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Douyin App & Ocean Engine Explained

Douyin App & Ocean Engine Explained

December 13, 2023
17 mins read

In the new era of social commerce and interest e-commerce, Douyin offers a highly effective channel for brands aspiring to make their mark in the Chinese market.

In this brief, we will delve into the synergy between Douyin and Ocean Engine, a one-stop programmatic advertising platform. This includes examining the transformative marketing and advertising solutions available on the Ocean Engine platform. Additionally, we will assess the profound impact of social commerce, influencer marketing, and interest e-commerce on China’s digital landscape.

Part 1: Douyin, the rise of video-sharing apps

From revolutionizing the way consumers shop and access entertainment to fostering new and vibrant social cultures, smartphone apps have evolved into an essential part of daily life in China.

Coupled with the uptake in app usage is the explosive growth of video-sharing apps. From 2015 to 2021, short-video apps surged ahead of messaging, news, and shopping apps to become the number one category in China for app usage time.

Leading the wave is the popular video-sharing app Douyin. With over 600 million daily active users, downloads of the app have exploded since its release in 2016, penetrating deeply into the lives of people in whole China.

Part 2: Ocean Engine, what is Ocean Engine?

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Recognized in Kantar BrandZ’s prestigious Most Valuable Chinese Brands Top 100 for 2021, Ocean Engine is a complete, one-stop marketing and programmatic advertising platform.

Spanning news, education, selfie cameras, real estate, games, and e-book apps, Ocean Engine gives brands direct access to a suite of popular apps under Douyin Group including Douyin, Toutiao, CapCut, Xigua Video, CSJ (Chuanshanjia), and many others.

With 1.9 billion monthly active user accounts across this network, Ocean Engine is able to analyze user interests and behavior in real-time on a massive scale, helping brands find the right audience and reach them at the right time and place.

This enables brands and advertisers to target focused online communities using granular and AI user targeting and then gain access to data-driven insights about user behavior in their chosen market.

Other key features include fast and easy ad delivery, multiple creative formats, and comprehensive ad optimization tools for maximum efficiency and in-depth insights.

Who should use Ocean Engine?

The Ocean Engine platform is ideal for sales/marketing/advertising teams, consumer and trend researchers, data analysts, product managers, and user growth experts.

Based on their business development goals, teams can leverage a variety of tools and features including audience research, comparative analysis of competitors (industry benchmarking), and powerful ad delivery services.

Part 3: Why Douyin?

The explosive rise of social commerce in China

In today’s digital era, social media has emerged as a powerful conduit for consumers to discover and explore quality products, giving rise to the phenomenon now known as “social commerce“.

By offering multiple and diverse content formats, optimized search and storefront capabilities, live video interactions, and powerful virality, Douyin redefines how brands engage with their audience in the new era of social commerce.

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  1. Diverse content formats for maximum engagement & audience reach: with its seamless integration of text, images, short videos, and livestreaming, Douyin enables creators to effectively captivate interest and build meaningful relationships with users through social content.

  2. Optimized search and storefront capabilities: Douyin’s highly optimized search and storefront features are designed to connect brands with users actively seeking product-related content. This dynamic synergy between content creation and storefronts forms the cornerstone of a robust and sustainable business model for brands and creators.

  3. Live interactions: social livestreams offer a live view of showcased products and brand events while enabling real-time user interactions with trusted hosts, resulting in unparalleled sales conversion rates.

  4. The virality factor: one of the most exciting aspects of social commerce is the ability for brands to go viral. The existence of livestreaming, easy video-sharing features, and a legion of key opinion leaders (KOLs) in every niche unlocks a level of virality simply not possible on a traditional e-commerce website.

Introducing interest e-commerce

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After years of keyword-based search and static product listings on traditional e-commerce platforms, the landscape of online shopping has undergone a significant transformation. Instead of relying on users to seek out and navigate a brand or merchant’s online store, social apps like Douyin prioritize creating relevance and proactively meeting individual user needs based on interest.

