Western social media normally has very specific functionality. For instance, Whatsapp is a straightforward messenger, Facebook is a social communication platform, and Instagram is a short video and photo-sharing platform. But in China, social media platforms often combine a number of various features, making the platform concept hard for foreigners to comprehend.
Take, for example, the Little Red Book app. At first it might confuse you, but once acquainted with it, you might find yourself as one of its active daily users.
Founded in 2013, Little Red Book started as a community platform that allowed sharing shopping lists for overseas trips. But a clear Chinese consumer demand for high-quality overseas products caused the app to grow into a massive cross-border social e-commerce platform.
As of October 2017, the number of registered users exceeded 70 million, and for the 66th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, over 100 million items were sold out within two hours. This makes Little Red Book first ranked among the shopping platforms on App store. For the second quarter of 2018, according to Quan Research, platform’s monthly active users exceeded 20 million.
To provide an easy explanation in terms of Western media, Little Red Book combines features of Amazon, Pinterest and Instagram that allows its users to share not only their lifestyle or product experience and view others’ posts, but also to purchase certain branded products. Here is a more detailed description of the platform’s main functions:
Lifestyle posts (à la Instagram)
Like any social media, Little Red Book allows its users to share images or videos with text description beneath, as well as tag their friends, add hashtags and location. The only significant difference is that you can put a tag on your photo with a hyperlink to the location where the image was taken, or a brand that is displayed. Any user can click on the tag that appears on the image to see more detailed information about the location/brand.
Recommendations and tips (à la Pinterest)
Originally a platform for sharing shopping experience and various product reviews, Little Red Book turned into a massive fashion/beauty/fitness/art ideas and review sharing platform. You can find posts sharing tips on ten stylish ways to tie your scarf, DIY games to play with your kids, which skincare product causes a rash, or how to make your face look longer. The app serves as a platform to share creative ideas, products reviews, and any useful lifestyle tips.
Shopping (à la Amazon)
Little Red Book wouldn’t be so special if not for its core feature – the built-in shopping function. Instead of being just a mediator platform, the company ships the orders directly to customers from its own warehouses in 29 countries. More specifically, Little Red Book distributes not only Chinese brands, but mainly focuses on high-quality overseas brands.
How does shopping fit in this social media app? Perfectly! The two previously-described types of content allows users to share personal thoughts regarding a specific brand. They tag the brand via hyperlink to the image and if other users are interested in the product, they can follow the link to purchase it directly from the Little Red Book.
Why focus on overseas brands?
With growing disposable income, the part of the Chinese population with accumulated wealth understandably switches its attention to higher-quality products. Despite the growing number of local quality brands, many Chinese people still prefer famous foreign brands due to their good reputation, quality, and the fact that many celebrities and influencers promote it.
Some consumers assume that it is simply safer to purchase imported products due to prior safety scandals within the Chinese market, for instance, the tainted milk for infants, or numerous counterfeit products sold via popular e-commerce platforms like Taobao and Alibaba.
The concept of Little Red Book is great for the growing part of the population concerned about the value for money, quality, and safety. Prior to the creation of the platform, Chinese would shop for beauty and luxury products while going abroad or ask their friends traveling abroad to buy directly at the brand’s official shop or a duty-free store in order to avoid counterfeits. Little Red Book avoids all that trouble by allowing consumers to choose foreign brands based on numerous reviews and order it directly from abroad.
Little Red Book’s audience has very specific characteristics:
- Female-focused – Females compromise 83.4% of Little Red Book’s users, with the most popular content related to beauty products— an obvious topic of interest for women.
- Young generation – Users below 35 years old represent 82.3% of the whole platform’s user base.
- Big city residents – Top-tier and first-tier cities comprise 54.5% of the platform’s audience, while second-tier cities represent 20.2%.
- Higher income orientation – As expected, people with higher incomes tend to show interest in high-quality products with higher prices. Middle, upper-middle and high-end consumers comprise 89.11% of Little Red Book’s users, with middle-income consumers comprising the highest share within the platform’s audience.
- Based on the data, we can conclude that the platform is mainly aimed at 18-to-35-year-old Chinese women. The platform helps users discover and buy luxury products from overseas, share shopping or lifestyle tips and exchange creative ideas.
Little Red Book is all about influence. When it comes to places to eat, beauty products to use or exercises for a slimmer waist, Little Red Book’s content can highly influence your opinion.
At the same time, opinion influence is closely related to purchase influence, therefore the platform has a very strong impact on purchasing decisions and practically induces users to buy more products thanks to its attractive form of User Generated Content (UGC). Thus, influencers play a major role on the platform and all engagement essentially circulates around the content posted by influencers.
Apart from blogger-influencers, Little Red Book is actively used by local celebrities who are admired for their beauty and therefore serve as a trustworthy source for beauty products recommendation. No doubt, when stunning actress Fan Bingbing shares on her profile that particular products help her to get rid of acne, out of 98 thousand people who liked the post there will be quite many of those who will decide to purchase the product. Or we can see how strong is influence judging by numerous comments under Angelababy’s post about Australian fermented products brand saying “Where can I buy it?” Obviously, it might not necessary be stated, but the majority of the celebrity’s recommendation posts are essentially “sponsored posts”.
Little Red Book, in combining popular media’s best features, is a sensation among the post-80s generation female audience. It created a community where users are ensured rich and creative content, trust, and quality to embrace their lifestyle and shopping experience. For brand marketers, it is an ideal platform to hear the voice of the consumers, induce them to try the brand and to build a long-lasting relationship.