China’s Localized Internet
Online business in China has been growing rapidly in recent years creating a number of successful online companies which have benefitted from China’s gigantic Internet user base, the largest in the world. The upward trajectory of many online companies is being aided by substantial growth in Internet users in the world’s second largest economy. Just this year, Internet users in China grew by 6% to 485m and still only one-thirds of the country’s population is online. As China is steeped in preserving its own identity and culture, a noticeable trend exists in the Chinese online space; local companies, as well as the state, are bestowing it with distinct features.
Most foreign Internet companies have failed to achieve measured success in China, whereas local companies have been inspired by foreign Internet ideas and gone on to achieve great success. The localization aspect is the most important factor which has contributed to the success of local Internet companies. China’s Internet users are young and do not have a lot of disposable income, though they are getting richer, so the local Internet firms in China devised adaptations that will suit local consumers.
When Alibaba, a Chinese group of Internet based companies, launched Taobao, an auction website like eBay, they changed a few things that made a significant difference. Taobao didn’t charge transactions fees and they overcame the Chinese consumers lack of trust in online shopping by offering an escrow system which withholds payment until delivery of product. The result: Taobao boasts more than 370m users and accounts for three out of four online sales in China.
Similarly, Weibo, a Chinese clone of Twitter has been able to gain the largest market share by offering a utility that appeals to local users. Weibo allows users to attach comments, pictures, and videos as well as providing users to input higher number of characters than Twitter’s 140 limit. This is because an equivalent sentence in Chinese uses more characters than it would in English. Weibo has also been heavily promoted by local celebrities who use the service and in turn attract more people.
Chinese entrepreneurs have never been shy to take foreign ideas and alter them for local needs. It is because of this adaptation that great success has been gained by online companies in China. The Internet is still in its early stages in the country. The future is being set for websites that are catered towards the local market and provide a service that is in demand. Opportunities are aplenty in China; the ideas are already in place in the West, the only requirement for success is localization.