Instagram may have paved the way for influencer marketing across the globe, but cross-border retailers are looking towards local social commerce platforms to connect with Asian consumers. Xiaohongshu, or Little Red Book (LRB/RED) as it’s known in English, is considered by many to be China’s answer to Instagram. The social media and e-commerce platform, primarily targeting 18-35 year olds, is a lifestyle sharing platform with user-generated content, such as product reviews and recommend
endations, driving purchases. With approximately 300 million users globally and 1.2 million monthly users in Australia, the platform allows brands to connect with cross-border shoppers while international borders are closed. Superdry head of marketing and PR, Matthew Iozzi, told Inside Retail that the brand sees a “huge opportunity in the space despite the removal of the tourist dollar”. “Some brands removed their budgets on certain apps following Covid-19, we jumped all in,” Iozzi said. Superdry curated an ad campaign supported by three key opinion leaders (KOLs) based in Australia to promote the new Lunar New Year (LNY) range across both LRB and WeChat, a messaging social media app similar to Whatsapp. Janice, a QLD-based lifestyle influencer with 95,000 followers showcases the similarities and differences between her Chinese culture and her Australian partner; Ashley, a NSW-based fashion influencer shares fashion outfits and makeup tutorials; while Adelaide-based couple, Tracy and Ethan, are product reviewers and lifestyle influencers with a 111,000-strong following. On Little Red Book, KOLs can post in-depth descriptions of the product and tag ‘Superdry’ on their photos, and followers can interact and engage with these posts. “KOLs utilise hashtags, video titles and geo-location tags that are set to Australia so that followers are aware of their location. Followers can use the ‘nearby’ section and search for hashtags to explore users’ content,” Iozzi explained. And because Little Red Book can be re-posted on WeChat Moments, a feature that allows sharing of pictures and video with followers or a select group of contacts, brands can promote across both platforms. “WeChat has a limit on followers and posts are restricted to your personal followers so user reach and brand exposure is limited somewhat on WeChat. But Little Red Book’s main feature is online community-building and focuses on trusted user-generated content where they post product photos with descriptions, reviews and tips for other users to read and comment. Followers are able to interact with content and comment more closely. This increases product/brand recognition and market reach,” Iozzi said. Superdry’s KOLs have created eight pieces of content that will be “drip fed” to their audiences across the LNY period calling out products from the LNY range with a sale message. “In the first week of the campaign, the three KOLs reached 200,000 local users across both platforms (400k in total) with a click rate of 17 per cent. The Superdry WeChat account has seen a 15 per cent lift in followers since the start of February,” Iozzi said. A ‘search engine’ for product reviews Josh Gardner, CEO and co-founder of Kung Fu Data said LRB is often used like a search engine to browse product reviews and study personal experiences with new brands. “It’s a highly content driven, social sharing community: over 70 per cent of all content on Little Red Book is user-generated. Users often read reviews and recommendations on RED before they make purchasing decisions. Some people simply use Little Red Book for window shopping, searching for fashion inspiration for things like clothing and hairstyles. “It is a very important step for many Chinese consumers’ pre-purchase journey.” The app mixes product reviews and recommendations with e-commerce to create a simple and convenient buying process, according to Arnold Ma, China marketing expert and founder and CEO of digital creative agency Qumin. “When users find an ideal product, they can make a purchase on the platform without switching off to another platform or website. The integrated nature of this commerce and review system allows a more convenient process for consumers which enables greater sales for the company,” Ma told Inside Retail. He also said it is a great place for brands to engage with their followers. “In every brand profile, there is an “engage” section to collect content from companies and to review these products. Not only can potential customers see if this product is right for them, but this also gives brands themselves beneficial insight into how their products are received. This allows them for greater market research and so they can accordingly adjust their products to cater to more customers or certain markets,” he explained. Fashion, food and cosmetics thrive According to iResearch, over 50 per cent of LRB users are under 30 years old, and more than 80 per cent are female. Gardner said it’s particularly useful for niche brands targeting young Chinese women. “Here they find the inside knowledge and community support to make better decisions and discover a range of products and brands they never knew existed,” he said. Ma said fashion, cosmetics, luxury products, travel, lifestyle and skincare are “king” on Little Red Book. “Foreign cosmetic/beauty, dietary supplements and fashion brands are particularly popular on this app because the platform has become a go-to for customers when doing research about these products. The platform helps Chinese consumers who can’t navigate between the fake brands and the above markets as they are suited within each geographical area,” he said. At the China Entrepreneur Summit on December 6, the platform’s founder Zhai Fang pointed to food as another rising category, with food-related content searched more than 1.3 billion times on the platform in the calendar year to November. How best to use it While Little Red Book is primarily used as a cross-border e-commerce market to sell products, it also improves brand visibility and consumer engagement, according to Gardner. “The power of Little Red Book lies in its social recommendation engine that searches user-generated product reviews, a seamless experience from discovery to community,” he said. Ma said brands and retail professionals can also use the platform to conduct marketing research if the target audience is young Chinese consumers. “They can find out the latest fashion, travel and lifestyle trends young people care about, how they engage with brands or review products, how brands can improve their products based on Chinese consumers’ review,” he said.