Xiaohongshu is a social e-commerce app worth billions—but can it monetize its trend-setting reputation?

The Chinese spend an average of 102 minutes each day browsing e-commerce sites, the longest in the world. On social media, they lag, but still clock in at a respectable 25th place worldwide—exactly two hours per day, and one minute behind the US.

It was only a matter of time before someone tried to combine the two trends.

Founded in 2013, Shanghai-based “social commerce” app Xiaohongshu (“Little Red Book”) has had a very good year. It had always been a relatively popular platform for buying foreign brands, a hipper alternative to using overseas “purchasing agents” (daigou) via Taobao or WeChat. In 2018, however, Xiaohongshu raised a total of 300 million USD in funding from backers such as Alibaba and Tencent, and grew its users by 40 percent to a total of 100 million, which include celebrities such as Jing Tian, Fan Bingbing, and the cast of reality show Idol Producer.

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Seeing Red is a story from our issue, “Curiosities and Quests.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Hatty Liu

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese, and an award-winning communications researcher. Born in China, and raised in China, Canada, and the US, she leverages her cross-cultural identity to create more empathetic knowledge across national boundaries.

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