Content with ROI: How one Wechat article made a brand $1M in 36 hours

No one’s immune to the charms of great content.

We’ve all been there: How many of us can say we’ve never been tempted to splurge on something we didn’t strictly need because the content made it so appealing?

What if there were fewer barriers between content and checkout, so you didn’t have time to think twice and delay the gratification of an impulse purchase?

Maybe you’d now be $2000 poorer and the proud owner of a DJI Mavic drone. That Youtube video looked so awesome.

Experienced content marketers know, it’s not just about conversions. You don’t hard sell to consumers when they’re still in the “discovery” stage of their journey. Success is often measured with top of the funnel metrics like views and subscriptions, rather than pushing for conversions right off the bat.

But does it always have to be that way? Technology is making it simpler to move from awareness to buyer stage than ever before. Recently, several Chinese apps have thrown out the rule-book and proved that you can link content to conversions– you just need the right platform.

Challenging convention

Content marketing has never been about immediate conversions – and that’s okay. The goal is long-term engagement, keeping the brand top of mind and making it a credible and valuable source in the eyes of the consumer. When you can achieve this, then they’ll be ready to buy.

There’s a big debate over how many pieces of content a prospect needs to see before they buy, but as long as your content’s compelling enough, an engaged lead will see something that triggers them to move on to the consideration stage and eventually purchase your product.

This is where content marketing excels – understanding a consumer’s interests and pain points and developing messages with the objective of pushing leads down the funnel.

That means a travel agency can’t expect a subscriber to impulsively buy a plane ticket to Norway after reading an article about Trolltunga cliff in their “10 breathtaking places to see before you die” listicle.

However tempting it may be.

In China however, that’s not the way they do things. Wechat reached a staggering 846 million monthly active users (Q4 2016). According to Tencent's 2016 WeChat Data Report, over 45% of users claim they use WeChat to follow interesting content. Digital content has been incredibly successful in generating leads and conversions on the spot.

Case in point: Maybelline. Back in May, the brand hosted a live video chat on hot new broadcasting app Meipai featuring influential personality Angelababy (yes, China also has a Kardashian). While viewers watched her give makeup tips, they could also click a link embedded in the corner of the video stream that directed them to an e-commerce site. Fast forward two hours later, the brand had sold 10,000 lipsticks.

Dior is another brand that’s had tremendous success on WeChat, particularly with targeted campaigns on their official account.

The brand published an article talking up its newest Lady Dior handbag, with an embedded link directing subscribers to an in-app game. When the game was completed, it directed users to their e-commerce site where they could buy their new customized handbag after a grand total of 6 clicks and 45 seconds. At 28,000 RMB a piece, the brand generated 5,600,000 RMB (1,000,000 USD) in revenue in 36 hours. All triggered by one initial piece of content.

Rise of the super apps

To those who haven’t experienced a Chinese app, using it for the first time can be mind-blowing.

Instead of interacting with a multitude of apps with specific functions, users in China read the article on the app, play the game on the app, customize their purchase, read reviews, share, order and pay for a product without ever leaving the app.

Awareness to conversion happens on one all-mighty platform, and it only takes a few clicks.

Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, has a built-in payments system. TaoBao, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon, is turning the shopping experience into a full-blown media ecosystem, incorporating live video streaming and virtual shopping experiences. Don’t even get me started on the tech trailblazer known as WeChat. To those of us who are regular users of Chinese apps, Western ones feel like they’re stuck in the past.

Think about it. Everybody’s seen that old video of “the coolest cooler” show up on their Facebook feed. For those of you living under a cave, it’s a decently priced cooler/blender with a 20V rechargeable battery and built-in Bluetooth speaker, USB charger, LED lid light and bottle opener that popped up back in 2015. Cool, yes?

The question is: how many of you bought it, even if it caught your attention? The fact that you had to leave Facebook, open a new tab, google the “coolest cooler’s” website, research if it’s legit, browse reviews and – if and when you’re ready to buy – input your credit card details and shipping details? Even for an impulse buyer (and avid camper) like myself, just typing the process out is too much work.

As our digital platforms evolve, become more comprehensive and embrace a one-stop approach, users will have fewer reasons to leave their favorite social media apps. Instagram is already catching up – its recently added “read more” and function allows users to embed links redirecting to their website, blog or e-commerce platform. Without leaving the app.

It’s only a matter of time before Facebook’s e-wallet is integrated into the channel, which will grease that e-sales funnel like never before.

In the apps and social media platforms of tomorrow, users will seamlessly move from “discovery” stage to “buyer” stage faster than you can say “swipe up.”

What can we learn from China?

China, stereotypically known for copycats and rip-offs, is actually paving the way brands engage with consumers through content and giving us a glimpse of the digital landscape of the future. This is great news for brands and content marketers alike – less so for the impulse buyers of the world. 

by Alex Sandoval
Senior Account Director, Isentia King Content in Insights.

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