Few people who have been sick in China will look back at it fondly. Crowded, noisy establishments serviced by understaffed and overworked hands, and full of other frustrated sick people who look disturbingly contagious. Not exactly where you want to be with a fever on an excessively humid 38 degree (100°F) summer day in Shanghai.
Yet like so many things in China, almost overnight, the average experience for the ailing consumer has gone from an abominable event to one of the best in the world.
In the past, digital disruption has supplanted inefficient and painful processes from the real world, providing a better experience and generally costing less to deliver. With the merging of online and offline in China – much of it under the guise of New Retail – the scope for disruption has got a whole lot bigger. This will only increase with consolidation, such as Alibaba’s acquisition of the $9.5 billion food delivery service Ele.me, which allows far greater delivery capacity with Ele.me’s 3 million registered delivery people in 670 cities, with increased efficiencies as those staff won’t just be delivering at meal times.
There are few consumer experiences that won’t be effected in China, but also many B2B areas too. One example is Alibaba’s Ling Shou Tong (LST), which allows brands to connect with over 1 million ‘mom & pop’ stores across China, which until recently, have been near-impossible to reach efficiently.
Getting back to the digitalisation of China’s health category, it would be a disservice to cover the topic without noting the enormous growth of the cosmetic surgery category, driven by the rise of key opinion leaders and the relatively narrow definition of beauty. The desire to look good has become so significant in China that the nip-tuck niche now supports a plethora of apps, including SoYoung – “China’s Facebook for plastic surgery” – which is now valued at over a billion dollars.
The key takeouts for brands from the above developments apply to all industries: 1. Virtually every category in China – not just health – is being turned upside down through online and offline initiatives providing more convenience and a better experience; and 2. Even niche subsegments of industries – think cosmetic surgery – are huge and support their own unique digital ecosystem. These points are good to keep in mind and understand how it applies to your industry.