Targeting the Chinese Holiday Calendar

By Sunanda Jayanth, March 20, 2019

Marketing and promotion are keys to business success. However, brands often struggle to find time, the right people or money to manage their marketing activities, especially when it comes to entering a new market overseas.  

Building a unique and effective digital marketing strategy is one of the keys to success in China’s ever-growing online market. However, the digital marketing ecosystem in the country has its own characteristics: the consumers their habits are markedly different compared to anywhere else. 

Take advantage of the Chinese consumer's travel calendar

From our experience of creating Chinese New Year campaigns for a number of British and international brands it is clear that many businesses do not prioritize China on their yearly marketing calendars.  Capitalizing on significant Chinese festivals is great for business whether in China or the UK. For example, Golden Week, which falls in October, sees the highest number of Chinese travelling internationally. Singles Day in China is the biggest online shopping day in the world, making Black Friday seem insignificant in comparison.

Let’s take a look at the top Chinese festivals and celebrations to help plan your marketing strategies

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival) is celebrated on the first day of the first month according to Chinese calendar or the Lunar New Year. The most important festival in Asia, more than a billion people ring in the New Year with aplomb. Over the years, campaigns around this time have delivered never-before-seen levels of digital marketing ROI.

It is important for marketers – particularly those in travel and retail – to have a detailed and actionable strategy in place that identifies and engages consumers in real-time as online spending peaks during this season. A study earlier this year by Facebook reveals that 89% planned their purchases a month before the Lunar New Year and 64% intended to travel during the festival.

For travel and hospitality, two tactics earn benefits:

Destination-based targeting – Connect with customer on the second touch point of their purchase journey through relevant ads/content to re-engage with them. For instance, once the customer has booked their flight tickets, ads may focus on accommodation or destination-based activities. Seasonal re-targeting – Identify those customers who have engaged with the brand over the past year and re-establish the relationship through offers and incentives to book during the prime holiday season.

According to iClick, there are three high spending Chinese demographics that marketers should target during this period – expats, luxury travelers, and students studying abroad. For retail, the sky is the limit when it comes to innovative campaigns – from red envelopes to unique interactive apps, brands can outdo each other when trying to woo buyers.

Qixi Festival

The Qixi Festival or Chinese Valentine’s Day is another marketing extravaganza that has grown by leaps and bounds. Most hotels offer special romantic dining options and also have activities that couples can participate in. It is best to start planning for the promotions two weeks in advance. Retail brands featured rich interactive campaigns where couples could send out voice messages to engage with the brand and win offers and coupons.

This year, luxury brand Christian Dior opened up their WeChat to sell top-end limited-edition bags during the Qixi festival – which sold out within a day!

National Day and Golden Week Holiday

China’s Golden Week is travel industry gold. The entire nation takes a week long holiday to travel and shop!

Last year, out of the more than 750 million trips taken in the seven days, over 4 million were of tourist traveling abroad, according to estimates gathered by Xinhua. Japan, South Korea and Thailand were the top three destinations, according to a report from online travel company Tuniu Corp.

These figures and charts lead us to a few conclusions when determining campaign strategies around this time:

All-rounded campaigns, with soft marketing starting September ought to do well. Travel and destination businesses should be prepared to handle the volume of traffic heading their way.

Singles’ Day

Singles' Day or ‘Guanggun Jie’ is a day for people who are single, celebrated on November 11 (11/11). This holiday became popular among young Chinese people - many start shopping on the 10th of November and wait until 12 o'clock before they pay for everything piled up in their shopping carts.

In 2015, e-commerce giant Alibaba broke its own record for sales - $20 billion worth of merchandise volume smashed through last year's tally of $13 billion.

While these are the major Chinese festivals western marketers ought to plan ahead for, the Chinese are well versed with most of the other holidays that the West celebrates as well. New Year's, Christmas, Valentine's Day are very popular among the Chinese as well. 

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that China is not a single market - it is extremely diversified and fragmented. While Chinese consumers are largely price-sensitive, they are willing to spend their money on luxury goods. Building a story around your product/business and engaging with customers on an emotional level should help your campaign drive up sales!

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