If someone was to ask you where the new frontier of digital innovation was, you’d probably say something like ‘Silicon Valley’ or maybe even ‘Silicon Roundabout’ in London. But as you’ve probably guessed by now, you’d be wrong.
The answer is not in the West but in the East. From the cashless revolution to social commerce, the market in China is streets ahead.
Take a visit to China and you will see that the world’s largest and most innovative media and e-commerce platforms are not copied from the west but are made in China. It’s no longer the copycat nation making cheap versions of western products. It’s the nation of innovation.
This is all being driven by a huge growth in Chinese tech companies, many of whom are going around the world buying up other tech companies. There are also more digital unicorns in China than the USA. And six out of ten of those are decacorns – private companies valued at more than $10 billion. But it also helps that the Chinese people are the most digitally engaged in the world.
For example, there is no cash economy in China now. Absolutely everything is paid through your phone.
It’s also the largest market for AI development. The state-run press agency, Xinhua, even has an AI news anchor reading the evening news.
Mobile AR/VR platforms are also year’s ahead. Consumers are very used to walking around virtual department stores, gazing at virtual products and buying them through their phone.
But probably the biggest player of the new digital frontier is an app called WeChat. With an estimated 600 million active users, WeChat now has the fifth largest community in the world after Facebook, YouTube, QQ and WhatsApp. Consumers can chat with friends, play games, book cabs, order a pizza, buy tickets, shop and send money to friends via a single interface. You can do everything you need throughout a whole day without ever leaving the app. It is completely engrained in the life of a Chinese person.
This means that WeChat can gather so much data on a person’s activity they can hugely personalise the experience – pushing content directly relevant to them. It’s CRM on steroids.
This incorporation of banking, e-commerce and social media is several years ahead of the services we currently enjoy. It is now China, not the west, that is the leading force in digital innovation. With the social commerce app, Pinduoduo you can invite other people to a product you want and haggle down the price together.
And Tik-Tok, an app for sharing short video clips has now overtaken TV consumption in China. It is also the most downloaded app in the world this year.
All of this will transform the way us in the West will consume content over the next five years.
Brands can’t simply rehash campaign strategies that have worked over here. They need to be producing more China-focused content to support their sales aspirations. Chinese consumers expect much more, and the focus is shifting towards engaging consumers in a way that utilises China’s innovative platforms.
You don’t need to look into the future to see the next wave of disruption heading towards us. Just look east.
With thanks to Tom Nixon of Qumin.