Brands’ Best Strategies in Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book)

Tips to thrive in a popular e-commerce platform in China.

Digital marketing

11 September, 2023

Table of contents

Xiaohongshu, also known as Little Red Book, is a social media e-commerce platform founded in 2013. Its implied valuation totalled to $10-16 billion. The channel produces more than 3 million new feeds and 300 million searches every day. It recorded around 121 million active users in December 2020, 159 million in December 2021 and 163 million in December 2022. By March 2023, the platform had 175 million active users Xiaohongshu’s target market includes the APAC region led by China and getting attention from Chinese consumers in Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan. Its main consumer target is Chinese cosmopolitans with a strong focus on Gen Z and female audience, and emerging into fame among Gen X. Statistically, it holds 40% of users from Tier 1 and 2 cities, 70% of its users are female, and 50% are born in the ‘90s. Around 56% of the total 140.000 brands operating in the platform are local brands.

Now, Xiaohongshu is extending its arena by centering on product authenticity and releasing more tools driven by commerce. It is pushing itself into a tight and safe environment by combining final buy-to-product seeding. The brands have to upgrade themselves in order to persevere in this.

Stating Key Facts of the Products

Brands can seed their products to the platform by creating product-driven content to stimulate endorsements of original user-generated peers. Xiaohongshu is the first-ever platform to encourage product seeding strategy with the keyword ‘zhongcao’ (planting of grass). It follows word-of-mouth marketing which supports peer-to-peer recommendations led by using the products. Around 60% of users trust the product feedback given by other customers whereas 59% of users are ready to give feedback for the products that they are using.

Little Red Book is advising brands and marketers to produce content with a model known to be KFS - Key Opinion Leaders or Key Opinion Consumers (KOLs or KOCs), Feed and Search. Consumers are more interested in knowing the products’ impacts in their lives and will drift towards the realistic ones, instead of the stories led by brands.

It is crucial for brands to load their feeds with information and instructions that will educate customers. Highlighting and reposting user-generated content posted by the followers is another way to show authenticity. There must be a constant focus on SEO - finding trendy hashtags, keywords, and captions. The brands can host offline events to provide in-person experiences for the shoppers.

Clarins collaborated with the platform to create the product seeding campaign with the activation ‘You Protect the City, I Protect You’ to commemorate the frontline workers. It unveiled pop-ups and contributions for them, generating content with the activation treated as the advertising campaign.

Designing as the Main Character

Xiaohongshu has provided access to its brands and marketers with analytic dashboards that offer insights into consumers’ needs and market knowledge. It is controlling over 100 marketing intellectual properties that assist brands in tracking their possibilities with customers. For instance, its official advertising account helps brands in business development. In October 2022, the platform launched the IDEA (Insight, Define, Expand, and Advocate) model for brands to convert the analysis into commercial opportunities by creating products together and recreating existing ones.

The key strategies for this tip would be treating the most loyal customers into product managers and prompting them to give feedback on the products by using them daily, continually engaging with the UGC users and reposting their content in the official brand account, and utilising the alert function of Red Book to get notified when the brand is mentioned and use it for its own profit.

A Chinese brand Colorkey worked closely with the channel to come up with an enhanced group of lip mud lipsticks with customer reviews and feedback on colour, rendering, textures, and packaging. With this, the brand sold over 1 million pieces in just 3 days. It also prompted the product with an urban escapism-type campaign named Princess on the Run.

Running in a Closed Loop

After leaving the plans of an IPO in 2022, Xiaohongshu is doubling up its economy by closing the loop between product seeding and final buying. It introduced fresh features in November 2022 like direct links for the products pages on the in-app ads of Taobao. The double-column display of contents supports brands to amalgamate contents with biddable ads in the same feed.

In March 2023, after a successful result of 337% year-to-year growth of the live streaming vloggers and a 214% increase in the live streaming portion, the platform created a separate department for its live streaming team.

The brands need to maintain their user-generated lo-fi display for the ads present on feeds to balance with the word-of-mouth, and change into loud and energetic models for livestream selling.

Coach is running a KOL engagement program to encourage its sales associates to be brand ambassadors. The in-house staff as KOLs (who do live streaming for the products) will allow the brand to have a direct communication channel with the consumers.

Effective Use of Platform Tools

The e-commerce platform provides features such as PGY (which facilitates sponsored advertisements, virtual try-ons, and brand collaborations), Searchlight Project (which rewards content creators who nurtured group purchases), Fashion Spark Programme (that assists in live streaming), and Groundhog Account (provides vertical-based data and resources from the platform) to improve brands’ and content creators’ engagement among the users.

To access the analytics and insights, Red Book has a Creator Service Platform (offers content analytic tools, such as post interaction, page visits, and many more, for individual creators), a Professional Account Platform (accounts for verified professionals such as lawyers and doctors to give verified reviews and guides) and Aurora (access to data on the product seeding performance, sales information, customer and ads data).

Moreover, it runs an education hub named Seed Classroom to teach marketers and brands about the product seeding strategy. There is a Trend Report conferred by the channel to all the brands that contain insights on trends, keywords, lifestyles, and products based on user data.

Advanced Features

Furthermore, Xiaohongshu has implemented AI-driven content through its tool known in the name Trik. Users can feed text or visual sketches to produce content in several ways such as line drawing, cartoons, pixel art, and AI images. It also grants blockchain-led digital collectibles with its platform R-SPACE. In January 2023, R-SPACE partnered with the blockchain Conflux Network to permit its users to display their collectibles on their profiles in R-SPACE.

Cover Image: Little Red Book App, courtesy Xiaohongshu Official Website