China Skinny has been utilising big data for analysis, trend spotting and recommendations for some years now. Chinese consumers’ spirited uptake of the Internet and wide scale integration offline means that much of what online Chinese do during their day is recorded, allowing us to help demystify consumer behaviour.
Online Chinese are among the world’s most easy-going with data privacy, creating a treasure trove of insights for those who can make sense of it. Yet with so much data available, fake sales on ecommerce platforms and fake WeChat fans, likes and comments are common and social listening can be skewed by a vocal minority; so it’s wise to cross reference the data with other offline and online sources.
Even though marketers have access to some very helpful data, we only get a glimpse of what is available. Even Alibaba, Tencent or China Mobile have a limited view of Chinese consumer behaviour. It is those in Beijing who have access to insights that would have most consumer analysts weak at the knees. In late 2013, we saw early signs of this, with cooperation between the Government and companies such as Baidu, Alibaba and China Unicom to assist with data collection for Chinese statistics. The Government’s enthusiastic embrace of their Internet Plus policy and online focus in recent Five Year Plans isn’t just to grow innovation, productivity and consumption. It enables them to better track everything from food supply chains to the opinions and behaviour of Mr. Zhou in Xuhui District.
Although most of us know in the Snowden era that our online activities aren’t off-limits to most Governments, the Chinese Government is a little less subtle about it. In fact, they have recently released a high level document outlining their social credit system, a scoring method based on online behaviour which Beijing hopes will build a culture of “sincerity” and a “harmonious socialist society” where “keeping trust is glorious.” Beijing plans to have it in place by 2020.
Those ‘poorly behaved’ online may struggle to take out a loan, book the “soft sleeper” class on trains, travel abroad or get their children into good schools, among many other things. There is even potential for social credit scores to be advertised on dating sites as a way to tempt potential suitors. Similar conduct is already happening on the popular Baihe dating site, where 15% of users display their Sesame Credit scores to add to their plausibility.
Chinese consumers already have to register their ID to use many online services and are well aware that they are being tracked. But such prescribed consequences may influence some behaviour online going forward, creating an even more unique environment. We will watch with interest.
For our Shanghai and China-based readers in the auto industry, China Skinny’s Nadja Rauscher will be presenting on Consumer Trends in China at the Global Automotive Plastics Industry Summit 2016 on Friday November 11. Come over and introduce yourself if you are there. More info here. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.