On Douyin, users express their interests and preferences for products through their viewing habits and daily interactions. From watch-time duration to content creation and product purchases, user interactions accumulate and enable brands to find them based on proven interest.

Using this data, Douyin is able to match content and user behavior with high accuracy and provide a platform for interest-based shopping, also known as interest e-commerce. This in turn gives brands a stage to create relevant product offers, sales events, and marketing strategies to reach their target customers and convert them into long-term customers.

Global reach with a local touch

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Douyin’s vast user base and expansive network of creators, living and traveling abroad, offer an ideal platform for global brands to broaden their reach and convert prospective Chinese customers.

The fusion of creator recommendations and up-close content offers a powerful formula for expanding awareness and nurturing trust, whetting consumers’ appetite for global products and experiences.

Highlighting Douyin’s global reach, a creator visiting Australia took their camera inside a milk powder warehouse, showcasing rows of original goods in the warehouse, while providing commentary that resonated with a Chinese audience.

For global brands, this type of content helps to build brand trust, expand awareness, and ultimately increase sales. Ultimately, consumers trust what they see and purchase what they trust.

It also demonstrates Douyin’s ability to transcend geographical boundaries, offering users a window into diverse corners of the globe with unparalleled access and engagement.

Support for global brands

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Leveraging the engagement and trust fostered through content, Douyin’s cross-border e-commerce arm, Douyin EC Global, provides a range of solutions to support global brands.

This includes “Douyin Flagship” certification, which is a new IP introduced by Douyin EC Global to promote big-name brands in the minds of consumers. Brands that meet the necessary standards gain access to an array of exclusive benefits, including amplified traffic exposure and tailored customization of various marketing activities and training courses.

Moreover, flagship stores enjoy an extended range of services and assurances, including a 7-day hassle-free return policy, genuine product guarantees, traceability codes for products stored in bonded warehouses, and a distinctive logo to assure consumers that they are buying high-quality overseas goods.

In addition, Douyin EC Global offers a “Global Shopping Selected” label, strategically aimed at flagship stores providing top-quality and genuine imported products. This distinctive label is designed to enhance customers’ trust and offer global brands additional exposure to their products.

Marketing solutions for e-commerce

Douyin EC Global offers overseas a comprehensive list of e-commerce solutions for brands entering the Chinese market and building long-term growth. This includes a list of innovative marketing products for brands and a seamless shopping experience for users, allowing brands to go from awareness to conversion faster than ever before.

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  1. Douyin Lite Shop: your all-in-one e-commerce store serves as an integrated hub for e-commerce brands, streamlining product management, promotion, order processing, and the delivery of exceptional customer experiences, all within one user-friendly platform.

  1. Interest-driven e-commerce on Douyin: Douyin’s interest-based e-commerce model bridges the gap between content and commerce, offering a new way for businesses to engage customers. Short videos, livestreams, Douyin Mall, and search functionalities collectively cover the entire consumer journey, connecting the right products with the right users.

  1. Harnessing the power of livestreaming: livestreams are an invaluable tool for brands and merchants to engage and connect with their target customers in real time. To bolster presence and popularity on Douyin, brands can consider establishing a regular brand livestream schedule, fostering customer engagement, and driving sales through personalized and interactive experiences.

  1. Expanding reach with Ocean Engine Shopping Ads: whether it’s enhancing brand recognition or boosting conversions, Ocean Engine Shopping Ads help brands expand their reach and target the right audience to realize their business objectives.

Part 4: Influencer marketing

Introducing influencer marketing in China

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With the rise of short-form video content and livestreaming events, Douyin has become a popular platform for creators and KOLs (key opinion leaders) to partner with brands. The phrase “as seen on Douyin” has become the advertising industry’s new “as seen on TV.”

Creators on Douyin have a close relationship with their audience and this translates into increased trust and credibility for the brands they promote.

Not surprisingly, brands are increasing their budget on influencer endorsements on Douyin, with KOL marketing doubling between 2018 and 2021 and 70% of Douyin advertisers surveyed saying they are willing to increase their budget on KOL marketing in 2023.

