China’s digital economy is growing, and growing fast. In the past decade the internet penetration has exploded from single figures to almost 50%, taking the number of internet users from 100 million to over 650 million. Underpinning this dramatic growth is a deep respect and insatiable appetite for all things digital across every part of the economy, from consumers to private companies and government.
Chinese consumers are passionate, highly connected, digitally savvy and are fast becoming a mobile-first consumer. They’ve been quick to adopt online as their preferred means of sourcing information, interacting with brands and shopping online, which is why it’s no surprise China now has the world’s largest e-commerce market with some of the worlds’ leading online retailers.
Many Chinese companies have similarly embraced the digital age, and now lead the world in the use of digital channels to connect with consumers and access their wallets. Brands like WeChat, Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu are leading the world in making it easy for consumers to transact online through the use of seamless point of sale solutions like e-wallets, e-payment and touch-pay systems.
Equally impactful has been China’s “Internet Plus” initiative which has given big business the confidence to commit to putting digital at the very center of their business. The government’s investment of 430-billion-yuan last year to upgrade the nationwide internet system, backed by its commitment to spent another 700-billion in coming years, will reshape China’s digital economy in a dramatic manner.
This nationwide appetite for digital has clearly boosted the confidence of many foreign companies and brands who are actively establishing strategic partnerships within China in what is set to be the largest digital land-grab in history. Last year, Chinese search giant Baidu invested millions in content discovery powerhouse Taboola to bring the New York company’s content recommendation technology into China, a savvy move given Baidu dominates the search market, receiving tens of billions of queries every day.
Taboola Asia Pacific VP, Ran Buck, believes there’s a significant opportunity in China as the country becomes more accessible and amenable to foreign ways of doing businesses.
“Leading marketers around the world use Taboola’s discovery platform to drive performance across all aspects of the conversion funnel, from brand awareness to consideration to purchase. I believe the opportunity given of China opening itself into the open web, powered by Taboola’s advanced mathematical engine, will expand the revenue of leading publishers in China and enlarge their user reach, connecting millions from all of China with content they may like and never knew existed.”
At the same time as the larger digital brands race to enter the Chinese market there’s also an increased interest from China’s marketing community to understand western approaches to digital marketing. In September, the world’s leading digital events company, Comexposium, announced it will re-launch the ad:tech event in Shanghai in 2017 to ensure Chinaese marketers are across the best of the west. Paul Lee, CEO Comexposium Asia Pacific, views their re-launch as one of the most significant evolutions of the ad:tech brand in its twenty year history.
“Marketer’s worldwide are facing an incredible level of disruption and uncertainty as a result of the dramatic growth of digital in recent years, never more so in China. The country and its people are embracing the Internet Plus initiative with open arms, which is why we’re excited to re-launch ad:tech in 2017,” he said.
As one of the worlds previously most inaccessible markets, it’s remarkable to see how fast China has prioritized, legitimatized and embraced digital as a core part of its economic and cultural future. And as the market continues to open up it stands to reason that brands and companies on both sides of the Great Wall will benefit as East and West learn to work more closely together.