In this week’s newsletter, we cover FIFTEEN years of online influencers in China, the truth behind the numbers that Western media sells and the most recent travel trends among Chinese tourists. No need to travel to Japan to know that - Cherry Blossoms have taken over Chinese minds. Not only can you see mass pilgrimages to take a perfect social media picture, it’s also blossomed in supermarkets and cafes. Sakura Lay’s? Sakura milk tea? Why not!?
Just how big is China’s podcasting industry? Well, maybe not as big as you think. In my previous article on monetizing podcasts, I noted that the “$7 billion” valuation was for the broader “pay for knowledge” market rather than podcasts. However, I’ve noticed other Western authors blowing things out of proportion with titles like “The podcast biz in China is 23x more valuable than the US”. That’s not fair. Actually, the US’s self-paced e-learning market is worth $12 billion. - Listen here (English)
WeChat users can now interact with Moments ads. Sounds weird? To those of you who are unfamiliar with WeChat, let me explain: WeChat has very restricted privacy settings. It means that, unlike on Facebook, comments and likes by other users can only be viewed if the commenter is in your friends circle. Similarly, the options of interacting with Moments ads have been restricted too. Until now! Users can now interact with an ad that catches their attention, they can “like” it or comment tagging (@) their friends. It creates a new opportunity for the advertisers-- if your ad is good enough, it can be more easily spread among your target audiences’ friends. - Read more (Chinese)
It’s been 15 years since online influencers (网红) first appeared in China. Since 2004, the Internet went from PC to mobile and from the big screen to a small one. Between outstanding talents and ordinary people who gained popularity, it’s now really difficult to clearly restrict the definition of “online influencer.” They’re not like the celebrities we’ve known. They’re people just like us, except maybe more talented, or just more lucky. People who embraced the moment and managed to leverage their popularity and build a steady following. In China, like anywhere else, the phenomenon has grown into a huge industry, also, thanks to the 4G development and live-streaming platforms, the influencers feel as close as your friends. Now, advertisers and e-commerce rely on the influencers, not to mention “influencer factories”, that is, companies which specialize in molding regular people into online hype. Read more (in Chinese) or go to our blog post on how to use KOLs in a China marketing campaign.
Forgot your metro card? No worries! In Ji’nan, you can now swipe your face to pay your subway ticket! Nope, it’s not a joke- it’s China!
Starting in April, Ji’nan became the first city in China to adopt 3D face recognition gates in their Metro Line 1. Having scanned your face, the gate opens within 2 seconds serving 30-40 passengers per minute... in theory. It is also claimed to recognize frauds (such as scanning photos, videos, and masks) with a one in a million chance of making a mistake. - Read More (Chinese)
China shapes international standards for emerging technologies including blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G. Chinese high-tech companies have already started conquering the European market, while Europe has lost its competitiveness. It’s because China heavily invests in R&D and technology’s appliance in daily life. - Report on China’s Digital Rise (in English)
Chinese domestic travel industry income reaches 47.8 billion CNY (7.1 billion USD) during the Qingming holiday, which is a 13.7% increase compared to 2018. The Chinese travelled domestically 112 million times in 3 days! People born after 1990 accounted for 58% of the travelers according to Fliggy, and women accounted for 57.4% based on Lvmama’s data.
Obviously, one of the most popular international destinations was Japan due to the cherry blossom, but Southeast Asian islands receive an honorable second spot. As for the domestic trips, cultural tourism (museum, folklor spots), blossom-viewing and mountain climbing were the top activities. - Read More (Chinese)
As for making the bookings, travel platforms - or rather their mini-programs are going for the win here. Which is a good thing to note, as this year’s May 1st holiday was prolonged to 4 days, and the transportation ticket sales surged within seconds!
China reduces import taxes on items carried and shipped to the country. The tax rate for food, medicine and other goods will be reduced from 15% to 13%; textiles, electrical appliances, etc. - from 25% to 20%.
China's cross-border e-commerce transactions reached 1.9 trillion CNY (283 billion USD) last year, an increase of 26.7%, according to the "2018 China Import Cross-border E-Commerce Development Report”. The adjustment of this tax rate will have a major positive impact on the import e-commerce of the direct mail model, and will also make the competition between each channel more intense. The main cross-border platforms include: Netease Koala, Tmall International, JD.com Global, Vipshop International and Amazon. - Read more (Chinese)
SMS is making a comeback in China, but not as a chatting tool. The volume of text messages has been continuously growing since 2017, according to Sina Tech. But the messages are not sent person-to-person but app-to-person. They’re used for notifications and ads. - Read more (English)
Today from 9 am to 12 am I got 10 text messages to my Chinese number, one from a P.O. Box, one from my service provider, and 8 ads-- mostly discount coupons. The more I purchase on Taobao, the worse it gets (mobile numbers are used for registration on most apps). Truth to be told, I’m so annoyed with the SMS ads I tend to miss important notifications as I delete everything altogether. Most of our team members said they don’t even open those messages, especially around shopping festivals when you get 50 a day.
Shared bike companies double their prices in Chinese cities claiming the industry is mature now - but netizens ask: how far it can go? Following Bluegogo, Mobike and Hello Bike decided to upgrade their fees from the initial price of 1 CNY (0.15 USD) per 30 minutes to 1 CNY per 15 minutes. It still may seem as nothing, but as the companies also introduced restricted parking areas and their bikes become scattered and old or used up, the users are getting more and more dissatisfied.
The main advantages of the shared bikes are their cheap price and convenience. And it seems having gotten rid of most competitors, the remaining companies now feel they can impose more on their users. Some netizens commented the moment the price reaches the same level as the bus, they’re out. - Read more here and here (in Chinese)
China’s Internet Society forms a “complaint alliance” that aims at improving consumer’s rights and experience. For now, it covers 11 Chinese giants including Alibaba, Baidu, Didi, Today’s Headlines, JD.com, Meituan, Tencent, Vipshop, Ctrip, Sina and Alipay. The service focuses on personal information protection, service functions, and corporate complaint mechanisms first. It allows users to upload a complaint online or offline, and certainly forces companies to step up their efforts towards more and more conscious Chinese consumers. - Read more (Chinese)