Influencer marketing on Douyin

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On Douyin, brands can collaborate with creators through a variety of formats including short-form videos, live shopping shows, Branded Missions, and game streaming promotions.

Influencer marketing is also woven into the fabric of the user experience. This is evident in the four phases of the Douyin platform: discovery, consideration, review, and participation.

  1. Discovery: In the discovery phase, Douyin’s state-of-the-art interest-based algorithm helps users explore and find content that matches their interests.

  2. Consideration: In the consideration phase, creators and influencers make recommendations to spread the word and motivate users to purchase, which is pivotal for converting other users. According to a joint Ocean Engine-Kantar study, 21% of surveyed users watch a video and 15% watch a livestream before making a purchasing decision, outweighing key selling points (15%), reading an article (12%), and friend’s advice (9%).

  3. Review: The review phase is characterized by users leaving feedback and sharing their experiences on Douyin. Users may also post brand-related content or mention brands and showcase their recent purchases on Douyin. These actions help to drive sales and conversions for brands.

  4. Participation: Finally, in the participation phase, users join the community conversation and participate in an immersive shopping experience. They create tutorials related to their recent purchases, share feedback, and engage with other users to build relationships and foster brand loyalty.

Collectively, these four phases possess the potential to transform consumers into brand influencers, propelling substantial business growth for brands seeking to harness the vast creator pool on the platform.

Influencer marketing on Xingtu

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As a partner service platform provided by Ocean Engine, Xingtu offers invaluable guidance and support to influencers throughout their entire journey, ensuring mutual success for all participants within the ecosystem.

In total, Xingtu offers access to over 1,500 MCNs (multi-channel networks), 2 million available influencers, 1.9 million brands and clients, as well as more than 1,000 agencies and service providers.

By fostering win-win collaborations between influencers, brands, and marketers, the platform creates synergistic partnerships that drive mutual growth and success. This includes facilitating strategic connections, negotiating fair partnerships, and fostering a vibrant ecosystem where all stakeholders can thrive together.

Through strategic guidance, tailored programs, mentorship opportunities, and other resources, Xingtu also empowers influencers to enhance their skills, expand their reach, and grow a loyal audience.

Part 5: Advertising on Douyin

Who is eligible?

From popular cosmetic brands to global mobile gaming companies and iconic luxury brands, Ocean Engine empowers brands to deliver ads and drive traffic to their content, livestream shows, or e-commerce storefronts on apps like Douyin and Toutiao.

Global brands, including those without a permanent physical presence in the Chinese mainland, can apply for an Ocean Engine enterprise account.

Note that the eligibility criteria for opening an enterprise account depends on a variety of considerations, including the industry, business scope, and advertising objectives of the applicant. To confirm if your brand is eligible for an enterprise account, we recommend contacting Ocean Engine for direct assistance.

In addition, all applicants should carefully note that advertising materials must adhere to all relevant laws, regulations, and content policies. For instance, any advertised link must relate to the enterprise account delivering the ad and align with the industry and business scope of that account. Enterprise accounts that don’t align with the latest list of prohibited industries are also restricted from registering or operating an enterprise account.

Documentation required

Since the documentation required for business registration certificates/licenses and industry qualifications differs from one country and region to another, it’s essential to contact Ocean Engine directly to ascertain the specific documents required as part of your application.

Getting started

As a user-friendly advertising platform, Ocean Engine’s user interface and customer service team provide language support for both Chinese and English, enabling brands to seamlessly execute their online marketing campaigns in China as an advertiser.

After successfully registering an Ocean Engine enterprise account, brands receive instant access to a variety of advertising and analytics tools. This includes Creative Workbench for creating ads, a variety of user targeting and research tools, as well as advance reporting interfaces.

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Creative Workbench: This product enables brands to easily create native ad content, including multiple ad formats, without spending hours editing and exporting ad content from Adobe Photoshop or Premiere. Brands can also draw inspiration from the platform’s top-performing creatives and access a free stock video library, helping them craft engaging ad content of their own.

