The Chinese New Year Travel Rush, known as ‘Spring Movement’ (春运 Chunyun), usually begins 15 days ahead of Lunar New Year’s Day and lasts for about 40 days (usually from mid-January to late February).
This year an estimated 450-500 million Chinese citizens are expected to travel to their home towns to spend China’s biggest and longest holiday with their families.
This huge holiday presents a great opportunity for savy marketers tapping into the largest consumer market in the world. The mass uptake of transport orientated advertising, e-hongbaos, Chinese tourists making trips overseas and novelty items that cash in on ‘the year of the Rooster’ are not to be under-estimated in a country prioritizing this time of year and the unique Chinese cultural practices surrounding it. For international brands it is important to stay ontop of these trends.
Advertising on public transport
CNY sees the largest mass migration of human beings on the planet, it is the longest and highest annual period of transport usage anywhere in the world. In 2016, it was estimated that Chinese travelers made around 2.9 billion trips in total during the 40-day period.
This widespread use of public transport, particularly the bullet train network, represents a huge opportunity for advertisers. The modern CRP train network now boast digital screens, placed in the back of seats. Digital ads are screened between content played with interactive QR code based ads encouraging users to scan and interact. Whilst on long journeys across China (which can be up to 15 hours), there is a relatively captive market with a lot of time on their hands.
Metro systems in the larger cities see increased usage as they effectively act as the major transport hubs. The metro in both Beijing and Shanghai are now implementing LED ad boards which are built into the tunnels and spaced out correctly to create moving, digital displays. The footfall and exposure will be much higher at this time of year.
Vehicle usage increases by four times on the roads so large physical billboards are erected at busy intersections, although this is costly it certainly results in high levels of traffic, if you excuse the pun..
‘Hongbao’ is the infamous ‘red envelope’ that is traditionally presented at this time. It is an envelope filled with cash and reflects good will and prosperous fortune for the year ahead.
In the digital age e-versions are now hugely popular with Alipay, the largest third party payment system in China encouraging users to send their red envelopes via their APP. Users then receive the money into their account. To incentivize users last year Alipay gave away millions of dollars in free prizes for users who used their e-hongbao service.
WeChat are also hot on their heels with their e-wallet service. Users send hongbaos via personal chat or they can be posted in a group with a random or equal allocation of the total figure shared to everyone who opens it. It has not surprisingly been a way of motivating users to engage with brands on the social network by sharing their posts and attracting followers.
This is such a popular phenomenon that Alipay are now launching a ‘Pokemon Go’ style augmented reality game where users interact with the physical world and locations around them (based on GPS) to locate hongbaos. This presents huge opportunites for O2O, that is online to offline based marketing and vice versa.
E-commerce, users with spare time shop online.
Alibaba, the largest e-commerce player in China have developed the largest e-commerce infrastructure in the world. This includes reaching to smaller 2nd and 3rd tier cities. In the run up to CNY shoppers will order to deliver to their homes in more rural areas and the smaller cites. Alibaba will typically see an increase in orders before the festival begins, with the improved road network, delivery fleet and internet penetration rate China has become more connected than ever before. Digital ecommerce facilitates shopping for consumers across the country, not just those in the large, 1st tier cosmopolitan cities. This also benefits cross-border ecommerce which has become the key infrastructure for sales for international brands. With large families giving gifts in the form of hongbaos e-retail also typically spikes just after the CNY period.
Then of course with this being the longest holiday there is the opportunity to travel. Ctrip, the largest travel provider in mainland, reported there will be 6 million outbound trips this year. Catering for Chinese visitors at this time is important, many destinations now offer special New Year dinners and events in hotels and destinations around the globe.
The most popular destinations for tourists are South Korea, Thailand, Japan, US, Singapore, Australia and Indonesia. The focus still tends to be on Asian countries that are closer and more convenient in terms of location. Having said this, as disposable incomes keep rising you expect to see the Chinese middle class choosing luxurious destinations further away in the western hemisphere.
‘Year of the Rooster’ products
This is the year of the Rooster, many novelty product variations around this sell very well. Limited editions versions or packaging is a good move. Features and games based around this theme can also be launched to drive traffic online and up-promote Rooster related content. The symbolism of each animal is important with the Chinese being associated with an animal from birth based on which year they were born. Special offers or rewards for those born in this animal year remain popular with brands.
To conclude it is important to capitalize on such seasonal trends as CNY. The Chinese greatly appreciate such tailored marketing whilst the mass movement, travel trends, hongbao culture and large gatherings of families in their home towns can be tapped into by savy marketers operating in China.
Benji is a digital specialist based in Shanghai, for more information see his website here.