HANGZHOU/SHANGHAI: KFC, the US fried chicken restaurant chain that has been operating in China for almost 30 years, finally made its digital debut on Alibaba's Tmall online marketplace last week and the company is pleased with the results.

According to Alizila, an online portal that specialises in news about Alibaba, KFC wanted to engage young Chinese consumers to help offset its dwindling market share caused by increased domestic competition and last year's damaging food safety scares.

The company's new digital strategy involved leveraging the sheer volume of traffic on Tmall while offering incentives to encourage consumers to visit its brick-and-mortar stores.

By offering e-coupons, gift cards and other discounts, KFC aimed to boost the number of consumers willing to sign up to its membership program while simultaneously gaining their valuable data.

"By opening a shop on Tmall, we want to convert more customers to members, and understand their consumer behaviour both online and offline so we can come up with tailored discounts and awards for them," explained Guan Bin, Digital Manager at Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC.

On top of offering bulk discount offers during its debut, KFC came up with an innovative and fun idea to attract young consumers. 

It enabled smartphone users with access to the Tmall app to "capture" images of Tmall's cat mascot in physical KFC stores, which then entitled them to buy goods from KFC's Tmall shop for just one yuan.

According to Tmall, some 3m users visited KFC's Tmall page on just one day of the campaign earlier this month, which also saw the company shift no fewer than 2.4m chicken nuggets. Commenting on the results, Guan said they went "beyond our expectations".

Data sourced from Alizila, Reuters; additional content by Warc staff