer, more meaningful content. When it comes to livestreams, Chinese consumers find their “unhurried pace” joyful and even relaxing, with 36% of those surveyed believing that livestreams provide a more immersive experience and 28% thinking these live sessions build stronger interactions with key opinion leaders (KOLs).

    Differences between demographics#

    The various affluent Chinese consumer demographics require vastly different content marketing strategies because of their different content preferences.

    Trend-chasing younger consumers, for instance, love to tick off hotspots and prefer content about brand events and marketing campaigns, whereas millennials favor product reviews, and older consumers prefer short brand introduction videos and are more likely to follow main brand accounts.

    None of this is intended as an endorsement of Douyin. Rather, the point is that Douyin understands the critical importance of content strategy as part of luxury corporate strategy, with the foundation of this strategy being the users, not the company itself.

    Understanding that its users “are younger, have broader interests, and have stronger spending power,” each with “distinct preferences in regards to content and product categories,” as the report describes, the platform has built a content-focused experience to meet these preferences.

    Leveraging the video platform#

    This content-focused experience also benefits luxury brands on the platform, many of which are experiencing good ROI.

    For example, Dior broadcast its Fall/Winter 2023 ready-to-wear Shenzhen show on Douyin, utilizing the platform’s built-in content ecosystem to support an end-to-end content experience. This included a pre-livestream reservation tool, a during-show experience amplified by the FeedsLive feature, and after-show and long-term exposure content to maintain buzz. Creatives and brand ambassadors shared content with trending native hashtags and posts that led to Dior’s homepage.

    Dior livestreamed its 2023 Shenzhen repeat show on Douyin. Image: Douyin screenshots
    Dior livestreamed its 2023 Shenzhen repeat show on Douyin. Image: Douyin screenshots

    The always-on nature of brand content on China’s short video platforms often results in staccato tactics that are not integrated into a cohesive corporate content strategy. Luxury brands in all markets would do well to study brand content models on the Douyin platform to understand the benefits and specific use cases for their content strategy.

    Investing in more centralized approaches to content planning, creation, management, and oversight can greatly reduce content spend and improve content performance. It can also help build brand loyalty and improve sales and repeat purchases over time by creating more immersive, user-focused brand experiences.

    At our company, we approach content strategy holistically, defining “content” as any touchpoint where people encounter brand messaging. Our work with luxury brands has shown that luxury consumers and, in turn, brand content require a nuanced approach. This approach, exemplified by Douyin, is built around the synergy between brand storytelling and consumer-focused content.

    Jessica Quillin and Bryce Quillin are co-founders of It’s a Working Title LLC.

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