The guide to knowing essential Chinese digital platforms

Oct 25, 2020 |

Chinese digital landscape is vastly different from the West. What works in the West might not work in China or might not be popular at all in mainland China.

From the WeChat integrated mini-programs for solving the complexity of downloading and registering APPs, to well distributed digital payment solutions for adding more convenience to people’s everyday life, China’s digitalization evolvement has been astonishing and will continue to lead the digitalization development globally.

Apart from the digitalization development, China’s digital population is also growing rapidly. In March 2020, Chinese netizens exceeded 903 million and Chinese mobile netizens reached 896 million (source CNNIC). With the digitalization development and growing users, China’s digital economy also has enjoyed an unprecedented growth. According to China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, China’s digital economy has grown from 2.6 trillion in 2005 to 35.8 trillion in 2019, and the digital economy in 2019 accounted 36.2% of the GDP.

Alipay, TikTok, Tmall, and WeChat might sound familiar to many Westerners, but the Chinese digital landscape has so much more to offer. To offer a better understand of Chinese digital landscape, several essential Chinese digital platforms will be introduced.

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Digital Payment Platforms

Alipay: As part of the Alibaba Group matrix, Alipay has been providing digital payment solutions to hundreds of millions of people for more than 10 years. Apart from scanning QR code for transfer payment, Alipay also have many built-in programs that offer services like paying utilities, buying ticket, ordering food, investment, to name a few. In 2020, Alipay also provides user’s health code based their recent travel history to help to contain the COVID-19.

WeChat Pay: Similar to Alipay, WeChat Pay works alike Alipay. As WeChat is the most used multi-purpose social APP in China. WeChat Pay is frequently used to transfer money to a user’s WeChat friends. WeChat Pay accounts 38.8% of the 3rd party mobile payment market.

E-commerce Platforms As one of the major e-commerce platforms, is one of the major competitors to Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao. One of the major advantages that have is that has different warehouse in several major cities which could significantly reduce the amount of deliver time.

Pingduoduo: Founded in 2015, Pingduoduo has been taking a different e-commerce approach than and Tmall. Pingduoduo differentiates itself with interaction and value for money, such as group purchase meaning people could team up to increase the purchase volume to get a lower price.

Taobao & Tmall: Both are owned by Alibaba Group, Taobao is a marketplace for individual or small enterprise to sell products and can be viewed as a C2C platform. Tmall, however, is more of a B2C platform where brands set up their flagship stores to sell to customers.

Food Service Platforms

Dianping: Dianping is the major go-to platform for people to check where to eat and shop based on the customer ranking and reviews. Restaurants can publish various of information such as dish pictures, special offers, reservation information, etc. For overseas restaurants and shopping destinations, Dianping is an effective platform to reach out Chinese travelers. Dianping offers official account and cost-per-click ad services to overseas restaurants and shopping destinations. It also offers discount voucher service to overseas shopping destinations. With the official account, functions like adding venue features and detailed information, monitoring online traffic, offering special offer vouchers to drive offline traffic, and replying customer reviews will be enabled. With cost-per-click ad, the venue will be suggested to Dianping users with a top rank in the relevant category. The discount voucher service will help to attract more offline visits and increase sales. is one of the major online-to-offline food delivery platforms with more than 50% market share. User can search nearby restaurants and get the food delivered around 30 minutes.

Meituan: Meituan offers different vouchers in cooperation with restaurants and local services. It acquired Dianping but has a different APP than Dianping, and customers can directly order food delivery on the APP.

Messaging and Social Media Platforms

QQ: QQ is an instant messaging platform and developed by Tencent in 1999, it is one of the earliest Chinese social network platforms and later went beyond messaging to games, social circle, personal blog, etc.

WeChat: WeChat is one of the most important multi-purpose social app for Chinese, and its daily active users exceeded 1 billion in Jan 2019. Apart from serving individual users, brands and organizations could also set up WeChat Public Accounts or mini-programs to interact with customers.

Little Red Book: RED is the largest online lifestyle sharing community in China with 300 million+ registered users and 100 million+ monthly active users. It is a go-to platform for Chinese to look for inspirations and sharing lifestyles. It is also worth mentioning that more than 60% of its users are 1st and 2nd tier city based and 70%+ of them were born after 90s.

Weibo: Weibo is one of the biggest user relationships based social platforms with 300M+ registered users, 460 million+ monthly active users. It offers efficient and instant information exchange. Brands often use Weibo to release official brand information and interact with users.

Search Engine Platforms

Baidu: After Google made the decision to shut down its Chinese search engine in 2010, Google Chrome is no longer accessible to users in mainland China. Baidu along with other search engines took the market share. Today Baidu is the most used search engine in China and accounts more than 70% of the market share.

Short Videos Platforms

Bilibili: Bilibili is famous for its professional user-generate-content and bullet screen which means users can add and view instant overlaid comments on videos. Around 78% of its users are at the age of 18 to 35, and Bilibili is seen as an online entertainment community for Chinese young generations.

Douyin: Douyin is the Chinese version of TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance. Users can publish 3 to 60 seconds videos with themes on music, lip synch, comedy, talent competition, etc. Douyin employs an advanced AI which would push personalized content to the user.

Kuaishou: Kuaishou, often known as Kwai overseas, is a rival of Douyin/TikTok.  Kuaishou position itself as a platform for the content creator and give the freedom for users to create diverse content.

Trip Advising / Booking Platforms

MFW: MFW, also referred to Mafengwo in China, is a leading Chinese social network site with over 100 million registered users which provides long-form travel related content to Chinese FiT. The platform is particularly popular for Chinese travelers to seek for inspirations for domestic and South East Asian travels.

Qyer: Qyer is a leading travel information, travel community, and travel planning platform in China with over 100 million registered users. It is a major go-to place for Chinese outbound free independent travelers to search for travel guides and destination information.

Fliggy: Fliggy is a Chinese OTA owned by Alibaba Group. It is an online mall for brands like airline and travel related agencies to sell their products and services.

Ctrip: Ctrip, also known as overseas, is the No. 1 OTA in China. Its APP is an all-in-one APP meaning users can directly book flights, tickets, hotels, and rental cars.

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