In 2017, China became Singapore’s top market for both tourism receipts and visitor arrivals, contributing 3.2 million tourists. As one in a series of parallel moves seen worldwide, mobile payment provider Alipay also launched it’s payment platform to allow Chinese tourists to pay in the way they know best.
Alipay is China’s largest mobile and online payment platform, with over 520 million active users. Alipay has evolved from a digital wallet to a lifestyle enabler where users can hail a taxi, book a hotel, buy movie tickets, pay utility bills, make appointments with doctors, or purchase wealth management products directly from within the app.
Nielsen Outbound Chinese Tourism and Consumption Trends
China is just back from the two-month-long 2018 summer holiday, during which millions of Chinese travelled abroad for pleasure. With Alipay’s growing presence outside of the Chinese mainland, Alipay overseas spending skyrocketed, with the platform processing 2.6 times as many in-store overseas transactions this summer as compared to 2017.
Asia continued to dominate the list of Top 10 countries and regions in terms of summertime overseas Alipay transactions. Hong Kong topped the list, followed by Thailand and South Korea.
In Singapore, the average spending per Alipay user was 1759.13 RMB (approx. 352.35 SGD) in the summer of 2018. This was a 32% average increase in spending per Alipay user and a 320% total increase in spending for the same period in 2017. The number of Alipay transactions in Russia also increased by over 5000%, as Chinese travellers flocked there in July for the FIFA World Cup.
Of the 80+ airports that support instant tax refunds via Alipay, airports in South Korea recorded the highest amount of tax refunded, followed by airports in Europe.
Mobile growth continues to hit record highs in 2018, built on a foundation of programmatic delivery. And that makes it more important than ever to get mobile innovation right, says Itamar Benedy, CEO, Glispa. In this Q&A with Digital in Asia, he talks about GDPR, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), playables and performance marketing on mobile.
How important are Mobile Network Operators and their data in the mobile first era?
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are the sleeping giants of ad tech, but as proven by the recent AT&T AppNexus deal, these titans are waking from their slumber. MNOs will be incredibly powerful in the mobile advertising industry due largely to the vast scale of user data they hold which, if utilised correctly, places them in an extremely strong position to challenge the Facebook and Google duopoly.
What puts MNOs at an advantage is the opportunity for value-added services, delivering engaging content to users and creating additional revenue. They provide an exciting alternative to the limited in-app inventory currently available for mobile advertising. The most important part of mobile advertising is having a direct line of communication with the audience, and MNOs can provide the channels necessary to interact with users through multiple touch points, consequently maximising their potential.
To date, MNOs have done little to harness the power of the data they hold, but we expect to see others follow AT&T’s lead through commercial acquisitions. Hong Kong conglomerate CK Hutchison is one company that has noticed the potential of MNOs and, despite the European competition commissioner blocking its acquisition of the UK’s O2 network, it recently bought a 50% stake in Italy’s Wind Tre in a $2.45bn deal.
How is GDPR impacting Glispa and the wider industry around data?
In spite of the confusion that still surrounds the GDPR, its introduction is largely positive. GDPR is forcing the industry to be transparent and deal with data responsibly, and will ultimately minimise the number of unethical vendors. This will enhance the user experience and pave the way for more open and honest relationships between brands and consumers.
GDPR has also compelled advertisers to think more creatively about campaigns to encourage users to opt-in. We’ve seen an increase in the creation of playable ads because they include an opt-in element that incentivises users to consent to data collection so they can play the game, without forcing them to do so.
As a German-founded company, Glispa has followed strict data usage regulations from the outset, so the introduction of GDPR is having minimal impact on our business operations. We view the GDPR regulations as an exciting means of expanding our creative potential by finding new, fun ways of encouraging user opt-in.
Tell us about playables – how do they work, what are advertisers doing with them?
Playables are entertaining and rewarding mini games that provide a more meaningful and interactive experience than traditional ads. They are most commonly used in the gaming sector where the concept is much the same as test driving a car; allowing the consumer to ‘try before they buy.’ Playables are highly successful in this sector as users who go on to install the full app already know what the game is like and are highly likely to play it regularly.
