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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

China’s 3 Most Important Questions For Destination Leaders In 2018

Updated: May 27, 2019

Hello destination leaders,

The world’s most coveted destinations are again bracing themselves for another year of Chinese travelers hitting their shores in record numbers. In 2017, approximately 145 million Chinese took to the air, in 2018 it’s expected to hit 154 million.

With Chinese behavioral habits changing so fast (for example the move to a cashless society, the dependence on mobile for the entire web experience, to a desire for more personalized adventure travels), the Chinese are driving an ever-increasing share of global destination marketing dollars to be spent catering to their unique tastes.

In addition, the business environment is shifting and marketing departments everywhere are going through a transformative period. Technology, machine learning, and marketing intelligence are now helping shape many of the world’s biggest brands’ strategy to ensure their spend is not only effective but quantified.

So let’s take a look at China, with a focus on the 3 most important questions I see for destination Marketing leaders in 2018.

How will our WeChat improve the experience for Chinese visitors?

WeChat is now considered by many to be the ‘operating system of China’. It’s the single most used platform and has replaced many traditional platforms, from email and SMS to your wallet, WeChat is everywhere. But with all this usage many destinations are asking ‘how do we create value in WeChat to grow an audience?’, which for many is incredibly difficult given WeChat’s closed social media nature.

To understand how WeChat can help the experience of Chinese visitors to your destination you need to consider the breadth of functionality that the platform offers. For many destinations, the WeChat account is quickly replacing the official destination Chinese websites, and so it should, it presents so many benefits.

WeChat now provides a myriad of ways to develop more within the platform. As a teaser you could consider:

  1. Mini Programs specially designed to support tourists (mapping, gaming, coupons, memberships, and more)

  2. Interactive itineraries featuring locations, tips, and rich content

  3. Help centers with chatbots, emergency contacts, visa or immigration help

  4. Commerce for ticketing, booking restaurants, attractions, etc.

  5. Segmentation, allowing you to better target parts of your audience

How can we use video as the dominant storytelling medium?

Over the past few years, video has become the most dominant medium for the ‘all mobile’ consumers of China. There is still a place for long-form content pieces, however, whenever stories are delivered through video we’re seeing breakthrough numbers.

In China the main video networks include:

  1. Youku Tudou: a video hosting service that focuses on digital entertainment, and allows you to share videos and live stream online.

  2. iQiyi: a similar online video platform to Youku which allows you to watch videos of different categories, e.g. TV shows, animation, variety shows etc.

  3. Tencent Video: a video platform that differentiates from Youku and iQiyi by focusing on news, sports events, and gaming tournaments.

  4. Douyu: mainly focuses on esports live streaming and is the first live streaming platform in China to enter series D fundraising.

  5. Huajiao Live: a live streaming platform that focuses on the younger generation. It’s the world’s first 3D live streaming platform.

  6. Yizhibo: a live streaming platform that focuses on Weibo users and allows you to watch, interact with and reward the hosts of live streams.

  7. Miaopai: a leading platform for short video sharing and live streaming that also partners with Weibo. Miaopai and Yizhibo share the same parent company (Yixia Technology).

  8. Meipai: the leading short video platform in China that allows users to live stream too. It is a great platform for brand-celebrity cooperation.

  9. YY: one of the oldest live streaming platforms. It started with video games then added more varieties like singing, dancing, and talk shows.

  10. Ingkee: another popular live streaming app that allows anyone to live stream 24/7.

A good example of the explosion in video is famous Chinese travel KOL Molly’s live stream which featured a famous bookstore in Taipei and generated 2.62 million views across the Yizhibo platform.

As a destination, it’s hard to resist the wonders that a real-life organic story, told through video, can deliver in terms of inspiring travel.

How can we use big data and intelligence to make better marketing decisions?

Industries are changing everywhere. The marketing environment now offers a plethora of platforms and tools to help you better understand how best to engage your audience and spend money.

For many destinations, social media strategy is considered an add-on to a broader travel trade program, when in fact the FIT’s are now on exponential growth. It’s never been easier for local Chinese to book their travel and document their trips through social media.

Studies show that more than 85% of all independent travelers discover a destination through social media either from a peer or paid promotion. It’s particularly important at the consideration stage.

At Mailman X, our planning and process is delivered through KAWO, a platform for social media planning and management in China. When assessing US destinations social activity, we observe the average destination posts 103 times per month, that’s over 1200 posts per year. With the most active being California (334/pm), NYC (260/pm) and BrandUSA (210/pm), and the least active being San Francisco (58/pm) and Denver (18/pm).

Consider the time spent on strategy, planning, and execution, that’s a significant amount of time into a core marketing function. So what can be learned if we look deeper into US destinations’ data?

OK, so a few alarm bells are appearing here:

  1. California is the most active, 50% more active than NYC&Co, yet delivers 15x less engagement

  2. San Francisco, although boasting a healthy 170k followers, have the least engagement of any major US destination

  3. Los Angeles tops the follower count with 1.5m, yet are 10th for engagement, no less than 20x less than the leaders BrandUSA & NYC

  4. For ‘Likes’ on content, NYC is 3x larger than next best Brand USA, indicating a really effective content strategy

  5. Nevada, with a following of just 115k, have fantastic engagement of 10k, above cities like Chicago who have 5x the followers base

You get this picture, a marketing engagement strategy needs to effectively review data to help better plan and iterate a winning strategy. With tools like KAWO, and others it’s now possible to understand:

– What about my content is resonating with the Chinese audience?

– What is the optimal frequency I should be posting at in China?

– What time of day is the optimal?

– What forms of content are generating more engagement than others?

The greater a destination gets a handle on what’s resonating and what triggers a deeper engagement with their Chinese followers the more effective all decisions can become: + Planning becomes easier + Campaign decisions are validated + Media dollars are more effective + Teams grow smarter

And ultimately you can expect more visitation to your destination.

All the best for 2018 and if you wish to go deeper on any of this just drop me a WeChat (MailmanAndrew), a call or even an email.

Andrew Collins CEO Mailman X

Mailman X is a China digital consulting agency for the travel industry. Reach out here for more info.

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