This marketing tool in Tmall is the antidote for budget cuts and falling demand (and it’s FREE to use)

Dropping demand, supply chain disruptions, mass layoffs, budget cuts and salary reductions…

Consumer retail is suffering globally. Even though Taobao is recovering in most categories, brands need to be cautious with marketing budgets. There are fewer fish in the sea but the fishermen remain, so it only becomes more expensive to win over a new customer.

One area brands should explore during this time is re-engaging existing customers in their own Tmall flagship stores.

Table of Contents:

  1. Why use a list to re-engage customers
  2. The current state of re-engagement in Tmall
  3. Is email the most powerful marketing tool?
  4. The one free tool for 1-on-1 conversations in Tmall
  5. Why this tool is so underutilized by brands

1. Why use a list to re-engage customers

The biggest names in digital marketing will all tell you that it is much easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one.

Once someone becomes a customer, it becomes easier to sell them other things they may like…over and over again. You can upsell and cross sell, as long as you bring your audience good value instead of spammy content.

Simply put, repeat customers are much more valuable than brand new customers:

Infographic showing the value of customer retention and repeat customers

2. The current state of re-engagement in Tmall

The problem is that most stores are getting a very small % of repeat customers. All the budget goes toward acquiring new customers (and it’s not cheap in Taobao.)

You get large volume sales from Tmall events. They’re ready to buy from you again if the circumstances are right.

But that’s just not so common. The percentage of repeat customers varies widely, but 30% is considered very high in any category.

So what can Tmall stores do to re-engage past customers?

Weitao: It’s just like Instagram within the platform. This is a powerful re-engagement tool. Many people pay attention to their Weitao feed whenever they open the Taobao app.

But the attention is fleeting…it lasts maybe a second. People scroll through their feeds and can easily pass through your content unless it’s ridiculously catchy.

And Weitao is not exactly something specifically for past customers. It’s for anyone who has “followed” your store. You may miss out on many that bought without following your store… or you’d need to incentivize everyone to follow your store.

SMS marketing: There are apps that let you accurately target past customers and send them SMS. Sure, it’s effective in getting some people to visit your store, but it’s far from free.

But more importantly, you’re very limited in what you can show via SMS. Even if you manage to make your messages super interesting, the impressive spam filters in China will make sure your customers don’t receive them.

Display ads: You can accurately target those past customers with display ads (ZSZW)…but this isn’t free…. and again, they only get a brief second of their attention. Even less with banner blindness.

Customer groups: You can run a chat group for fans and past customers, but it’s not 1 on 1 conversations with the customers. It’s a whole bunch of people talking at the same time which is why people shy away from these. They can also backfire if the community polluted by trolls.

So what’s left? We’ll get to that in just a second.


3. In the West, everyone says that Email is still the most powerful marketing tool.

Email has the highest ROI and it’s super personal.

But these people obviously haven’t seen ecommerce in China.

Nobody uses email here.

Sure, plenty of people use it for work…but have you seen how hard it is to verbally tell someone your email address in China?

Half the alphabets sound exactly the same in Chinese. Rather than going through that hell, people would much rather just give each other their QQ or Wechat IDs.

Building a list in Wechat would be great, but it’s against Taobao’s terms of use to bring your store’s audience outside the Alibaba ecosystem.


4. There’s one tool that enables 1-on-1 conversations inside Tmall… and it’s free

Wangwang, Tmall's free marketing tool

It’s called Wangwang (aka Wangxin).

It’s the messenger app that customer service (CS) agents use. Is it as good as email in the West? Probably not, but it’s very close.

It gets 100% of the reader’s attention until they choose to click away. It’s a place where you can distribute content to your “list” of contacts and engage in 1-on-1 conversations.

And it’s free to use. The main constraint is that the customer has to agree to “friend” you. But after that, you can broadcast messages to them like you would with an email campaign.

This is significant because it mirrors the way people buy things in China. Business is a personal matter and solid partnerships last a lifetime. No chat bot can replace the care that goes into 1 on 1 conversations (at least not yet.)

5. Then why is it so under-utilised for re-engaging customers?

Re-engaging through Wangwang is a lot of hard work. It’s hard to come up with a content marketing campaign that’s highly relevant to past customers. It’s hard to find good copywriters that can make the customers feel understood. The content marketing strategy needs to be built around the customer’s needs and interests, not around the product offering.

Bigger brands tend to have structural challenges. It may be nearly impossible for organizations with very strict content guidelines. Creative content and unusual offers already tend to get lots of pushback for Tmall events.

But during these extremely uncertain times, it’s worth doing everything to maximize lifetime value per customer beyond a single transaction.