China is increasingly recognized as a global powerhouse in technology and innovation — and, more recently, they are becoming a hub of creativity. It is for this reason that Cannes Lions launched China Day, a program featuring China’s thought leaders and pioneering practitioners, that will be held again this year.
Once thought of as an imitator, China is now paving its path as an innovator. And as the country continues to lead the way with major developments in areas such as mobile technology and AI, China is quickly becoming the country with which western companies are trying to keep up.
Massive Scale, Mobile Success
As the second-largest advertising market worldwide, China is a land of opportunity for publishers and advertisers alike — and especially within the mobile sector, these opportunities only continue to grow as smartphones increasingly penetrate China’s already-mobile-first society.
Currently, China has nearly as many smartphone users as the US and Europe combined. This massive scale has allowed innovations within this market to be massively successful — even if they never make it outside of the country's borders. For example, the popularity of China’s most-used app, WeChat, is very limited outside of the country. Yet, over 80% of China’s smartphone users are active on WeChat, with 34% of these users spending over 4 hours per day using the program to do everything from hailing taxis to paying their electricity bill.
The Dragon Enters the Lions Den
China has always had their own way of doing things, especially when it comes to tech culture and consumers’ digital preferences. Looking at creativity in particular, China famously has their own definition of user-friendliness that is much different to the west. For example, while users in the US value clean, simple, and easy-to-use interfaces, China’s customers prefer exciting designs that are highly informative.
As a result of these stark differences, Chinese cyberspace largely exists within a self-contained bubble with which internet users outside of China rarely, if ever, come into contact. And, despite China being the second largest advertising industry after the US, Chinese companies and innovators are also massively underrepresented at international conferences and other industry events.
At Cannes Lions 2017, China also made waves at the seaside venue by bagging a record 13 Lions for its tech and creativity prowess. So, before this year’s China Day, we wanted to take a look at China’s unparalleled creative and technological momentum and what it takes for outside players to make it in this unique market.
Reshaping the Mobile Industry
It's not just the sheer number of smartphone users in China that impresses — it's the creative way the country has reshaped the mobile industry. The biggest example of this is in the mobile payments space. In the first 10 months of 2017, China recorded USD $12.8 trillion in mobile payments. In the US, mobile payments were less than $5 billion. The prevalence of mobile payments has led to a boom in the country's fintech scene.
The unique role that smartphones play has made Chinese users especially desirable to advertisers. On the Smaato platform, China had one of the highest global eCPMs in 2017, significantly outperforming any other country in the APAC region. The proven value of China’s mobile users is one of the reasons that the country’s adtech landscape continues to push the boundaries.
The Need to Adapt
Any company looking to crack the Chinese market must go local or go home. Even when putting aside the technical aspect of serving Chinese consumers for a moment, a focus on fostering regional relationships and understanding cultural preferences is key to success in China. And even companies who aren't targeting the Chinese market will have to keep a close eye on the technological breakthroughs coming from the country. Ignoring the innovations from within China is sure to put any company at an immediate disadvantage.