We all know that China is VERY important in our business life, however and for a reason that I hardly understand, we tend to focus only on what is happening in the U.S. or in Europe and are considering China as very far.
This is a huge mistake especially when it comes to digital and moreover to mobile as the future worldwide champions will be (already are) asian for sure.
Laure de Carayon who is a wellknown specialist of China and who is organizing an amazing conference on China every year is kindly sharing with us what she has learned from the GMIC 2014 (China Connect was a supporting partner of GMIC 2014).
At GMIC (Global Mobile Internet Congress) you could pretty much be anywhere in the world (the Silicon Valley conference expands to Tokyo and Delhi). But beyond the very Chinese crowd, two indicators don’t lie in the main stage area which seats +/- 3 000 people: on each sides, 2 big Led screens show WeChat and Weibo feeds. 2014 theme «Mobilizing the Next 5 Billion », highlighted key topics such as Mobile gaming, Smart devices, Mobile finance and Mobile marketing and innovation, May 5-6 in Beijing.
Back in April, two guests of CNN programme « In China » gave the tone of the market and things to come:
– Andy Tian, CEO of mobile startup Asia Innovations: “The government is actively molding entrepreneurial innovation here all the way from loosening restrictions for new companies to reducing the annual audit requirement. Politics and innovation are actually aligned“. And “China’s home market is « intense in its mobile usage » and “one of the hardest consumers to get money from”
– Tina Tao, COO of Innovation Works, a reknowed Chinese start-up incubator:”China’s mobile developers have adopted things not only from their local market, but from the Internet culture of other countries. So they have grown up with the global concept and global culture from day one ». And “We always say the idea is worthless, you need execution and don’t worry about your idea being copied by others. Otherwise, even if you have a good idea in the first place, you cannot succeed“.
This made « In China” host Kristie Lu Stout conclude on China’s mobile mavens mantra: “Execute fast, or die». For those (still) wondering about the existence of a « China Valley », a tour at GMIC certainly gave the answer.
China’s tech giants (Baidu, Alibaba or Tencent) rivalry exacerbates as they drive the country mobile upheavals reaching 618 million Internet users, including 80% connecting via mobile (+500 million), 86 % using an app such as WeChat, 70 % watching videos on tablets and phones, and 42% using mobile to make payments.
Mobile internet upsets traditional state companies
From banking products to TV content or transport services, many industries controlled by state-runned companies are under “pressure”.
– Video VS state channels: more portals will produce their own content and not just rely on TV programmes whose license fees experience exponential increases. Baidu backed IQiyi video platform was the latest to make the announcement.
– Online financial services VS central banks : they avoid deposits in brick&mortar banks, and take revenues from mobile operators.
Yu’e Bao (Alibaba), an online-only investment product, offers an annual interest of +6%: in less than a year, « it has attracted more than 81 million investors and nearly $90-billion in deposits, carving out a space for a new model of banking – with far higher interest rates – in a country with heavily-restrictive banking policies ». It can touch people in 3 and 4 Tier cities, before the banks do: Digital finance is most disruptive.
– Zhou Hang, CEO of Yongche.com, joined the exploding taxi app market (Didi Dache, Kuaidi Dache) : « You do not need to buy a car, it will just be a simple object you order (voicemail) when you need it“.
Mobile Gaming Madness
“An important element of the ‘next 5 billion’ coming online via mobile is mobile gaming”. The market has exploded in 2013 and counts 300 million players on smartphones, but only 80 games generate more than 1Million RMB per month, and only 20 games more 10 Million RMB per month. The 3 public operators China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom announced the “Double 100” program to open platforms, and provide a better environment for developers to distribute their games. “Double 100” will support 100 games with the objective to reach a monthly income of +1 million RMB.
The country has long prohibited the use of consoles, but its recent authorization let Microsoft announce Xbox’s launch for September 2014.
Connected cars: the other BAT’s battlefield
On the panel «Opportunities in Mobilizing Automobiles», Zhou Hang, Ceo of Yongche, said “Chinese auto companies feel a lot of pressure. The automobile industry lags far behind the expectations of our (internet) users », and for the Ceo of online car buying-selling platform Chexiang.com, “we need to provide accuracy. Accuracy is the data». After Baidu had announced CarNet at Beijing Auto Show, Tencent for who “cards are the foundation of mobile internet», launched ‘Lubao’, a Box that works with smartphones and offers an “eco » driving (consumption/price ratio, auto diagnostic) and app (real time traffic info, incident data, navigation, Street View GPS, driving behavior analysis, Wechat integration). Alibaba has totally bought in recent weeks, geolocalization and card service AutoNavi.
