With a population estimated around 720 million netizens and active at 85% every day, China internet has become a gigantic node of interactions that brands need to constantly monitor to catch the latest trends and continue delivering successful services & products. At the heart of this new challenge: the tracking of quantitative and qualitative data.
Upon this inaugural article of the analytics series, we will dress up an overview of the Chinese analytics market over its different facets: characteristics, trends, challenges and tools.
#1 Paid media concentrate most of attention
Paid media (PPC & Display) historically dominate advertising digital investments, driven by the needs of reaching the masses and catching a maximum of visibility. However, while related technologies have gradually improved along the past years, allowing to target much more precisely specific audiences (e.g. programmatic buying), lots of marketers have continued to pilot their campaigns through generic KPIs, originally around ad centric measurement (impressions, clicks, CTR), but also more recently around site-centric measurement (pageviews, bounce-rate, conversions). In addition, Chinese paid media market also includes lots of fake traffic (robots) perturbing global analysis.
As a direct consequence, the measure and comparison of the performance (ROI) between the different acquisition channels often remain unclear while efficient solutions actually exist (we will describe one below).
#2 The Chinese internet: a complex terrain
From a technical perspective now, the Chinese internet remains a constant challenge for digital analytics for two main reasons:
Market is split between different ecosystems
At the opposite of the West standards, China internet appears to be vertically organized around three pillars:
Social media platforms (Wechat, Weibo, etc.) answering specific Chinese needs for feedbacks and interactions with brands
Marketplaces (Taobao/Tmall, JingDong, etc.) concentrating most of online shopping activities
Third-party websites (brands, portals, etc.) serving the informational needs about products and services
And, as no bespoke user-centric analytics solution has been available on the market so far, data need to be aggregated manually from separate sources in order to draw the most accurate picture of the digital property, at the cost of a tedious (and time consuming) work. But one more time, solutions exist.
Market is quickly evolving
As many already know, China is a place where everything is used to going a little faster than anywhere else in the world. This characteristic is especially true on the Internet where technologies drive constant new usage and ease. 2016 has therefore been the year of the mobile with a penetration rate of over 90% of total Chinese netizens.
Here also, this new trend came along with some tracking technical issues such as the accurate recognition of “phablets” (huge smartphones between mobile and tablet devices that knew a certain success in China).
#3 Latest analytics trends
On top of the specific market & technic issues mentioned above, China digital analytics will also face more global challenges in 2017:
- Attribution: understanding the relations between the different acquisition levers that lead to the final conversion, to optimize advertising investments.
- Conversion Rate Optimization: optimizing on-site user experience to maximize conversions without massive increase of investment.
- Data visualization: drawing performance report through clear indicators to detect trends ahead and smooth decision-making process.
#4 Web analytics tools
Originally existing through a myriad of tools developed either by brands or web agencies and mainly based on server logs, Chinese web analytics tools remained for a long time limited to basic tracking only. However, rapid developments in the digital landscape helped revamp the offer. Below is a list of what we believe are the most representative tools on the market today.
Google Analytics, the reference
Often falsely accused of perturbing page loading time when not of being totally blocked (as is the Google suite in China), the tool still appears as one of the most effective solution available on the market and is often quoted as much for its tracking flexibility (making possible to track international campaigns over different sources and mediums - e.g. PPC, affiliation, programmatic buying), as for its flexible reports allowing to cross metrics and dimensions together, and therefore accessing data at an unprecedented level, eventually driving analytics to its latest extensions: bringing UX and technical insights.
Baidu Tongji, the complementary tool
As often in China, local competitors imitate leading products: Baidu Tongji is probably the most emblematic example. However, if Baidu Tongji mostly focus on chasing after Google Analytics - but always a bit behind the times, marketers still refer to it for local search campaigns as the tool is, for instance, the unique way to retrieve Baidu SEO keywords.
Google Data Studio, the game changer
Newcome of the Google suite, Data Studio aims at providing powerful reports that talk to their target thanks to a simple and intuitive layout. While the tool was initially conceived to dynamically retrieve data from Google Analytics, it also supports manual imports allowing the display of data coming from other channels (social media, etc), which turn it into a well-adapted tool for the Chinese market situation,
Also: read our detailed introduction of Google Data Studio.
In 2016, while the Chinese internet has finally found its DNA, China slowing economy has led brands to develop sustainable growth, and yet, only a few of them have chosen to take advantages of the (numerous) analytics benefits, mostly for lack of knowledge.
In the next articles of this series, altima° China digital analytics experts will share concrete insights to help you better understand and handle this critical phase in your digital adventures. Stay tuned.