Brands and data partners navigate China’s challenging digital market



Digital analytics in China is a very chal- lenging arena for brands. Brands have had to deal with the economic downturn, a fading demographic div- idend, the increasing need to retain old cus- tomers and build a loyal following, the om- nichannel Chinese consumer, and persistent data silos.

The China data market is huge and growing — in 2015 it was worth Rmb 11.5 billion. How- ever, it remains a difficult area for brands which try to go it alone. But the development of inno- vative tools designed to help brands manage their data asset is proving to be an excellent so- lution to these issues.

Reinventing for China

The China digital landscape varies greatly from the U.S. and other markets. In the US market, social media platforms such as Fa- cebook, Twitter and Instagram, each with their own distinct characteristics, dominate the social sphere – making it easy for a brand to do social marketing. The brand is also able to measure the conversation rate by plugging into its e-store on its Facebook or YouTube account.

By comparison, in China, the market is much more fragmented and complicated. There are multiple social media platforms that share sim- ilar functions but appeal to different demo- graphics. For instance, WeChat is preferred by Generation Y (consumers born in the 1970s or 1980s), while QQ, also an instant messaging platform is geared towards a younger genera- tion (consumers born after the1990s).

Thus, tools transplanted from fundamental- ly different markets offer limited value when dealing with China’s complex social landscape.

 “In other words, even if you have invested hugely on a WeChat platform, it might only ac- count for 20% of the total social discussion,” said Calvin Chan, COO of AdMaster. “In the face of these typical challenges, AdMaster’s SocialMaster is aimed at becoming an integra- tor of various social platforms in China, by col- lecting social data from different platforms and putting all of them in an integrated dashboard. Brands can then have a better understanding of which platform is more powerful in driving brand equity and optimizing consumer engage- ment, and which platform is more important for spreading brand messages ”

Giant data silos calls for a Data Hub to connect the dots

Despite calls from advertisers and agencies for a more transparent data exchange among different data providers, data silos continue to exist within and outside the enterprise.

Large MNCs sometimes engage up to 30 dif- ferent data partners, making coordination practically impossible. The process creates gi- ant silos of data from multiple sources — mak- ing it extremely difficult for advertisers to “con- nect the dots”.

The fusion of the CMO and CIO roles within an organization has occurred in the context of these overwhelming data silos and under- whelming data activation, in the hopes of get- ting the best value out of the technology-acti- vated smart data.

“There is growing demand for API integration to embed further data points to link through a consumer’s path-to-purchase journey across different platforms and devices, including PC, mobile, video, connected TV, social, and search engine under a so-called Data Hub”, said Vincent Yan, CEO of AdMaster.

By collecting, integrating and analyzing first- party data from a brand, data from industry gi- ants Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT) and oth- er data providers with rich user-profile through its secure data analytics and measurement in- frastructure, AdMaster’s Data Hub enables tra- ditional CRMs to shift towards wider consumer relationship management. This provides a better understanding of current and future poten- tial customers, and most importantly — helps advertisers identify and make a decision be- tween using people-based or device-based marketing.

In order to build a truly powerful data hub, Yan says it needs to be supported by four key pillars: the brand’s first-party Data Manage- ment Platform (DMP); technological know-how such as the world’s leading Single-Source Pan- el, and anti-fraud solutions; strong connectivity with BAT and other data providers; and ad serving capability to help brands connect with the highest-quality media.

Data security deserves better protection

Another issue surrounding data management and application in China is the need for robust data security — studies show that the number of security incidents detected spiked in 2015, and incidents across all sectors are increasing.

Besides working closely with the China Ad- vertising Association and MMA China for the formulation of a series of standards on digital advertising to help better regulate China’s dig- ital marketing market, AdMaster is the first and only data company from China to pass the ISAE 3402 assurance standard and has increased investment in big data security encryption and advanced authentication methods.

It also leverages expertise from its in-house Data Security Committee to mitigate ever- growing cyber security risks.

Building trust around programmatic ad buying

In this era of programmatic buying, cases of ad fraud and non-human traffic are not only undermining the trust and confidence of ad- vertisers coming up with budgets for their dig- ital marketing campaigns, but also raising se- rious brand safety concerns.

Popular variety shows in China have seen huge increases in advertising spending in re- cent years. Yet, according to AdMaster’s data, here have been serious cases where up to 90 per cent of the CPM purchased was not being displayed.

In response to this, AdMaster launched its Anti-Fraud and Ad Viewability capabilities as part of its Data Hub strategy, to minimize ad fraud and create a more trustworthy and trans- parent digital advertising ecosystem.

Creating brand lift in conventional sectors best represented by the auto industry

The conventional industries that do not sub- scribe to an impulsive purchase pattern, such as the auto industry, could stand to benefit most from AdMaster’s data strategy.

An auto brand for example, typically receives an average of 300,000 sets of personal data collected online each quarter with a low con- version rate of 0.2 percent.

“As for these industries, consumers are more likely to do a lot pre-purchase research, and then don’t easily change their preference to certain brands, giving advertisers ample op- portunities to “connect the dots” along the consumers’ online and offline behaviors, and do precise marketing based on their different segmentations,” said Chan.

The use of a third-party data partnership has enabled the brand to develop a saleable model that integrates consumer online behav- iour with data from offline CRM system, to iden- tify a high-quality target audience for follow-up marketing campaigns. Lookalike technology was critical to expand the brand’s database with high-quality leads and enabled targeting and retargeting strategies which could exploit the larger data-base set.

Future trends and opportunities

Thanks to the further development of data technology, AdMaster CEO Vincent Yan sees a number of exciting developments in the com- ing year.

“Firstly, marketing automation efficiency will be many times more efficient thanks to the de- velopment of data technology,” he says.

“Secondly, the power of data will be more mature — and large brands will benefit most from this maturity, learning from previous ef- forts to refine and maximise their strategies.

“Thirdly, the building of data hub will be able to connect different data silos, so as to help brands build one-on-one relationship with their consumers and thus maximise their digital spending through smart and precise market- ing campaigns.

AdMaster’s Single Source Panel will monitor digital consumption behaviour and enable inte- gration of offline purchases, which still takes up around 70 percent of business today. For the first phase, the agency is currently working on trials with consumers in Beijing using a smartphone app, and incentivising participa- tion. This will be extended to other big cities in- cluding Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Perhaps most exciting of all? Predictive mar- keting. “This will make the reliance on histori- cal data less necessary, and will leverage the power of artificial intelligence in parsing up big data to provide foresight on future trends for brands across the board,” Yan says.



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