For decades the rest of the world has looked to Western companies for innovation in the marketing space, but the status quo is quickly changing. From a martech perspective, some Chinese companies are beginning to lead the way. In fact, 35% of the world’s unicorns (startups valued at more than $1B) are now based in China – that’s up from a 14% share just four years ago.
While many of these companies don’t have as much of a global footprint as marketing heavyweights like Hootsuite or Marketo, their core products still compete in innovation. SenseTime, for instance, is an AI startup that can recommend likely purchases for individuals based on facial recognition data alone.
Marketers should be paying closer attention to the martech solutions coming out of China today. Many of them can offer us a new perspective on how to leverage future marketing technologies in our own efforts.
China’s online retail market has been the largest in the world for more than half a decade now. As a result, retailers have become more innovative in their marketing strategies. The majority of China’s population has grown up as “mobile natives,” and most urban consumers now do nearly all of their shopping through a mobile device.
Mobile is only one part of the story, but along with omnichannel and traditional social media platforms like WeChat, it’s the key pillar that ties many of China’s recent martech innovations together.
In this piece, we’ll look at five Chinese tech companies that are moving towards becoming global leaders in the martech space.
1) Kuaishou is bringing short video marketing to the masses
Short videos are exploding in popularity in China, and Kuaishou is leading the way on this front. It now has more than 100M daily active users, with more than a billion videos being viewed every day. Kuaishou initially gained popularity as a live streaming platform that connected consumers in China’s rural hinterlands with each other, but it’s now used by more than 700M consumers across the country.
Marketers use Kuaishou’s platform to share their message with consumers in the form of short video ads, which are usually just 10-20 seconds long. Kuaishou stands out from the competition by making its ads customizable at the user level, while providing hundreds of different criteria for segmentation. This has made it one of the fastest-growing startups in China, and one of the country’s most formidable marketing forces as well.
Companies like Instagram, Snapchat, and others are all rolling out their own short video marketing capabilities, and the time is now for marketers to capitalize on this opportunity. Adopting short video marketing early on can help brands gain market share more quickly, and connect with an entirely new set of consumers as well.
2) Kuaizi is helping marketers fully automate the process of ad optimization
Kuaizi is an AI-powered content marketing platform that is transforming the way marketers deploy advertising in China. The platform leverages machine learning to look at programmatic advertising opportunities across numerous channels, and then suggest an optimal creative plan based on user segmentation and targeting criteria.
Last year, Kuaizi became the first Chinese martech company to establish a formal advertising partnership with Facebook through its Creative Platform program. The partnership has seen the startup collaborate with Facebook on a number of new features for advertisers, ranging from enhanced engagement tracking to dynamic ad management.
Machine learning and AI are rapidly transforming the adtech space, and the years to come will see more and more AI-based solutions enter the market. Think about how you might be able to integrate AI into your own ad deployment processes – it just might make your team’s workload a bit lighter and boost revenues in the process.
3) Robin8 uses AI to identify the most high-potential online influencers
In China, many organizations use key opinion leaders (KOLs) as a core part of their marketing strategy. In fact, a recent study of Chinese business leaders found that 49% would invest in KOL campaigns on the country’s top social platforms, Weibo and WeChat. Different from using product endorsements, collaborating with KOLs gives brands and retailers the ability to immediately connect with their core audiences in a credible, scalable way.
One platform, Robin8, uses artificial intelligence to help brands and retailers instantly identify the most promising KOLs based on their organizational goals and segmentation criteria. KOL rankings are updated in real-time, and marketers can view individual analytics for each KOL listed on its platform – making it easier than ever to gauge potential impact and ROI.
With platforms like Robin8 beginning to expand globally, marketers around the world will soon have the ability to create highly-targeted KOL campaigns that don’t just have a wide reach, but are also measurable from a lead gen perspective. In general, most KOL campaigns are more sophisticated because buyers never have to leave WeChat or Weibo in order to make a purchase. Interacting with Facebook and Instagram ads, on the other hand, generally takes one to a purchasing gateway in another app. Doing the same in WeChat, however, will take the user to the brand’s page within the same app – allowing them to make the purchase within one seamless user experience. This makes each step of the process more easily trackable from a marketing perspective, and creates a more cohesive buying experience for the consumer.
4) Fugetech is creating an integrated martech stack for content marketers
Fugetech provides brands and retailers with a truly innovative way to optimize the performance of their programmatic marketing campaigns. Its ad trading desk platform helps advertisers integrate marketing data from disparate sources into one centralized database that can be used to dynamically segment and optimize one’s campaigns. Unlike many marketing tools, Fugetech empowers marketers with the ability to conduct automated, rules-based campaign optimization.
Integrating data from multiple sources into one centralized marketing database isn’t a new concept, but automating this integration process is a key innovation that Fugetech brings to the market. Now is the time for marketers to begin mapping out their internal data structures, and think about how to integrate similar technologies into their own martech stacks in the future.
5) Baidu is transforming the way companies do video content marketing
With more than 70M active users, Baidu Video is China’s largest video platform. That makes it an attractive platform for advertisers, who use its platform to rapidly deploy video-based marketing campaigns to millions of users. The platform can also analyze hundreds of videos in real time, and pull out common themes or trends that make certain pieces of content go viral. Artificial intelligence is core to Baidu Video’s functionality, and can be used to develop compelling content for specific interests and optimize ad campaigns in real time.
Marketers should be more proactive about seeking out marketing platforms that actually use artificial intelligence, and work with their technology teams to identify promising use cases for the technology in their own organizations.
A recent survey from SocialBeta found that in China alone, more than 300 homegrown martech startups have launched just in the past several years. Many of these platforms (like the ones described above) offer features and functionality that are unique in the global martech landscape. As marketers, we might consider how to leverage such technologies in our own organizations – and get a leg up on the competition to come.