Unlocking the power of KOS for brand influence building in China

What's KOS and how brands can leverage KOS for brand building?

by Davy Huang

Chinese consumers are increasingly seeking authenticity and expertise from brands and driving brands to diversify their social media presence to include professional sales as part of the marketing strategy. In this article we attempt to analyze the KOS (Key Opinion Sales) strategy, the benefits and impacts to brands, and how international brands can take advantage of this rising opportunities.


What is KOS strategy and why it is being adopted

KOS is in short of Key Opinion Sales, which refer to the accounts that has a strong affiliation to the brands. These KOS accounts are featured with professionial sales using their personal identity to demonstrate the brand's value proposition and product selling points in social media platforms such as Xiaohongshu and Douyin, and provide supports including but not limited to shopping guides, clienteling, and CRM services.

KOS have risen to prominence by offering specialized knowledge about the brands that the official branded accounts may have certain limitation. These accounts are distinguished from traditional KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) and KOCs (Key Opinion Consumers) by their focus on specific brands or products, providing professional advice and personalized services. To gain consumer recognition, KOS usually need to establish a professional image, showcasing deep industry knowledge and understanding. This trust-building is crucial for consumers to engage with the brand and its offerings.

In Chinese social media platforms, consumers can easily find a range of 'shopping guide' or 'sales person' of certain brands. By typing Loewe Sales in Chinese in Xiaohongshu, the results were a list of active accounts claiming to be the official sales person of local stores of Loewe in China, and has quite some followers.


Image Source: Xiaohongshu Desktop Screenshot

When combining the followers of various accounts associated with Loewe the brand, one can easily find out that the total follower number easily overtakes the official account's of 164,000. These accounts also post much more frequently than Loewe's official account, and helping the brand to drive massive reach with the Xiaohogshu community. Combined with geographical tags, customers of Loewe can also choose their nearest sales person and build a connection with them. Customers are also more likely to be attracted by the KOS's daily and personalized content which can help drive in-door traffic.

What makes a good KOS for the brand?

Consumers follow KOS for a good reason - they are either looking for a more personal touchpoints with the brand, and also to get inspiration from these sales person. Online shoppers in China tend to rely on shopping experience shared by other authentic people, and the need for neutral, authenticity have drive audience to look beyond carefully curated KOL and KOC contents. Sometimes - KOC content can not provide enough consistency and detail, and easily being neglected by the brand's target audience.

Key Opinion Sales has a unique proposition to brands by being authentic and personal, who can represent the brand to deal with customers on daily basis. KOS on Xiaohongshu and Douyin is very similar to early stage WeChat personal account adopted by brands - who are sales person posting daily in WeChat Moment, but optimized for better user behaviors.


A Loewe Sales Person From MIXC Shenzhen Bay Flagship Store; Source: Xiaohongshu Screenshots

"Content is king", and for KOS accounts in Xiaohongshu, this rule of thumbs holds true. High-quality content that is valuable, insightful, and entertaining is essential for attracting and retaining followers. We are seeing KOS posting high quality photos of their personal styles, merchandises, and even to produce short videos for better showcasing of products. Regularly publishing product reviews, usage tips, and industry news not only informs but also engages the audience. The content should resonate with the consumers' needs and interests, encouraging them to interact and build a community around the brand.

Personalization is another key factor in the crowded digital marketplace. A well trained KOS can offer tailored advice and solutions based on individual consumer tend to stand out among competition. This approach not only meets the specific requirements of each consumer but also demonstrates the KOS's commitment to providing a unique and memorable customer experience.


A Kailas Sales Person in Beijing replying customer questions under the account; Source: Xiaohongshu Screenshots

Social media platforms such as Xiaohongshu offer KOS accounts an opportunity to interact directly with consumers - but without the need to build a more private connection like WeChat does. By actively participating in discussions, striving for exposures in customer's FYP, responding to customer comments, and hosting Q&A sessions, KOS can increase engagement and foster a sense of community - which may be even more active than a WeChat Work group. This direct line of communication helps in building a loyal following and understanding consumer sentiment in real-time.


Flexibility with Video and Live Streaming for Better Story Telling

Visual content has a significant impact on consumer perception. KOS accounts that utilizes video and live streaming to demonstrate product usage and effectiveness can enhance their appeal. As short video platforms such as Douyin rises, the need for huge amount of video content become an significant problems for most brands. It takes a lot of effort for internal studio to keep up with the need for more social media content - while they can actually be supported with the brand's sales team.

With online traffic increasingly become descentric, a studio production may not achieve a desired outcome without advertisement promotion. However, sales team who are on the ground, and are much flexible at utilizing brand's offline venue and editing tools can potentially achieve amazing results.


A Decathlon Store Assistant 'leaks' internal workflow in a short video to assure products are up to date; Image Source: Xiaohongshu

Storytelling is also a powerful tool for creating an emotional connection with consumers. KOS accounts can leverage narratives that revolve around brand stories, user experiences, and case studies to resonate with the audience on a deeper level. This emotional bond can lead to increased brand loyalty and advocacy.

The Role of KOS in Advertising and E-commerce

By empowering sales guides with the flexibility and know-hows to build attractions in social media platforms, in theory it is beneficial to both sales and brand awareness building. While in practice - brands may need to face the fact that no department would want to claims these effort.

There are several reasons why many companies are still slow to adopt KOS:

a)      Ownership Conern: KOS's social media account are mostly personal, and if KOS leaves the company the brand risks losing the customers to competitor brands. It may reduce the brand's willingness to further amplify KOS contents by advertisement.

b)      Too Much Efforts: It is too time consuming to train a proper KOS to become adept at social media content creation, customer servicing, editing videos, and meeting brand's visual guidance. Some of the sales are already too busy with daily tasks and simply do not have the time to properly run a social media account.

c)      Revenue Accrediting: Even if sales works hard to attract customers on social media - the final sales may not be accredited to their KPIs. This is why for most of the KOS accounts they seems to be organic, and sales guides tend to invite customers to offline transaction. Xiaohongshu and Douyin are also not recommending offline transaction, making sales difficult to navigate the platforms rules.

While the challenges mentioned above are disturbing, the question of whether to implement the strategy lies on the wisdom of executives. If thinking from an advertising approach, KOS that successfully generate exposures and sales are ultimately helpful for the brand's success on social media channels, and the act is more advertising + pre-sales education. Brands can consider to shift some of the digital marketing budget an empowering KOS accounts to help reach a wider audience, especially in their initial stages of building a follower base. However, it is essential to build clear SOPs so that the brand ultimately owns these assets.

Conclusion: The Future of KOS in Consumer Engagement

The rise of KOS signifies a shift towards more personalized and professional consumer engagement in the digital space. By employing a mix of content creation, social media interaction, personalization, and strategic collaborations, KOS accounts can effectively capture the attention and loyalty of consumers. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, KOS will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of brand-consumer relationships.


KOL Social Media Social Commerce Little Red Book E-commerce Douyin influencer marketing xiaohongshu KOS

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