But playables aren’t just limited to the gaming sector, any brand can create a fun and interactive game ad that will entertain and engage its target audience. Giving users the ability to interact with content leads to better brand recall and enjoyment, thus reaping positive conversion rates and ROI. Interactive ad formats also have map tracking so even if a user does not take the required action, advertisers can see where interactions are happening and derive insights to improve future consumer communications.
Playables are the most effective way to increase creativity within mobile advertising and, as demonstrated in a study by AdColony, are consistently voted as a favourite ad unit, but so far adoption remains relatively slow.
Why are more advertisers not using the playables format?
There are a number of explanations for the slow adoption of playables, all of which will be made redundant in the future. Firstly, brands outside the gaming market don’t always understand the relevance of playables, after all, why make a mini-game when they don’t have a full game to sell? But it is becoming increasingly clear this is an outdated viewpoint and many non-gaming brands, such as Burger King, are making good use of playable ads to boost user engagement.
Complexity is another hindrance to playable adoption. As a new format, there are no proven templates advertisers can use to design and build ads, making playables time consuming and expensive to create. With limited playable case studies in most verticals, advertisers are understandably reluctant to take the risk of investing in the format but this will change as a defined playbook emerges and the complexity and cost of production decreases.
What are your thoughts on the Facebook and Google duopoly?
A noticeable theme of Cannes Lions this year was that companies are ready and willing to challenge the duopoly. The AT&T Appnexus deal and OATH’s acquisition of Yahoo demonstrate the huge leaps telcos are taking and how they are gearing up for battle. These telcos now have the data, user-base and scale, as well as the funds to really pose a threat. Moreover, with Facebook’s well-publicised lack of transparency, it may not take much for companies to start asserting their dominance over the giant.
How do you see the evolution of performance marketing and the role of mobile as a channel?
Performance marketing has evolved from its affiliate roots to play an ever-increasing role in marketing strategies. The main reason for the growth of performance marketing is its unique measurability, which is vital at a time when the pressure on marketers to justify digital spend is increasing and transparency is highly valued.
Mobile is a particular driver of performance marketing. Consumers spend huge amounts of time on mobile devices and we see exceptionally high levels of engagement but mobile advertising is difficult to measure so marketers are turning to performance marketing, which can achieve specific KPIs such as app downloads and re-engagement.
As it becomes a more trusted and widely used tactic, performance marketing is moving beyond traditional monetisation metrics such as clicks and downloads toward more meaningful goals such as user engagement and lifetime value. In fact, performance marketing is proving so effective at driving these outcomes, marketers are beginning to take best practices from this technique to use in brand campaigns.
The report surveyed 129 professionals working in programmatic media at marketing agencies across APAC, EMEA, and North America (NA). It explores the challenges and opportunities the shift to programmatic media trading is creating for agencies, the impact this has on their relationships with clients and publishers, and how they are leveraging technology to create differentiation and provide new value to partners.
Despite programmatic’s ability to drive greater ROI for brands, APAC agencies have yet to take the plunge into owning and operating their own programmatic stack; 66% use either third-party technology exclusively or a combination of third and first party technologies, considerably higher than their EMEA (42%) and NA (44%) counterparts. But building their own ad tech stack is a top priority in the next 12 months for 46% of APAC agencies. So what is driving this change?
Building Bridges to Publishers
Surprisingly, agency respondents from APAC claimed that increased use in programmatic buying technology has resulted in improved relationships with both publishers (75%) and brand clients (85%). In fact, 33% of APAC agencies cited a more direct relationship with publishers as one of the major benefits of programmatic, along with access to a greater total number of publishers (45%). Building strong partnerships with relevant publishers is seen as critical to ensuring that clients get a disproportionate advantage in the marketplace, beyond pricing. Interestingly, and probably helping cement better relations between publishers and agencies, only 12% of respondents cite lower CPMs as an expectation from brands for moving more spend to programmatic channels.
Whereas programmatic has been blamed for the rapid rise of ads appearing in brand unsafe environments in NA and Europe, the story in APAC is different. 39% of agency respondents in APAC cited brand safety as one of the major benefits of programmatic technology, and 35% touted strong fraud and brand safety rates as one of their core differentiators, more than any other region.
