China’s influential economy is growing at lightning speed, outpacing the rest of the world. of National Bureau of Statistics estimates that the size of the KOL (key opinion leader) market will exceed $1 trillion (RMB 6.7 trillion) by 2025, growing fivefold since 2020 when it was $210 billion (RMB 1.3 trillion). These numbers are impressive, considering that the US influencer market stood alone in this country 4.14 billion dollars in the year 2022.
KOLs are a key way for brands to market to local consumers and drive sales in the world’s second largest economy. According to Chinese data and influence platform to PJdare 2023 report, despite a challenging macroeconomic environment and multiple lockdowns in China, 58 percent of surveyed brands claimed to have spent more on KOL marketing in 2022 than the year before. Additionally, over 35 percent of brands surveyed said they put more than $240,000 (RMB 3 million) into their KOL marketing budgets in 2022.
Today, influencers are an indispensable tool for brands to strengthen their image, build trust with consumers, drive awareness of new product launches and generate sales conversions. here, Jing Daily presents several luxury and fashion influencers illustrating China’s influencer market trends in 2023.
Savi Sui (@Savislook)
Weibo: 4.2 million followers
Xiaohongshu: 413,000 followers
Douyin: 200,000 followers
Instagram: 265,000 followers
Known for her vintage, effortless and no-nonsense look, local influencer Savi Sui has built a strong visual identity that sets herself apart from other fashion KOLs. “For those who want to be bloggers, one thing to consider is whether you are irreplaceable,” says Sui Jing Daily. Although her following is not as big as some international stars, she is favored by many luxury houses and niche fashion brands because of her unique and nonchalant style. In recent years, top names such as Nanushka, Ganni, Mansur Gavriel and Missoma have collaborated with KOL for their debut Chinese campaigns.
Verdict: Micro-influencers are entering the arena and taking market share from mainstream household names. “Brands are relying on KOC (Key Opinion Consumers) more than ever before. Attracted by their reliability, affordability and performance, most brands increased the percentage of influencer marketing programs featuring KOCs in 2022,” PJdaren’s report states. Additionally, 71 percent of surveyed brands responded that they integrate new KOCs with each campaign.
Meng Zhang and Pablo Zhang (@ahalolo /@ahalolomay)
Xiaohongshu: 236,000 followers
Bilibili: 1 million followers
YouTube: 163,000 followers
Instagram: 70,500 followers
Unlike typical influencers who gain fame by posting stylish looks or impressive purchases, the popularity of the Chinese fashion influencer duo Flood Court can be mainly attributed to their fashion reviews on YouTube, Weibo and Bilibili. Their videos challenge traditional fashion criticism—which often uses dark or flowery rhetoric—by making luxury homes more accessible through casual discussion and gossip. So far, well-known houses such as Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga have all been featured on their channel.
Verdict: Interest-driven platforms such as short video apps Douyin and Kuaishou, lifestyle app Xiaohongshu, and vlog portal Bilibili are taking over traditional social and messaging sites Weibo and WeChat and becoming brands’ preferred channels for collaborations with influential. Over half of PJdaren’s surveyed brands said they will increase their total influencer investment in the above channels.
Cici Xiang (@empty chrysalis out butterfly / @cici_xiang)
Weibo: 2.5 million followers
Xiaohongshu: 279,000 followers
Instagram: 360,000 followers
Chinese supermodel and influencer Cici Xiang’s natural beauty makes her one of fashion’s most sought-after faces, recently featured in campaigns for Gucci, Prada and Chanel. During Spring 2023 Fashion Week, Ferragamo flew Xiang to Milan to see Maximilian Davis’ debut show. In addition to modeling and social networks, she has another identity: art curator. After graduating from the University of the Arts London in 2019, she launched a project “C for ABC” working with galleries and institutions. Her diverse roles, interests and connection to art make her a multi-faceted ambassador of choice for top-tier names.
Verdict: “Brands rely on brand affinity and engagement rates to determine which influencers to work with,” Pjdaren’s report states. Although niche influencers have a relatively limited fan base, they can help brands reach hyper-targeted followers who appreciate their aesthetic and are very loyal.
Zola Zhang (@原是西门大娈)
Weibo: 6.1 million followers
Xiaohongshu: 735,000 followers
Douyin: 2.87 million followers
Thirty-five-year-old Zola Zhang is one WeChat KOL who has successfully integrated influencer marketing with WeChat e-commerce sales. She has also built a strong presence on Weibo and Douyin, with nearly 10 million followers across the platforms. She is known for collaborating with fashion and beauty brands Ports, Valentino, Guerlain and Lancôme. According to data agency Launchmetrics, her Weibo social media post about Guerlain made $192,000 (RMB 1.3 million) in media influence value.
Verdict: China is expected to become the largest beauty market by 2023, surpassing the US. In light of this, brands are trying to establish niches in the growing market with the help of key drivers: KOL and KOC. “The domestic beauty market and consumer behavior have shifted to perhaps the most well-informed, sophisticated and demanding in the world,” says Lin Lin Jacobs, CEO of the continent’s largest international beauty fair CIBE. The beauty influencer boom has allowed Chinese consumers to educate themselves through online content. Before buying a new product, they check online reviews from their favorite KOLs and KOCs.