Three Shifts in Content Strategy To Win Over Chinese Consumers

Our research finds that it’s time for companies to use content to build brands, not just increase transactions.

Content strategy has become increasingly important for brands to stay competitive in the ever-changing China market. As consumer expectations for relevant, branded content continue to climb, companies must regularly adapt internally to deliver on these needs.

In a recent report The 2021 State of Digital Content by Altimeter, a Prophet company, we surveyed 484 executives across the US, Europe (UK, Germany, Spain) and China, to understand how companies are shifting their strategies when it comes to content. Our study showed that Chinese companies, in particular, are taking a more proactive approach to winning with content.  73% percent of respondents indicated they’re focused on increasing output volume and scaling internal capabilities for better content production and processes.

Learn key insights and takeaways from the report, including how companies in China are redefining their approach to content strategy:

1. Beyond the Transaction: Building Brand Through Content

When it comes to measuring success, tangible revenue and lead generation are still important to marketers as an outcome of a successful content strategy. In China, 52% of companies mentioned transactional goals (e.g., lead generation, revenue increase, customer support) as the primary purpose of their content strategy. However, the shift towards a more brand-driven approach is increasingly apparent, with an almost equal number of companies (48%) responding with branding goals (e.g., brand awareness & sentiment, thought leadership) as the main driver.

Q: What is the primary goal for your content strategy?

Further driving the shift from short-term transactional goals to long-term brand building is the focus on engagement as a key metric of content performance. In our research, 49% of Chinese companies point to engagement metrics as the primary way to measure the success and effectiveness of a piece of content.

“The focus on engagement as a key metric of content performance.”

In China, e-commerce platforms, such as Alibaba’s Taobao, are recognizing the role that content plays as a vehicle for customer engagement. Taobao is rapidly building out the necessary tools to support both sellers and key opinion leaders (KOLs) in managing sales, content and customer/ fan engagement. In an interview with SCMP, Yu Feng, Alibaba’s vice-president who oversees Taobao’s content e-commerce noted: “We [are dedicated to] driving unique value propositions for long-term engagement and business opportunities for the ecosystem.”

2. Scaling Up: Delivering Data-Driven Personalization

When asked about content strategy priorities for the next 12 months, using data to create better, more personalized content tops the list for Chinese companies.

Q: Which of the following initiatives are your top priorities in the next 12 months?

And they are quickly scaling up their internal capabilities to meet these goals. As many as 68% of companies surveyed are already using centralized data systems (e.g., CRM) to help create customer segment-specific content rather than relying on disconnected data sources (versus 42% in the rest of the world).

Q: What sources of data do you use to create personalized/customized content?

To define these customer segments, 36% are leveraging AI-powered analysis of demographic, behavioral and psychographic data (versus 15% in the rest of the world). This data-driven customer segmentation allows brands to effectively create relevant, customized content for their consumers and adapt to changing trends based on continual data collection and analysis.

Q: How are you creating segments for customizing/personalizing content?

So-Young (新氧), a leading digital player in the booming medical cosmetology industry, shows how Chinese companies are building deep data capabilities to help power their content strategy. The app, which went public in 2019, acts as a platform for users to discover, evaluate and book plastic surgery and other medical cosmetic procedures online. It begins with an AI-powered “facial diagnosis,” the results of which lead to the user to recommended expert articles, blogger videos and reviews from other users. Based on the user’s in-app and purchasing behavior, the content is further refined and tailored, increasing customer engagement across the entire journey.

3. Breaking it Down: Leveraging Modular Content Management

Due to the hierarchical management style of most Chinese companies, coupled with their being in the earlier stages of content strategy development, content management is typically a centralized function.

79% of Chinese companies report managing content strategy within a single department or dedicated team that acts as the content owner across the organization (versus 60% in the rest of the world). To ensure quality and consistency across all elements of the brand, 74% utilize a central design system that includes visual and editorial guidelines (versus 52% in the rest of the world).

Q: Who is primarily responsible for your digital content strategy?

Nonetheless, this centralization and hierarchical model can hinder the speed at which content gets created. 59% of Chinese companies still share every piece of content with legal and compliance teams for approval.

Modular content management, however, is becoming more valued, as it allows brands to deliver content quickly across different channels and to different audiences. 30% of companies have adopted modular approval systems to break content into smaller pieces, increasing both efficiency and flexibility.

Q: How would you describe your current content approval process for compliance?

This modular content management is critical as the proliferation of Chinese content platforms is at an all-time high, with brands needing to manage various content mediums (e.g., imagery, video, live stream, user-generated) across a growing number of social media and e-commerce touchpoints. A centralized but agile management system is critical to balancing consistency, relevance and speed across content platforms.


Many Chinese brands are well aware of the critical role content plays in their overall business strategy. To compete effectively and win with content, we’re seeing companies in China double down in three key areas:

First, they are making the shift from treating content as a short-term lead and revenue generator to investing in content as a means to longer-term brand building. This means tracking how customers are engaging with content, beyond just conversion metrics.

Next, businesses in China realize that a one-size-fits-all approach to content is no longer sufficient. To meet growing customer demands for relevant content, they are building internal capabilities that can leverage digital data to create personalized content for their varying customer segments.

Lastly, to ensure that there is a cohesive content strategy across the business, Chinese companies are centralizing content management as a function. However, they are also developing agile processes such as modular content management in order to respond swiftly to fast-changing market trends and evolving consumer needs.

Download the full report for more details about the 2021 State of Digital Content.

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