Can Douyin’s regional rivals challenge him for the best dog in China’s short video market?


As TikTok has taken the west by storm, its Chinese counterpart Douyin faces a series of rivals, each vying to take some of their national dominance. For our deep dive into all things mobile, we explore those who deserve our attention.

Douyin, China’s equivalent of TikTok, has comfortably overtaken its biggest rivals Kuaishou, WeChat, and Weibo to become the country’s most popular short video platform.

The app owned by Bytedance grew its user base by 27.8% to reach 442.6 million users in 2020, which is more than half of Chinese mobile internet users who use the video app. abbreviated, according to eMarketer.

Douyin users represent 67.9% of mobile social network users in China and 59% of smartphone users overall. These figures increased to 68.3% and 59.6% in 2020.

About 48.7% of Douyin users in China are under 30, while the second highest age group is between 31 and 40, according to a study by Statista.

Lily Lu, digital director at Gusto Luxe agency, says Douyin and her rivals compete for leisure time for Chinese internet users – a resource that is ultimately limited. However, even though Kuaishou, Xiaohongshu, and Bilibili all vie for the looks of young consumers (Gen Z in particular), each has a differentiated style of content and user profile.

“A burgeoning video platform, WeChat ‘Channels’, has become a visibly strong competitor in the video format space,” she says. “It breaks with the traditional WeChat private traffic platform format to extend reach to a pool of public traffic.

“Since WeChat has grown into a super-app with a huge active user base and a relatively comprehensive content-to-commerce ecosystem, Channels is poised to become the next big thing in the Chinese digital battlefield. “

While Douyin’s main domestic competitor is Kuaishou, Jacob Cooke, co-founder and CEO of WPIC Marketing + Technologies, points to other rival short video platforms at Xigua (also owned by ByteDance), Tencent’s Weishi and Baidu Haokan.

“Kuaishou is the second largest short video platform in the market based on daily active users. But it’s important to differentiate between video sharing and the ecommerce business these platforms get into.

How do the apps differ from each other?

Douyin and his competitors have different goals and algorithms, which means each contains different opportunities and challenges for marketers. For example, Xiaohongshu is favored for sharing the lifestyle in high-end beauty, fashion and lifestyle products, and is aimed at a predominantly female consumer audience.

In contrast, Bilibili is driven by mid-length video content and PGC, and its primary users tend to be younger than Douyin’s. Bilibili’s signature feature is called “bullet chat”, where user comments are displayed on screen during videos.

Channels has yet to come up with such a clear-cut proposition, although WeChat claims it will look at art, culture and ‘authentic lifestyle’ content. The ByteDance Xigua video app focuses on longer content.

Greg Paull, co-founder and director of R3, notes that Douyin places a high priority on traffic, which means that good content and increased media spend takes priority over sustained relationships with influencers and audiences.

Meanwhile, Kuaishou’s business model currently emphasizes average traffic distribution, enticing influencers to invest to engage audiences and deterring them from turning into thrill seekers overnight. It also targets audiences in lower-tier cities, he says.

Performance-driven ads, such as games and app downloads, dominate its advertising business, which means they are less appropriate for branded advertising, according to Xiaofeng Wang, senior analyst at Forrester.

“Other differentiators between Douyin and its competitors are length of content, target demographics and core business,” explains Paull. “Bilibili caters to a variety of interest groups and Xigua’s videos are three minutes longer.

“Douyin has a 15-second limit for standard users and one-minute videos for people with over 10,000 subscribers. In addition, people go to Taobao to broadcast live e-commerce instead of entertainment. “

Cooke points out that Douyin and Kuaishou are moving forward in e-commerce. Both have seen huge gross merchandising volume (GMV) growth in 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. He says most of that GMV comes from links to external ecommerce sites.

The two platforms have partnerships with e-commerce giant JD.com – and have, for now, blocked ties with rivals Alibaba and Pinduoduo.

“Douyin and Kuaishou have also created their own channels for brands to set up stores directly on the platform and continue to make significant investments to strengthen these channels. It will be interesting to see where these players end up in the e-commerce space, ”he explains.

“Overall, the short video market is quite saturated. Tencent Weishi and Baidu’s Haokan also allow short user-generated videos, the main difference from the competition being that they are integrated with WeChat and Baidu apps, respectively. However, Tencent just announced that they will reposition Weishi to move away from user content and turn to TV and movie clips, especially Tencent licensed content.

Outside of China, results have been mixed for these platforms. Kuaishou launched versions of its platform, called Kwai, in South America and Southeast Asia. In these regions, it has 60 million users. But the company had to invest in developing a customer base in each country due to the fragmentation of the markets in the respective regions.

It also launched a short video app in the United States called Zynn, which proved popular but was eventually taken out of app stores due to copyright issues.

Xigu partnered with BuzzFeed in the United States two years ago without much success, but found a niche in Japan among high purchasing power male consumers. And Bilibili has spread to Hong Kong and Taiwan, but has yet to gain many followers.

“The major video sharing platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok in the West are quite popular and have some pretty big advantages, but it is possible that these platforms are coming and working well, as TikTok did the latter. time. years, ”says Cooke.

In addition, different regions of the world will engage with video differently, so it is difficult to paint the whole world with a wide brush. Compliance, copyright and general regulatory considerations of different markets will also affect how quickly a new platform can take off, or not.

How should brands and advertisers work with these apps?

When brands are considering their platform strategies, there are three things to consider, Lu says. They need to think about the size of the potential target audience on the platform, what types of content styles are popular on those platforms. and the role the platform can play in a brand’s digital ecosystem.

Cooke argues that the “X factor” will be the integration of commerce into these platforms. He says he’s seeing more Western platforms diving into this space – like Snap and Instagram – because of the business opportunity.

He says brands want to have an edge on these new platforms and lower customer acquisition costs. “Over time, we expect to see more and more fragmentation of these ecosystems with more and more companies embracing the space. Some of this fragmentation may be slowed down due to mergers and acquisition activity, but there will be regulatory risks for these types of acquisitions, so we’ll have to see how these trends play out.

In general, however, brands looking to scale up or expand in China should definitely consider a variety of short video platforms, which are quickly becoming a key battleground for both digital marketing and marketing. e-commerce.”

One example is the auto industry, which has embraced marketing on short video platforms, says Paull. For example, Land Rover teamed up with Douyin for a 30-hour, traffic-focused live marathon, while Tesla invested in building a community in Kuaishou, where the focus is on more engagement. supported.

For more in-depth coverage of the present and future of mobile marketing, tune in to The Drum’s mobile hub.


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