Daily Insights

RED Commercializes for Chinese New Year

By: Liz Flora | Jan 18, 2019

Popular Chinese social shopping app RED rose in prominence among consumers thanks to its emphasis on organic lifestyle and product review content, but it continues to make headway in a push for commercialization—just in time for Chinese New Year.

On January 2, RED (or Xiaohongshu, 小红书, meaning “Little Red Book”) announced the formal launch of a new influencer platform that allows brands to evaluate influencers officially approved by the app. While it doesn’t take commission for now, the platform allows brands to see follower and engagement metrics for over 8,000 verified influencers. In order to be verified by the app, influencers need to have at least 1,000 followers.

The introduction of the new platform comes after the app officially launched sponsored posts in October, showing an expansion of its monetization model beyond its e-commerce component. According to Gartner L2’s recent China: Mobile Disruptors report, 41% of beauty brands and 5% of luxury brands operate official RED shops.

One brand taking advantage of RED’s new advertising opportunities ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year is French beauty brand Clarins, which launched its new official account on the app with a holiday promotion of its Double Serum. In addition to a full-screen ad that appears when the user opens RED, a sponsored brand post by Clarins also appeared on users’ feeds. The hashtag for the post created by Clarins was also listed as a top trending search topic, while the Clarins brand name later became a separate trending topic.

Clarins is also taking advantage of RED influencers—a beauty blogger’s post about the campaign appeared in users’ feeds with the sponsored post designation as well. Offering free samples to users for following and posting about the brand, the campaign hashtag has received over 5.3 million views.

In addition to Clarins, Tom Ford Beauty also recently ran a full-screen ad for its Lost Cherry perfume being promoted for Chinese New Year, with a hashtag created for the brand listed among the app’s trending topics.

RED’s appeal has come in large part from users’ perception of product recommendations and reviews on the app as genuine. As influencers and celebrities have proliferated on the app, brands have been eager to work with them for sponsored post opportunities as a result. Clarins is using the app exclusively as a social marketing tool for now, promoting RED social account but not linking to purchase items through the app.

As it expands beyond e-commerce in its pursuit of monetization, RED is now more clearly distinguishing between organic and sponsored content, working to find a balance between commercialization and the elements that have made it so successful to date.