Needless to say, China’s internet ecosystem is now dominated by 3 giants: Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, or what we call the “BAT” – i.e. the “GAF (Google / Amazon / Facebook)” of the Middle Kingdom. These 3 giants collect billions of consumer data on a daily basis and they are all trying to monetize the data within their own independent ecosystems. On the other hand, brands, who sell their products via e-commerce platforms such as Tmall (Alibaba) or JD.com (partly owned by Tencent), advertise on WeChat (Tencent) or Weibo and invest in search engines such as Baidu and they have no complete view of how their consumers behave cross different ecosystems due to the “Walled Garden” setup of the BAT (Illustration 1).
This situation has been causing great pain to consumer brands as it seemed to be impossible to create a transversal view of who their consumers are, their social media behaviours, their website browsing behaviours and their shopping behaviours. Consequently, it is very challenging to map out a consistent consumer journey that spans across multiple touch-points from top-of-funnel awareness to bottom-of-funnel conversion.
How to break the BAT silos?
Traditionally, these walls were thought to be unbreakable because not only the data of BAT is in silos, but also the knowledge of these platforms is in silos. At Artefact, we believe that it’s possible to break these silos with the right combination of strategy, data and tech ecosystem and process (Illustration 2).
In this diagram, the centre of the action is the Social CRM system, which functions to combine all the first-party data that brands can obtain from social networks and e-commerce platforms. The matching key is the telephone number which will allow us to identify a profile, for the integration of his/ her online behaviours (content browsing, engagement, etc.) and offline behaviours (purchase records, loyalty points, etc.). Once this is achieved, we can then push targeted contents to specific clients after analysing these behaviours.
For example, a profile who had just on-boarded as a follower on a brand’s official WeChat account, could be served the brand story and/ or celebrity ambassadors content to add credibility and dimension to a brand. After a few days, we could push products information and other call-for-actions to bring these prospects to our e-commerce platforms. At the appropriate times, we could also push coupons, discounts, or free samples to encourage consumers to convert as they progress through the consumer funnel. This is not the end of course but after purchases, we can continue to engage consumers through loyalty programs and continuously promote other cross-selling or upselling commercial activities.
Through this linkage, brands can ensure consistent messaging to consumers along their journeys based on reconciled information from social and multiple e-commerce platforms. It is a more effective and cost-efficient way to engage and communicate with prospects and existing consumers.
China is among the advanced country when it comes to big data and Artificial Intelligence but like any markets, data silos is a major challenge for many brands to realise the true potential of data-driven marketing. The challenge in China is unique due to a special ecosystem but the pathway to resolving these challenges are actually not as mysterious nor different from the rest of the world and the above use case is a good demonstration.