Tencent-WeChat / Sina-Weibo rivalry: Weibo Ceo in his own words
“I hope that people can have access to all the information they’re interested in on Weibo. They don’t need to watch TV, they don’t need to read newspapers, and they don’t need to access other channels of public information,” said Weibo Ceo, Gaofei Wang. He doesn’t underestimate the decline in time spent on the microblogging platform in part due to WeChat rise, and it is clear to him that “China’s Internet reports have shown that communication is always in the first place, while second is getting information and third is search » (Re WeChat presents more potential vs Weibo in this regard). But “Weibo is the source of ALL PUBLIC information” vs O2O conversations (WeChat). Gaofei Wang thinks “the market is open», is more interested in « the hundreds of millions living in Tier 2 and 3, than in the creation of the “5 billion dollar product” (referring to the theme of the conference), and concluded, «we will develop our own competitiveness ».
« Wearables-frictionless sharing »
This is how Eugene Chew, JWT Shanghai Chief Digital Officer, described the n°1 Trend of his « Future of Mobile Social 2014 ». Wang Xiaobin, CEO of InWatch believes so as he choosed « Be Future » as the brand’s signature. Sonny Vu, CEO of Misfit Wearables, introduced the recent launch of « Shine »,an elegant fitness and sleep monitor, for men and women, whose n°1 clients are Chinese.
Chinese Women were under scrutiny in “Mobilizing the Most Fashionable Ladies’ Life » as “they are very subjective, it has to do with Chinese culture».
Towards more humanlike conversations ?
“We need to bring emotion into the internet intelligence »: Japanese Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, Director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University, and recently named one of the 50 most influential scientists in Asia, made a unique impression at GMIC in a very packed room. « Can androids be more human-like than humans ? »: the scientist had his answer, demonstrating how real and virtual worlds (will soon) blurr, (JWT 2014 n°2 Trend) as we witnessed the android on stage reply to him in a short Q&A session. «We’ll soon have an android society, we’ll use them to mimic human interactions: avatars will deliver messages to sick people, visit conferences, and work in department stores ». Therefore questioning what he thinks is the next frontier: what is it to be human, to have a mind, a soul, a heart… ?
Search and Health: trending
Shenma (or ” What”), an email/search/browsing app « built for mobile, with an aim to solve mobile search needs through interesting and usable mobile search experience » was officially launched in April in a Joint Venture between UC Web (mobile browser) and Alibaba – UCWeb would own 70% and Alibaba 30%. “In the future, text will be smaller and smaller. It will be voice. Your search engine has to adapt. The (names of ) search engines on PC should be different from those on mobile. In the mobile search arena you want to have a clean result“: The talk was punchy (Baidu has the same name for both browers), from Yu Yongfu, Ceo of UCWeb –UCWeb was once a close Baidu partner – even accusing the n°1 search engine: “we were eliminated on Baidu findings ».
UC Web sales amounted to RMB 300 million in 2013, and targets are of 1.5 billion RMB in 2014 following the joint venture announcement. The company announced 100million users after a month, and forecasts are 200 million by the end of 2014.
Mobile health is a trend to follow. Thanks to the increase of mobile internet speed (4G is accessible in major cities and mobile data growth is of 61% / year), the number of integrated sensors for smartphones and tablets increase (helping check inflammation or detect cancer cells). The mobile health market was estimated in late 2012 to more than $ 6.6Milliards and is expected to grow to over $ 20 billion in 2014.
Every year is “the year of mobile »
As “80% of revenues are still from desktop” according to Zhang Chen, VP Yahoo, Managing Director Yahoo Beijing Global R&D Center, we’ll hear it again. But the mobilization of China and the World is on fast tracks, and one spoke loud and certainly believes “his” Year has come. “User experience is paramount to everyone » said InMobi Ceo Naveen Tewari about Native Advertising. It was indeed probably the most repeated word during the 2 days.