There is fierce international competition to attract an estimated 140 million Chinese outbound travellers, yet Tourism New Zealand has been punching above its weight by leveraging the targeting capabilities of WeChat, the popular social messaging app.

So much so that, despite New Zealand’s marketing body having a much smaller budget than larger rivals, its mobile strategy for China is driving up interest and referrals across a range of metrics.

For example, the organisation has worked with Chinese e-commerce giant Tencent since 2014 to run targeted ads on WeChat, generating a click-through rate of nearly 10%.

“We achieved the highest click-through rates of any brand in the travel industry on WeChat,” said Kieran O’Donnell, North Asia regional marketing and communications manager at Tourism New Zealand, in an interview with The Drum.

“We more than doubled the CTRs of our closest competitor and achieved more than ten times that of the tourism industry average,” he added. “Our work is now a best practice case study for Tencent.”

Tourism New Zealand, which already benefitted from strong branding through its 20-year-old “100% Pure New Zealand” global campaign, recognised that digital is crucial when marketing to mobile-centric Chinese consumers.

According to O’Donnell, “the step change for us came when we began to target and re-target advertising towards consumers” while also recognising that many Chinese consumers prefer to conduct plenty of research before committing to a purchase.

“There are people who are willing to go and just buy a ticket, these are the low-hanging fruit, but overall Chinese travellers have a lot of questions before they travel and this process aims to answer those and help them through the process,” he said.

With this in mind, Tourism New Zealand recognised that many Chinese travellers considering a holiday in the country used a number of platforms within the Tencent ecosystem.

The national marketing body was able to track them across this ecosystem while using WeChat’s Ad Moments to target and re-target them, leading to a 236% increase in active visits and an impressive 254% rise in referrals.

“The power of WeChat is so much more than the messaging element of the app and to only view WeChat as a social media app is to really miss the point and the potential. When used strategically it represents an immensely powerful media channel,” said O’Donnell.

“As a brand, the access you gain to the wider Tencent ecosystem and the data available is invaluable. For a brand like Tourism New Zealand, which is ultimately a small government organisation, leveraging the Tencent / WeChat platform for marketing has been a gamechanger.”

Sourced from The Drum; additional content by WARC staff