This could be due to fraud being directly proportionate to media CPMs. With the exception of Australia and Japan, some of APAC’s largest media markets have a significant supply skew, leading to reduced CPMs and from there lower fraud rates than in other parts of the world where it is harder to balance scale, quality and value.
Despite the increased use of automated technology for media buying and reporting, there remains a transparency disconnect for APAC agencies; 67% of respondents say transparency around programmatic ROI is a major benefit to their clients, but 64% still cite a lack of transparency around media execution as their biggest challenge. To compound the issue, 58% of respondents say the growth in programmatic is causing brand clients to demand still greater transparency from them.
What’s on the Horizon?
The shift to digital, and more recently to programmatic, has enabled brands and their agency partners to pull off ever more impressive marketing feats and tactics. However, perceived shortcomings in data activation and audience segmentation are compelling many agencies to turn inward to assess how they can fill gaps through proprietary technology solutions and capabilities. According to the research, priorities for APAC agencies over the next year focus on driving even stronger ROI and delivering real business outcomes through furthering omnichannel capabilities, securing and ring-fencing client data, and building out data science teams and custom buying algorithms. But understanding cost implications and having the build vs buy conversation is critical, as 62% of APAC agencies cite cost of maintenance as the number one criteria for evaluating tech ownership decisions.
In an industry and region where things shift rapidly, one thing feels certain: growth in digital will continue unhindered. And what goes digital eventually goes programmatic. The agency that adopts tools, strategies, and mindsets today that maximize programmatic’s strengths and solve its challenges will be well positioned to deliver greater value to brands and create strategic moats for their own businesses for the foreseeable the future.
The latest What the Tech? report from Ying Communications and Catch On details the trends stemming from the crossover between the travel and technology industries. Far from dehumanising travel, these latest technologies are actually making travel experiences richer and more personal.
A few of the key new travel trends covered include:
Internet of Things (IoT) — With IoT, travellers can wake up to the scent of a perfect cup of coffee at the click of a button. Hotels can program showers to come on at an optimal temperature to help guests kickstart their day.
Blockchain — Imagine travelling to an airport, catching a plane, arriving at a hotel and walking straight to the room without ever encountering a single queue or having to share any personal information. This could soon be a reality with the adoption of blockchain based biometric devices
Robotics — Many believe there’s no replacing the human customer service agent. Or is there? Robots are already guiding passengers and cleaning up after them in Korea’s Incheon Airport and ferrying baggage autonomously across England’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports.
Following a spate of misplaced ad scandals and fake news controversies,brand safety is commonly acknowledged as one of the most pressing challenges currently facing marketers looking to reach digital audiences.
But the impact on, and reaction of, consumers to issues around brand safety is less well documented.
According to latest research from Reuters, Tomorrow’s News 2018, a high proportion of consumers believe brands are responsible for where their ads are running.
62% of consumers believe “brands have full control over where their advertising appears”.
The majority of consumers (77%) also say that advertising next to ‘unsavoury or objectionable’ stories can damage their perception of a brand. Worryingly, 75% have seen brands advertising alongside unsavoury or objectionable stories or videos. And while 81% feel that Facebook and Google should be ‘held accountable’ for the content they carry on their platforms, they are unaware of their role in brand safety. Reuters respondents believe the buck stops with advertisers.
Impartiality, trust & integrity
Ad agencies and tech companies alike, are being forced to pay more attention to good governance, and collaborations with trusted partners to avoid these types of challenges.
With this in mind, the value of impartiality, honesty and integrity also featured strongly in the Reuters analysis. A huge majority of global respondents said they were more likely to turn to professional publishers, such as online news brands, over social media for trusted content, with 86% more likely to turn to online news brands for “trusted content in a trusted environment”.
The uncomfortable truth in our digital age is that it’s not always clear where online ads are running. And yet, consumers – perhaps unsurprisingly – have little idea of the problems of programmatic, vulnerable supply chains or, most importantly, the huge role that Google and Facebook play in the process.
Investment in brand-safe environments and trusted partnerships is supported by numerous studies recently, from Group M to IAS – and they all show the link between brand safety and performance. Now we can add that this is something consumers are also clamouring for.
