The Rise in Private Traffic

4 minute read

By Paul Hickey, Hot Pot Strategist

Private traffic has been a much-touted marketing buzzword in China since 2019. The trend has been driven by the rising cost of paid traffic on ecommerce platforms and in response, brands are looking to reduce their CPA through owned audiences.

Public traffic is commonly defined as traffic that any brand has access to across ecommerce or social channels that they pay to direct through to purchase opportunities. Think in-platform advertising, social ads etc. 

Private traffic, on the other hand, essentially comprises brand-owned communities built up through social channels, apps or brand-owned websites that can then be used to retarget and drive consumers to commercial touchpoints on a repeat basis.


Private Traffic Overview

  • Major ecommerce sites like JD, Tmall, Pinduoduo etc. work with brands to drive the right traffic to their store through different ad formats but costs are always increasing. Social commerce has grown in China which allows brands to build communities on social platforms and drive them directly to commercial channels, thus eliminating or reducing ecommerce ad spend.
  • WeChat is perhaps the best-known platform for private traffic because of its platform ecosystem that allows a brand to build a community within an official account and drive them to mini-program commerce. Along with this, brands can extract valuable data from the platform that will allow for better targeting through content and sophisticated segmentation.
  • Weibo is a typically open platform, however, using engagement metrics, you’re able to create groups based on levels of fan interaction. This has been widely used by celebrity fan clubs to allow those most vociferous fans deeper engagement and direct involvement in the way that the channel is run. Brands are now using this to segment out their most active fans and create community in groups, pushing special offers and other value-adds
  • Email isn’t widely used as a marketing tool in China, however SMS commonly acts in its place. Many brands take advantage of this opportunity by pushing SMS messages to those who have made a purchase before with links to ecommerce sites.
  • One key note — in order to properly take advantage of any private traffic, proper measurement and reporting should be in place. If using a mini-program, ensure you have stringent checks in place to track traffic at each stage of the user journey. If using private groups, make sure you’re able to see who has been driven from which group and how. Without this in place, measuring the effectiveness and adapting will be very difficult. 


What are the benefits of private traffic?

  • Private traffic is essentially a community of high quality consumers that you have access to without having to pay a third party to drive them to your purchase destination. This means that whilst creating that community may involve a higher initial CPA, transforming that same consumer into a loyal customer means the ROI is significantly higher. 


How can brands use private traffic?

  • WeChat – Brands should invest in building a community of engaged fans on the platform rather than just chasing vanity metrics. The ability to build an engaged fanbase means easier conversion of those audiences through campaigns and content. Alternatively, brands can create groups to actively manage and engage with brand advocates and drive them to commercial touchpoints.
  • Weibo – Segment out the most active fans into groups that community managers can then engage with to push offers and products that will be of most interest to that group.
  • SMS  – There’s potential to utilise SMS to re-engage consumers who have made a purchase with the brand (ensuring that communications are in-line with Chinese data laws). Utilising links within SMS messaging will allow consumers to directly link to product pages and reduce friction.


Private Traffic in Practice


Perfect Diary

Local cosmetics brand Perfect Diary use WeChat groups to engage consumers. They use their social content to then drive consumers to a WeChat group where a community manager posts frequent offers and news to groups of up to 500 people. The offers tend to be exclusive to the platform and are all focused on driving to the Perfect Diary mini-program. 

Perfect Diary WeChat Group



Lookfantastic takes advantage of Weibo to segment their most engaged fans and target them with offers through a private group on Weibo. Taking the same approach as the  celebrity fan groups, the brand is able to drive the highest-value consumers to Tmall or the owned ecommerce site as well as get real-time consumer feedback on brands and products.

Lookfantastic Weibo Group



    • Brands should invest in creating long-term engaged communities in order to decrease spending dependency on ecommerce or affiliate channels.
    • Drill down to determine the right platforms – know which platforms work best for your audience and where the value lies
    • Ensure that you have proper tracking in place across the entire customer journey in order to ensure you can optimise results based on solid data

Get in touch to understand how Hot Pot China can help you maximise value from Private Traffic through targeted tactical campaigns, data analysis and CRM initiatives.

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