APAC Spotlight: Affiliate Marketing in Hong Kong
Over the past decade, eCommerce has rapidly grown across the Asia Pacific region (APAC). Alibaba—China’s largest commerce company—has contributed to this boom in eCommerce.
In Hong Kong, many traditional stores have established online purchasing platforms, such as Watsons and Chow Sang Sang. HKTVmall, a local eCommerce platform which launched in 2014, opened up opportunities for local businesses to promote their products online and experiment with the online-retail model.
The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to online shopping rising in popularity across Hong Kong, with HKTVmall realizing a 169% growth in revenue YoY.
This article will share how the growth in eCommerce across Hong Kong has helped affiliate marketing flourish, the top players in this market and the market nuances you need to consider before expanding your affiliate program to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is one of China’s two Special Administrative regions and has a population of almost 7.5 million. Despite its geological connection with China, both markets are very different due to Hong Kong’s history as a British colony.
It has 91% internet penetration rate, and it is one of the most smartphone-friendly markets in the world with 94% of internet users using smartphones. Google dominates the market with 83.8% of the search volume and Yahoo, 13.6%.
In Hong Kong, eCommerce and online shopping, in general, has not grown at the same pace as the other Asian markets. Offline shopping is more accessible and convenient, with department stores and shopping malls every three-square kilometer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of eCommerce across Hong Kong, with eCommerce payments increasing by 13.4% YoY. This significant annual growth in eCommerce in Hong Kong facilitates the expansion of affiliate marketing across the market, with more brands looking to expand their programs.
The affiliate marketing industry started in the early 2000s after Amazon’s affiliate program became a huge success. Like other Asian markets, sub-networks are key players in Hong Kong.
English is widely spoken as the second language, meaning affiliates have no issue joining global sub-networks such as Skimlinks or Brandreward. Chinese and Taiwanese sub-networks like ChineseAN and iChannels have exponentially grown in Hong Kong and have played an essential role in shaping the industry by educating affiliates and providing Chinese language support.
Any brand expanding their affiliate program to Hong Kong should consider working with both global and local sub-networks.
Mass media partners have played a significant role in the market, and these sites have a strong influence on society and their shopping habits. In recent years, this type of partner, for example, Apple Daily and Weekly Weekend, has moved away from print journalism to an online version with news websites and mobile apps growing in popularity.
Many mass media partners offer brands the opportunity to share localized content, which consumers across Hong Kong respond well to. This shift has played a pivotal role in affiliate marketing, providing more opportunities for brands to advertise online. However, to deploy a successful strategy with this type of partner, brands will need to be open to alternative payment models, such as a flat fee.
Besides the traditional affiliate model, influencer marketing is also thriving in the market. 71% consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media recommendation. Facebook continues to dominate with 82% penetration rate in Hong Kong, followed by Instagram and YouTube, where influencers are also known as KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders).
They share products, reviews and do promotions. The most popular categories of social influencers are nano-influencers and micro-influencers who accept gifting or a CPA payout model.
In-person meetings are essential in Hong Kong to build trust. Hierarchy is also important. Recognize the most senior business partner, greet them first with a handshake, and then work your way down the hierarchy.
Do not forget to hand over your business cards while shaking hands. Even though English is widely spoken in Hong Kong business culture, it is courtesy to speak slowly and clearly to your business partners.
“Yes” may not mean agreement; it often means “I hear you.” “No” is generally not said. Instead, you may hear “I will have to wait,” or “this may be very difficult.”
Hong Kong is a fusion of eastern and western cultures. Both Cantonese and English are the official language, most business communication is in English, and the main form of communication is by email, like most western countries.
Localized content has become more important in the market and has had significant effects on marketing strategies and brand recognition by increasing traffic and engagement. Brands need to prepare their marketing material in traditional Chinese and English, as around 10% of Hong Kong’s population are non-Chinese speakers.
To gain brand awareness, create affiliate marketing campaigns that focus on market-specific eCommerce dates and events. Some events to keep in mind for eCommerce in Hong Kong include:
- Chinese New Year (around late January to early February, based on the lunar calendar): Consumers buy new clothes during the new year, except shoes which are a symbol of bad luck
- Valentine’s Day (14th February): Couples exchange gifts such as flowers and chocolate with each other
- Easter (mid-April): Consumers exchange chocolate with friends and loved ones
- Mid-autumn Festival (around August-September, based on the lunar calendar): A gathering focused on family
- Double 11 (11th November): A key online shopping festival
- Black Friday (27th November): A key online shopping festival
- Christmas Day and Boxing Day (25th -26th December): Consumers exchange gifts with friends and family
You can find out more about global holidays and observances to promote via your affiliate program in our global guide.
As affiliate marketing grows in popularity across APAC, Hong Kong offers an excellent opportunity for brands. Any brand looking to expand their affiliate program to Hong Kong should focus on localizing strategies to be set up for success including, localized content, language support and working with local partners.