Reuters Tomorrows News 2018
You can also read and download the full report here.
Today, consumers are constantly bombarded with messages from every platform available on a daily basis. However, as marketers, we need to ask the question, is this truly effective?
Content marketing in the age of data often focuses on understanding what people are doing rather than how they are feeling. Consumer decisions rely heavily on emotions they experience too.
With that in mind, it is important for advertising and marketing executives to understand the importance of the change that is happening in the industry.
The wind of change is here
With today’s Generation Z defining what is mainstream, brands need to open to change and one way of doing that is embracing the fact that we are addressing a new market; a new generation. In addition to that, brands need to be open on exploring the various platforms and modes of advertising.
In the advertising world, 2017 can be seen as a transitional year for publishers and platforms. Print media’s shift to digital is nearly complete, and it is predicted that budget allocated to traditional media will see another huge drop this year. Keeping up with the similar trend, television advertising has accelerated its shift to digital, favoring premium video apps like Hulu and mass-reach platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat.
Web publishers that don’t offer a differentiated experience will potentially lose consumer attention – and associated advertisers – to scaled platforms. And finally, radio is still early in its shift and is expected to ultimately transition to digital audio platforms over time. As technology continues to evolve, brands and marketers need to be highly attuned to their customers’ journey; ensuring that it is relevant and efficient.
Engage, connect & understand; the only way forward for advertisers
Consumers are looking for content that would complement and represent moments that are relevant in their lives. By reaching audiences during moments that matter to them, brands can now leverage their content with personalized messages to their user, based on the user’s state of mind.
These moments which matter to consumers should matter to brands too as they present a remarkable opportunity for brands to connect with consumers on a deeper level. Unlike demographics or device IDs which are often used to approximate a target audience, moments reveal profound insights about consumers, giving brands the possibility to truly achieve perceptive advertising.
The unique ability of micro-moments to flex to consumers’ need, makes it an especially powerful marketing tool, as brands reach their audience when they’re most engaged, with personalized content that matches their moment.
Although there is a shift, digital ads are still far from living up to their potential, often interrupting the consumer’s favorite content instead of adding value to the experience. Brands tend to fall into the trap of marketing to machines, and not to the consumer directly. Traditional method of using a cookie to profile a shopper and retargeting them may be seen as effective when compared to blind targeting.
Another point of consideration that many miss out is the viewability (or positioning) of their advertisement; above or below the fold? As a rule of thumb, what appears at the top of the page as compared to what is hidden will influence the consumer’s experience, regardless of the screen size.
Personalization must move beyond “targeting”
P&G’s Marc Pritchard has spoken at length about the problems that marketers have identified about programmatic ad placement. Knowing when and where to serve an ad is as important as who and what to serve.
For example, don’t ask a consumer to click an ad if they are driving in a car, or target a “fitness enthusiast” to fill out a form while in the middle of an intense workout. Understanding consumer context and mood are incredibly important and increasingly possible with everything becoming connected. According to IHS, the number of connected devices will grow to 30.7 billion in 2020.
As people increasingly consume media across devices, the marketing landscape is shifting towards people- based marketing.
“People-based marketing represents an industry shift from targeting devices to connecting with the right people at the right time, with the right message. Rather than targeting ads to devices based on cookies, which is fraught with inadequacies, marketers can now reach people across the many devices they use, thanks to persistent identity.” – Danielle Lee, VP, Global Head of Partner Solutions at Spotify
According to Nielsen, 79% of audio is consumed while people are engaged in activities where visual media can’t reach them, whether it’s hitting the treadmill after work, or even channelling your inner rock star in the shower.
Today the priority is about having access to content, rather than owning content. For example, Spotify users spend at least 148 minutes a day listening to music through the Spotify platform. Music streaming is definitely growing and is more prevalent than TV or movie streaming in almost every moment of the day. Music is 5 times more likely to be streamed than TV or movie content, working out (3.5 times more likely) or focusing (3 times more likely); with 60% of music streamers listening on mobile, compared to 40% of TV and movie streamers.
