Part 2: Courting Gen Z’s Digital Natives in Asia

april 17, 2018
Digital natives around the world have a lot in common: hyper connectivity, constant attachment to their smartphone, a connection with digital influencers, and the ability to easily learn (and eagerly adopt) new technologies. But they aren't completely homogenous. Digital natives in East Asia, including China, are quite different than their peers in the US and Europe. Companies looking to create content for these geographies need to understand some of the key differences or they risk lackluster results in one of the world's biggest markets.

Although each country in East Asia is unique, there are some generalizations that apply to the entire region. Here four of the most important ways that preferences and attitudes toward content are different in East Asia, and how to customize content to suit the region:

1. Enticements draw engagement
Content that succeeds with digital natives in Asia often maximizes engagement by offering an exchange. A business might offer a prize for a WeChat follow, for example. Games, prize draws, and gifts are all common enticements to get Asia's Gen Z to engage with branded content. While this technique is used in the US and Europe, it's more successful in East Asia.

2. Live streaming is life
Live video broadcast is a huge business in Asia, and a part of most people's day-to-day lives in a way that it isn't in the rest of the world (at least not yet). Of total internet users in China, half use live streaming apps. In Japan, Thailand and Korea users watch 300 to 500 minutes of live streaming content per month. Viewership is high: a company hosting a Facebook Live session in the US or Europe is lucky to get a few thousand viewers. In Asia, a live streaming "personality" can attract 100,000 viewers per session. The Western expectation of polished and produced live video is also diminished. In Asia live video permeates everyday life and broadcasting footage of seemingly mundane activities like eating or playing video games is quite popular.
3. Live video is a marketplace
Social commerce is generally more developed in Asia, with most of the popular platforms offering in-app payments. Live streaming is no exception. Last year, China's live streaming market was estimated to be worth $5 billion. Live video in Asia is monetized by real-time consumer purchasing, virtual gifting, and ads. Users buy virtual tokens and use them to purchase stickers and filters, or gift them to live streamers they follow. This commercial element means that viewers are going to be bombarded with a lot of messaging while watching content, but it also introduces an element of gamification and interactivity that increases engagement.
4. Local platforms rule
Although Facebook is still the most popular platform in the region, regional platforms (most mobile based) are incredibly important, especially in China where Facebook is blocked. Interestingly, the most successful platforms are messaging apps rather than the broadcasting format common elsewhere: WeChat and QQ in China, LINE in Japan, and Kakao Talk in Korea. Commercial messages are delivered in the same stream as private messages, resulting in a form of communication that's closer to direct mail. When reaching out to viewers in Asia on these platforms, companies need to think of the interaction as a true conversation.
Final thoughts:
Digital natives are a new breed, and understanding them is key to delivering successful content. Their preferences for visual communication, interactivity, and community make live video a powerful platform for reaching them. We've already seen live video become ingrained in everyday life in East Asia, and the rest of the world is quickly catching up.
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