DMA Convo: Marketer Alice Au on how to transform brands’ presence on WeChat and Xiaohongshu

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE is proud to present Digital Marketing Asia – Hong Kong, a conference about uncovering transformative trends impacting marketing leaders and decision-makers that will arm digital marketers for 2024 and beyond. Taking place on 26 and 27 October at The Mira Hong Kong, our 39 speakers will share with us their insights and experiences on the post-cookie world, the new digital experience in North Asia, social commerce and putting AI into practice. 

Speaking at the session “How to transform your presence on WeChat & Xiaohongshu to capitalise on rising social commerce” is Alice Au (pictured), group director of digital marketing, Wharf Hotels Management, who is specialised in marketing automation and multi-faceted social or eCommerce development.
Currently, she is tasked at spearheading the group’s digital transformation to fuel the omni-channel, AI and WeChat commerce developments for the luxury segments in hospitality, inside China and for the rest of the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for brands to adapt and embrace digital technologies to stay competitive and meet the evolving needs of customers, including Wharf Hotels. At the nadir during the COVID-19 era, the group underwent a digital marketing transformation.

In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Au said Wharf Hotels has gone through a two-year digital transformation for its two direct-to-consumer (DTC) channels including its official website and social platform WeChat.

“We have taken away the boundary between WeChat and the official website to allow online traffic to flow from one to other freely, and vice versa. This will allow us to reach out to customers, no matter if they are from mainland China or the rest of the world,” she said.  
Expanding brands’ audience reach by leveraging social media has become a trend globally. Au said apart from WeChat, Wharf Hotels has also utilised the user- generated content on Xiaohongshu to amplify the brand’s effort in user experience sharing.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is the process of ‘interconnecting’ channels between different Chinese social media platforms like? Can you share your experience of carrying out the digital transformation over the pandemic period for Wharf Hotels?  

The COVID pandemic situation has brought in many new normals to many industries. For us, Wharf Hotels being in the hotel and travel industry, the new normal would mean no international travel due to travel restrictions, and also the very keen demand for domestic travel, as well as hotel staycations. 

So Wharf Hotels has continued with our expansion plan. In 2021, we’ve opened up the fifth Niccolo Hotel in Suzhou. And later this year in November, we’re also going to open the first hotel for our new lifestyle brand called Maqo, the Maqo Changsha in November this year. 

Apart from the hotel and brand expansion, both hotels have also gone through a two-year digital transformation for our two DTC channels. They made the official website and also WeChat. We have taken away the boundary between WeChat and the official website to allow online traffic to flow from one to each other freely, vice versa. This will allow us to reach out to customers, no matter if they are from mainland China or the rest of the world. With the preferred channels, they want to go to.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Can you share your perspective of rising social commerce in Mainland China and how brands in Hong Kong should leverage WeChat with social content on Xiaohongshu and Douyin to draw the attention of visitors from Mainland China? How does Wharf Hotels leverage social commerce to boost hotel stays and other experiences?  

Why WeChat? There is only one reason. WeChat is the number one mobile app in China with more than 1.3 billion monthly active users, we have opened up two different eCommerce platforms on WeChat. One is called the WeChat Mall, which is the E-shop equivalent market to target the customers who do not have any specific travel plan that they could buy some tickets for the holidays and some packages there. 

We also have the WeChat booking engine, which will take care of customers, they will have some perceived travel days with the check-in days and the checkout days in mind for their hotel vacation. 

Apart from these two eCommerce channels on the WeChat ecosystem, for you, your industry, if you are also targeting like us, the mainland China customers and the consumers, you can also consider the direct connection like us that we have built a direct connection between Xiaohongshu (RED), the Little Red Book, and also Douyin. Red, Little Red Book also being known as the consumer Bible in China. Customers in China will look for information, search for customer comments and share before they make the purchase decision. Same for Douyin, which is the mainland China domestic version of TikTok. 
Through the customer sharing, basically these UGC (user generated content) will also amplify the brand’s effort in the user experience sharing. And through direct connection, basically, we have built an interface between WeChat and these two social channels. So customers do not need to leave these two social channels before they can reach our WeChat facility.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: How is Wharf Hotels planning to leverage blockchain technologies to boost its affiliate marketing program in the future? Why and how should marketing departments consider using Web3 technologies?  

Apart from the direct connection of Little Red Book and Douyin, what’s next for us post-pandemic is actually to ride on the blockchain technology and to expand our footprint digitally to third-party platforms through affiliate marketing. In the upcoming digital marketing Asia Hong Kong forum, I’m going to share with us some case studies for these transformations that we’ve gone through over the past two years. See you in the Digital Marketing Asia Hong Kong 2023.

Related articles:
Wharf Hotels adds Alice Au to managementDMA convo: Marketer Philip Chau on how to formulate the roadmap for crafting a next-gen digital experience
We are bringing Digital Marketing Asia to Hong Kong from Southeast Asia! Hear all about the latest trends in the digital space with 200+ brilliant minds at Digital Marketing Asia – Hong Kong on 26 and 27 October at The Mira Hong Kong. Uncover thought-provoking and customised strategies that help brands connect with audiences effectively.

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