Understanding people through music and why it matters
Savvy marketers will quickly embrace the consumer shift, and audio advertising will be reimagined through the lens of native experiences as opposed to terrestrial radio adaptations. Through streaming intelligence, we build audience experiences that fuel engagement and trust; one way Spotify is able to do that is by understanding people through music.
Understanding people through music, a Spotify led research has become a key part of our data mission. The theory behind the work: because music listening is so uniquely emotional, universal and, now, addressable thanks to streaming, it can uncover deeper insights than consumption of other kinds of content like movies and TV. Music as we know it, is weaved into our everyday lives. There is a song (or a playlist) to represent each moment of our lives.
These moments can be as simple as having a shower before heading to work or preparing for a night out in town. Music reflects who we are, what we are doing and how we are feeling in any given moment. And thanks to music streaming services, people are listening to music and amplifying these moments more than ever.
What does this mean for brands?
Streaming opens up an entirely new set of addressable moments for marketers. The music streaming ad revenue opportunity is worth $1.5 billion today, and it’s expected to reach at least $7 billion by 2030. Audio’s unique ability to flex to consumers’ needs makes it an especially powerful marketing tool. The mobile moments “at work” and “working out” alone have opened up $220M in ad revenue opportunity. With that in mind, brands should leverage audio to reach out to their audience when they are most engaged, coupled with the right message that matches that moment in time.
It is really is about reaching out to the right people at the right moment. How are you doing that?
The scale and scope of influencer marketing is growing at pace and holds increasing importance in the marketing mix as a way for brands to reach consumers. In this column, Charles Tidswell from Socialbakers provides his top tips for executing social media and influencer marketing campaigns in Asia, including measuring ROI, finding the right influencers and avoiding fakes, artificial intelligence, macro and micro influencers and the specifics of influencer marketing in the Asia Pacific region.
1. Find the right social media influencers
Finding the right influencer is crucial.
A good starting point is to define the brand’s audience personas. This allows the brand to truly understand their target audience, and thus identify an influencer who has values and audiences that line up with that of the brand’s. It is important to look at how aligned an influencer’s content is with your messaging. This can be determined by understanding key traits such as their likes, dislikes and the content they have previously posted.
Brands should ensure that the influencer they select has good engagement and reach.
Engagement is an indicator of how interactive an influencer’s audience is with the content they are posting. How much, and how often audiences engage with the influencer are indications of how meaningful those relationships are. This includes how many readers like, comment or share the influencer’s content.
While not the most important, ‘reach’ is a valid metric for consideration. However, brands should resist the urge to only look at unique visitors as a measure of reach. Traffic and followers are only meaningful to the extent that the influencer is reaching the brand’s target audience.
With the rise of influencer marketing platforms, finding the right influencer can be easy and efficient, eliminating the need to manually sift through influencer profiles. Brands can easily search for influencers based on their audience size, interests, location, age, and gender. It is also possible to see an easy-to-understand score estimating the performance of the influencers, in order to determine the most effective influencer to work with.
2. Measure the ROI of influencer marketing
There are a multitude of ways brands can measure ROI.
The two most common ways are to measure engagement rates, as well as frequency of mentions and hashtags.
Engagement rate is possibly the most common form of measurement. This metric will differ according to the platforms you are evaluating, so brands must be sure to measure the engagement of each individual post in order to better understand what’s working. To put the effectiveness of influencer posts in-context, brands can also analyse their non-sponsored content along with sponsored posts from previous partnerships to benchmark content performance. Since there is no magic number for what a “good engagement” rate should look like, this analysis can be a way to put the engagement rate into context. Brands can even consider looking into the Cost per Engagement (CPE). CPE breaks down how much you are paying for engagement: likes, comments, clicks etc. To get to this number simply divide your total influencer budget by the number of engagements.
Brands looking to see if their influencer marketing campaigns are sparking conversations can tap on social media listening tools. These tools dive into the conversations taking place across social media to find out if the brand is appearing more frequently. Aside from brand mentions, setting up a unique hashtag is also a great way to measure success. If you are creating a campaign with an influencer you can assign a specific hashtag to that campaign and monitor if it’s gaining any traction.
