Academic Publishing Trends

Five Key Digital Marketing Trends in China That Western Academic Publishers Need to Know

China has become the world’s largest producer of research papers, accounting for almost a fifth of the global share, and accounts for more than 25% of the world’s most cited papers. International publishers are keen to enter the Chinese market early and understand that utilizing digital marketing resources is essential to their success. According to Christian Juhl, CEO of GroupM, the largest player in China’s digital market: “China plays a crucial role in the global advertising market and the growth strategies of many of the world’s leading marketers.” Hence, publishers aiming to build or extend their presence in China need to take into account the prevailing trends in digital marketing in China, in order to successfully engage with their audiences.

See also: Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent: What Academic Publishers and Societies Need to Know About China’s Tech Giants

Digital marketing trends in China

Below are some of the key digital marketing trends and practices in China that academic publishers need to know:

  1. Increasing Investment in Mobile Internet Marketing

According to the 2023 Digital Marketing Trend Report in China, overall digital marketing investment is showing a promising increasing trend, recovering quickly from the past three years’ disruption by COVID-19. Mobile internet has the highest proportion of increased digital marketing investment, with 77% of advertisers planning to increase mobile internet marketing investment. Additional resources invested in the internet are mainly reflected in social networking, short video, and live broadcast. Social marketing expenses are expected to be higher than the overall investment level, and social marketing expenses are expected to increase by 17%.

  • Use of Big Data

With the rapid development of big data and artificial intelligence, automation has become the predominant practice in Chinese digital marketing. Publishers can automate marketing to increase work efficiency and reduce demands on their workforce. This includes automating social media campaigns, email distribution, and targeted advertising. Additionally, as a result of growing emphasis on “brandformance,” Chinese companies are increasingly using big data to for comprehensive brand monitoring. 

See also: Building an Academic Brand in China: The Importance of Baidu

  • Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM)

sSCRM systems are the most commonly used digital marketing product in China, helping publishers develop close relationships with potential customers through digital social channels. One of China’s most popular SCRM systems is Tencent Qidian, which includes social media functions for QQ, WeChat, WeCom, and Tencent Cloud.

  • WeChat Engagement

Livestreaming, private traffic, and community marketing have gained importance as marketing tools in China. Publishers can leverage WeChat, China’s most popular social media platform, to engage with users. For example, Wiley has provided an online learning platform that integrates with WeChat, allowing users to access over 100 videos, including live-stream events for interacting with leading scholars and editors. Elsevier uses its WeChat official subscriptive account to develop original articles and share content through the auto-pushing function. The use of KOLs and short videos as part of marketing campaigns continues to gain importance in China.

See also: WeChat for Academia: 5 Western Publishers Who Have Created an Online Presence in China

  • Use of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining a prominent role in marketing efforts by Chinese companies. The SCRM system can analyze and generate user labels according to their behavior and chat records to quickly identify user needs. Publishers can communicate effectively with different users because the WeChat AI assistant can help to categorize new customers automatically. All the user chat data and digital footprints are collected and analyzed for decision-making in marketing.

Furthermore, AI generated content is becoming increasingly popular for marketing. For example, Baidu Inc released an AI-powered art generation platform called Wenxin Yige in August 2022. ByteDance has released an AI-powered short-video editing app called Jianying, which enables users to create videos by merely inputting text.

Insights from digital marketing leaders in China

Given the rapid development of China’s digital ecosystem, it’s not surprising that marketers have to be on top of the latest advances in digitization as well as carefully consider which digital tools and channels they need to use. In the words of Jun Fang, General Manager, GroupM: “Different brands adopt different strategies. Many brands are strengthening the effect, bidding, and sales, which need to be more solid and stable through such a cycle. There are also many brands that will cut the budget and more carefully consider their own media delivery plan.”

According to Siyong Shen, CPO, Choiceform: “When the macro economy changes […], changes in the market and consumers require changes in the way enterprises/publishers operate. One of the changes is to refine the operation of customer experience and create a good reputation to promote the virtuous circle of enterprise growth.”

See also: Linkresearcher.Com: A Powerful Tool for Research Dissemination and Strengthening Academic Brands in China


In conclusion, China’s digital landscape is rapidly evolving, and international publishers need to leverage China’s digital marketing systems and resources to establish a brand reputation and enlarge their impact. By developing a digital marketing strategy and keeping up with the rapid development of the Chinese market, publishers can stay ahead of competition and build a successful brand presence in China.

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