From Mobile-First to Mobile-Only: Lesson's Learned in China

Aurelie Guerrieri

April 27, 2018

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As today's "wild wild west," China is fascinating and intimidating for many mobile marketers. Who better to help us navigate its challenges than Bertrand Schmitt, who started App Annie from China 10 years ago and has since been measuring it becoming a behemoth of the mobile market?

To launch my podcast season, "Growth Hacking is Dead, Long Live Growth Marketing," I asked Bertrand to share what lessons we can learn from Chinese mobile apps.

Tune in to the #GrowthHacking is Dead, Long Live #GrowthMarketing podcast to hear more from the experts.

"To capture that huge opportunity is a tough one because the reality is, in China, there are a lot of extremely successful local Chinese companies. They are going global, and there's also a few global companies, like Amazon for instance, who are trying to play in the Chinese market. There, you will see huge companies that are doing great. I am not sure the market is mobile-first anymore—probably a mobile-only market in China these days.

Take Ali Baba; 80% of all their transactions are happening through their mobile app. You are doing everything for your mobile app. You stop investing in anything else because there is less return and less benefit. You put an enormous amount of firepower in development and improvement of this app at every level.

Another piece of information is that UX expectations are different from user expectations outside China, and that is important to keep in mind. This fact was already true on the web; if you go to a website in China, Japan, or the United States, you will see massive differences between the western style of design and the eastern style.

This difference is spotted in apps. The twist is that many Chinese companies have better apps than their western counterparts; at least, that was the case initially, because its user-base shifted massively and quickly to mobile.

Just a few years ago, some of the most massive global and internet companies were not yet fully into apps and not putting enough resources to get to the level of user experience. I guess the gap has been bridged at this stage, but there are still different styles of UX.

But it is not just about UX. Think about online delivery in China; people's expectations are already set that some of this should happen within a few hours, same-day type of deliveries. The whole ecosystem, whatever you might expect, or what you think is normal in this or that market might be different in China.

This difference is possible because you have a lower cost of labor, a very aggressive level of competition, and an ability to play and risk a different business model very quickly.

So, that business model is also some of what western, Japanese, or Korean companies, have to think about before they go into the China market. Expectations are set up in a different way at every level of the value chain that users are experiencing.

Another thing in the China market—and probably in India, as well—is that one could argue that mobile and apps are even more successful there because people did not have easy access to a PC or laptop. The laptop would be shared, or it would not be readily accessible. So, people moved from no online connection to always-on mobile connection and were ready to change habits quickly. They were willing to do that because there was such a gap.

Take Facebook; it was initially designed on the web, and it had to commit to transforming and optimizing itself for mobile. So, China benefited from some of these trends. They had a huge user base and also a base that was ready to make a big leap forward. This large base was not always the case with some other platforms. "

Find out how you can apply these principles to your business and scale up quickly.

More of App Annie's data is available in The Mobile Native's Guide to Marketing.

Aurelie is the founder and CEO of Akila One, a growth-focused consultancy helping CEOs of digital companies like IAC Applications, Deloitte, Rakuten Viber, Cheetah Mobile, and many others scale their businesses from 50 to 500.

Earlier in her career, she ran Cheetah Mobile's global B2B marketing and business development organizations, was instrumental in building QuinStreet toward its IPO, and brought SendMe to $120M annual mobile revenues. McKinsey-trained, she holds an MBA and an MSc in Engineering Chemistry.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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