BEIJING: In 2018, marketers’ use of data in the Chinese market will mature, and more and more brands start to integrate the information available to them as the country’s big three internet companies carve out their niches.

This is according to Christian Solomon, Chief Digital Officer at MediaCom China, who spoke to WARC about the trends shaping China’s media and retail landscape. (For more, read WARC’s exclusive: What’s new for media and retail in China.)

“Obviously, e-commerce in the last couple of years has been the prominent space, and you've got most categories shifting towards it if they can,” Solomon said. The proliferation of e-commerce data into brand marketing across sectors has effectively created the current moment. “That’s taken us to where we are now, where the biggest focus for 2018 is basically activating e-commerce data,” he said.

The drive toward e-commerce data integration has seen a reshuffling of China’s well-known ‘Big Three’ internet companies. Alibaba and Tencent remain top, the search company Baidu is feeling the heat from JingDong, another e-commerce competitor.

“That's kind of seeing Baidu slip away a little bit, where they're becoming a little bit less relevant. Search ad spend in general has been shrinking over the last few years, and they don't have themselves a social platform or an e-commerce platform,” Solomon said.

“Tencent's driven by social data. Alibaba's driven by e-commerce data - and Tencent has that nice deep connection with Jingdong so they have access to e-commerce data as well,” he said.

With Alibaba and Tencent owning so much of the Chinese internet space, both companies are now pushing a ‘unique ID’ across multiple platforms to get a more unified view of customer behaviour online.

“You can track and plan against a unique ID for one person across their whole ecosystem”, he explained. Brands don’t have to have an Alibaba-branded online presence – for example, a T-Mall portal – to be able to target against Alibaba’s data.

However, 90-95% of profits and revenue still comes through the traditional trade format, Solomon added, especially in smaller cities, though its influence is expected to grow significantly.

Sourced from WARC