3. Detect and manage fake influencers
Fake influencers are notorious for buying fake followers, hoping to trick brands into a paid collaboration. To make sure the influencer of your choice isn’t ‘fake’, look at their volume of interactions per 1,000 followers. A fake influencer will have a low share of engaged fans, which is a red flag showing you shouldn’t work with that person.
With Socialbakers Influencer Management, marketers can are able to search by location, age, and interests. Influencer posts’ data can be pulled up for inspiration and likes, sentiment of comments, brands they’ve worked with before, and how they performed in the past for marketers to make an informed decision. By doing so, fake social media influencer profiles can be sieved out more effectively.
4. Make use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence
AI can help take the guesswork out of Influencer Marketing; from recruitment of influencers based on the brand’s objectives, provide the ability to forecast influencer performance, predict optimal incentives that would encourage influencers to take a certain action etc.
We will continue to see advancements in AI-powered Influencer Marketing that will help brands understand what content is most likely to resonate and influencer the purchase or adoption decisions of the end consumer.
5. Remember the difference between macro and micro influencers
Micro influencers are those who have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. This category of influencers have a tight-knit relationship with their audience and tend to have higher engagement and conversation rates. While micro influencers often cover a wide range of niches, they are often more affordable than macro or celebrity influencers.
Macro influencers, on the other hand, have a significantly higher follower base – this ranges from 100,000 up to 1 million followers. Given their wider reach, macro influencers tend to have a more diverse audience as well as an established position within a given community.
Deciding which category of influencers to work with largely depends on the scale of the campaign and its objectives. Brands looking to create product awareness or to reach a wide audience may choose to use a macro influencer, while brands keen to encourage customer conversion or retention may prefer to work with micro influencers. They can convert customers cheaper and more efficiently than any of the other options, making them a powerful option to boost ROI.
6. Choose the right social media platforms for your market
Asia has become one of the most important emerging regions for social media marketing. The hunt for social media influencers requires extensive knowledge on metrics that brands find most important, aspects they value in an influencer the most and more.
Regardless of the industry or region, brands are increasingly interested in incorporating influencer marketing as an inherent part of their digital strategy. We have seen it for some time in industries like fashion and beauty, but today influencer marketing is ubiquitous and is one of the fastest growing categories in advertising, projected to be a $5-10 billion market by 2020, according to Mediakix.
Platforms that are the most used for influencer marketing in Asia include Facebook, WeChat and Instagram which have a high volume of monthly active users in the millions. One significant platform to take note of is China’s WeChat, with about 963M monthly active users. The functionality of WhatsApp, Snapchat, Messenger, and Facebook are integrated into this application.
The app also takes it up a notch by allowing Chinese users to order meals, book taxis and doctor’s appointments. WeChat even offers an assistant chatbot called WeSecretary to manage administrative tasks such as paying bills, booking airline tickets and much more. With such a wide array of integrated functions on a single platform, WeChat paves the way – and provides opportunities for influencers to build closer relationships with fans as well as potential fans.
Latest data reveals that in Q1 2018, Facebook and Google ad revenue grew by 40% year-on-year across Asia Pacific (ex. China), while ‘The Rest’ – every publisher and ad tech business outside the duopoly – saw a fall in revenue of 20% over the same period.
Looking at the top-line, digital advertising is experiencing strong growth across APAC, with ad spend up $0.85 billion year-on-year in 2018. But it’s clear that while many publishers and ad tech businesses are still growing, in reality that additional $0.85 billion revenue is comprised of $1.63 billion more for Google and Facebook, and $0.78 billion less for everyone else.
As a result, Facebook and Google revenue hit 65% of APAC total digital revenue, up from 51% in Q1 2017. This means twice as much budget goes to the duopoly as every other digital publisher and ad tech platform in the region put together.
From a global perspective, Facebook and Google have been strengthening their hold over digital advertising budgets for several years. Asia Pacific has actually seen a slower shift in spend than the US or Europe, where Google and Facebook already account for 80% of digital ad revenue.
Human beings have long sought means to make our lives easier. From earliest times with the invention of the stone hand axe, to the swarms of gig economy apps which today get people to clean your apartments, drive you around, do your shopping or deliver you just about anything you can think of, at the touch of a smartphone screen, convenience has been the driving force behind much human-made ingenuity. Most of us in the modern world now expect gratification to be on-demand.
