Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, famously said, “In other countries, e-commerce is a way to shop. In China it is a lifestyle.” In the Middle Kingdom, 2014 has been the year of m-commerce (the “m” is for mobile), with companies such as Alibaba (and its platforms Taobao and Tmall), as well as more product-specific platforms like JD.com and 1haodian.com becoming fixtures of everyday life. According to iResearch, China’s mobile commerce grew 165.4% in 2013 to reach over $27 billion. Almost 70% of Chinese consumers have reportedly purchased a product via their smartphones, compared to only 46% of Americans. With 25% of all Alibaba e-store transactions now being made using mobile devices, it comes as little surprise that on last year’s Single’s Day – November 11th, China’s biggest online shopping day – they smashed worldwide sales records after raking in over $9 billion in 24 hours.
In the West, smartphones are often a mere complement tool to people’s personal laptops and therefore most of the online shopping is done via computer. But in China, mobile phones dominate people’s daily lives. With 75% of China’s Internet users accessing the web via mobile, it’s unsurprising that the country’s m-commerce is currently growing faster than its e-commerce. New innovations have already emerged to promote the booming market. WeChat, for example, has gone beyond its messaging service and is diving into m-commerce by allowing its users to link their accounts to their bankcards in early 2014. Users can also use the app to pay for taxis, restaurants and even in retail stores.
But m-commerce is not the only sector that is benefiting from China’s growing obsession for smartphones. Online video sites are also vying for a bigger share of the booming mobile entertainment market. Recent findings show that TV is no longer the primary screen from which Chinese people consume entertainment; the country’s approximately 700 million smartphone users are spending an average of 170 minutes a day buried in their smart devices, nearly double their TV watching time. Alibaba and China’s No.1 smartphone brand, Xiaomi, each has reportedly invested at least $1 billion in Youku Tudou Inc., a video-sharing firm, to produce and distribute online video content. Alibaba continues to delve even further into the entertainment industry by visiting Hollywood in October 2014 in search of profitable media content. Other video streaming sites such as Tencent, Sohu, and Baidu are also snatching up the rights to host quality movies in order to woo China’s approximately 450 million online video viewers, who collectively spend 5.7 billion hours per month watching videos online.
As these video-streaming sites improve their content, Chinese consumers will likely be even more hooked to their glowing screens. Not surprisingly, the number of smartphone addicts in China has skyrocketed and there are now an estimated 300 Internet addiction centers across the nation. According to a report by state broadcaster, CCTV, there may be more than 24 million young Chinese addicted to the Internet. With this rapidly changing societal landscape, a challenge exists for the country to balance this growing addiction with technological and economic development. As China’s Internet giants race to create an ever better consumer experience, a cautious eye should also be kept on the wellbeing of China’s “netizen” population.
This article was published under the title “Mass Mobile Media” in the 2014 edition of HQ magazine, a publication of CSOFT International. If you’re interested in learning more about CSOFT’s globalization and localization solutions, visit our Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn pages or you can visit our webpage!