Pre-ad delivery: Ocean Engine offers comprehensive tools for advertisers to analyze and optimize ads before they start advertising. This includes In-Feed Ad Traffic Analysis to help estimate ad performance data and gain insights into the best time to deliver ads, as well as details on the relationship between costs and traffic fluctuations before, during, and after ad delivery.

Post-ad delivery: Similar to other programmatic advertising platforms, managing ads on Ocean Engine isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. From audience analysis reports (i.e. devices, behavioral interests, and regions of users), to landing page heat maps, and ad tracking options using third-party tracking links, Ocean Engine provides various insights and reports to improve ad performance and create even higher converting content in the future. Brands can also obtain extra insights for scenario-based data analysis (i.e. video, livestream, and landing page analysis reports), business account reports (i.e. changes in user activity over a defined period of time and recent business account performance) to help finetune their ad strategy.

Part 6: Ocean Engine solutions

Business solutions to grow your brand in China

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As a comprehensive advertising ecosystem, Ocean Engine can be added to the marketing mix in a variety of ways to fulfill important business goals including brand awareness, user intention, and conversion.

  1. Brand awareness: For brands seeking to increase awareness, ad campaigns can be optimized to increase the strategic exposure of products and services (through clicks and impressions). Ad targeting, for example, can be tweaked to focus on existing followers or users recently exposed to the brand’s content.

  1. User intention: Another common goal for brands is to push user intention. This involves optimizing ads to drive users to interact with ad content and the brand channel, including likes, comments, shares, and downloads, all aimed at attracting new followers.

  2. Conversion: The third and most important goal is conversion. This typically involves optimizing ads to drive conversion actions to a landing page, such as a web form submission, in-app purchase, activation, or subscription payment.

Brand building solutions

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Ocean Engine empowers brands to engage prospective customers through an array of compelling brand-building solutions, designed to spark interest and stimulate conversions.

  1. Brand Takeover: Ensuring premium visibility, this format prominently showcases the brand’s videos at the forefront of an immersive, uninterrupted, and full-screen user experience. With streamlined ad creation and inbound traffic management, a Brand Takeover efficiently captivates audiences right from the start, firmly establishing the brand at the forefront of consumer consciousness.

  2. TopView Ads: Empowering brands to craft and tell an immersive story, TopView Ads put a brand’s sound-on content front and center, appearing immediately and lasting up to 60 seconds. This ad format dominates the screen for the first 3 seconds, delivering an uninterrupted and clean viewing experience. After 3 seconds, the ad smoothly transitions to an In-Feed video, boosting ad interactivity and resulting in significantly higher brand exposure and recall.

  3. Creative Pop-Up: Brands can elevate their impact to the next level when users open the app by incorporating attention-grabbing graphics and interactive elements. Creative Pop-Ups encompass features such as Twist to Open, Eye-catching Button, Gestures, TopView Ads, interactive effects, and more.

  4. In-Feed Video Ads: With a variety of creative styles to choose from, In-Feed Video Ads boost user engagement and conversion. In-Feed Video Ads blend nicely into users’ daily experiences and expectations on the platform, providing a more natural way for brands to appeal to their audience.

  1. Carousel In-Feed Ads: With a minimum requirement of 3 images, this ad format offers a lower barrier to entry in terms of content creation. Carousel In-Feed Ads are highly effective at enhancing both click-through and view completion rates.

  2. Content Promote: Used to achieve a range of marketing objectives including lead generation, brand promotion, product seeding, user engagement, and follower building, Content Promote is a fast and efficient way to get views and boost interest. This works by promoting organic content and seamlessly integrating it into users’ “For You” feed.

  3. Content Promote Optimal A3: Optimizes ads with the objective of product seeding and A3 audience acquisition, effectively mobilizing a community of users already familiar with the brand and willing to buy (A3).

Learn more

To learn more about Ocean Engine, including registering an account, managing Douyin ads, and specific marketing advice for China, you can contact the Ocean Engine team directly here.