New ways of offering services to customers have significantly changed how organisations and companies operate and compete in all markets. So it is no surprise that the age of convenience has come to our industry. What Uber did for transportation, Netflix for TV, and AirBnB for accommodation, Google and Facebook have done for marketing. And they are justifiably reaping the rewards.
In the on-demand era, there is only one guarantee: money flows to those who offer – or at least appear to offer – the comfort of convenience. This is the inconvenient truth.
As per last year, numbers are based on Facebook and Google publicly filed earnings information and best industry advertising revenue estimates via the IAB, Zenith and Emarketer among others – but someone out there may have a better view, so corrections welcome. The major assumption in this data is to exclude Chinese advertising spend from Google and Facebook earnings information and APAC industry spend estimates. This is to avoid distorting the data by including a market where Facebook and Google have small (although not insignificant) advertising businesses. All the data is available on a public Google sheet (yes, sorry, it’s Google!) here.
In 2018, China is an almost entirely cashless consumer economy, where popular mobile payment apps such as WeChat Pay and Alipay have enabled consumers to go straight from cash, to smartphone payments, leapfrogging the use of credit cards and cheques.
One of the world’s leading players in mobile or e-payment, China saw $15.4 trillion worth of mobile payments handled by third-party platforms in 2017 – more than 40 times the amount processed in the US.
Chinese consumers can buy a pancake at a roadside breakfast stall, order food online, pay credit card bills, or manage stock accounts, all with just their smartphone. In fact, mobile payments are so prevalent that use of cash fell from 63% of transactions in 2011 to just 33% by 2016.
When Alibaba founder Jack Ma carved out his payments business from the ecommerce giant in 2010, he pulled off a coup with multibillion dollar implications. But it was a move by WeChat a few years later that really set the category alight.
The sending and receiving of red packets containing cash (also called lai see in Cantonese, and hongbao in Mandarin) at Lunar New Year is an important tradition across China. But historically red packets were always tangible items, real cash in a paper envelope. Then, in 2014, WeChat introduced digital red packets. The ability to send festive cash to family and friends using just the WeChat Pay mobile payment platform. It was a revolution, and 4 years later in 2018, the idea of digital red packets had caught on to such an extent, that 80% of Chinese consumers sent a red packet via WeChat. This year only 69% sent a physical red packet.
WeChat’s success with digital red packets introduced and popularised the mobile payments category with Chinese consumers, and built a platform for the adoption of wider mobile payments functionality across money transfer, taxi ordering, online shopping, bill settlement, wealth management, for both WeChat – and it’s competitors.
Alipay and WeChat Pay have also made their presence felt abroad. Both companies extended their payments services to hundreds of thousands of merchants in regions like Southeast Asia and Europe, targeting outbound Chinese travellers and encouraging them to settle their overseas shopping bills with the apps. Adoption is still low, but merchants are keen to facilitate easier transactions for high volume and wealthy Chinese tourists.
Within China however, the game is up. The dominance of mobile payment means not only that companies like Alibaba and Tencent manage consumer financial transactions, but as a by product they also control huge lakes of valuable personal data. Already this data is being used to close the loop on the consumer purchase cycle, and up-sell other financial products such as loans, or retail experiences. Alipay has also built Sesame Credit, a personal credit rating platform and Chinese government social rating system, linked to it’s mobile payments footprint. While English language media tends to describe Sesame Credit as an authoritarian system straight out of Black Mirror, Chinese social media users seem to focus more on the advantages than the burdens.
Ay, there’s the rub! As the West agonises over Cambridge Analytica and GDPR, WeChat and Alipay have already built the future of mobile payments. Convenience trumps all, if you let it.
Below we’ve collected key takeaway resources covering WeChat, Alipay and the mobile payments ecosystem in China.
Mobile Payment Usage in China 2017
Tencent: The Growth of the Digital Payment Ecosystem in China
Social Networks & Digital Payment in China
Alipay and WeChat Pay: Reaching Rural Users in China
Digital transformation in China – Take aways from the Alibaba Global Dreamer Program