Big data is a buzzword that gets bandied around a lot these days, and with good reason. When companies like Google, and more recently Baidu, can uncover flu outbreaks from spikes in web searches long before health agencies become aware, you know you’re onto something good.
Applications for big data are starting to be used everywhere, but nowhere is it more relevant and powerful than in China. China’s sheer scale and diversity makes it the perfect environment to utilise the power of lots of data. Although just 47% of China’s population are online, they are mainly the urban, educated and wealthy classes who are likely to buy imported and premium goods and services, making the data particularly relevant.
For the 47% of Chinese who are connected, the Internet has become a deeply integrated part of their lives. Social media, online shopping, QR-Code scanning and mobile usage rates are among the highest in the world. That behaviour, coupled with a population that isn’t overly protective about sharing their information online yet, makes China the perfect breeding ground for helpful data analysis. Data can be analysed to understand and even predict a consumer’s journey, preferences and influences, to target them in a way that is most relevant to their needs and desires.
Big data’s relevance goes far beyond just the Internet, and can even assist in refining strategies for brick and mortar shopping centres. One of China’s best known companies for harnessing big data online and offline is Alibaba. In addition to its ecommerce interests, Alibaba owns businesses in segments as diverse as finance, film and football, giving it access to data across countless touch points of consumers’ lives.
For Alibaba’s finance business, it has an extensive insight into the eligibility of borrowers through all of its data channels, providing a competitive advantage over traditional competitors. Likewise for films, big data can help determine the direction of the entertainment it funds – hopefully not taking too much of the artistic license away from creators. What happens with football will be interesting, but if you were an online beer seller in Guangzhou, some of those insights could be interesting.
Taobao’s popular mobile app allows consumers to scan barcodes on over-the-counter drugs to check their authenticity, which also gives a lot of insights into who may be unwell, and with what ailments.
China Skinny uses a lot of big data for our research and strategy, right through to our web and social media services. One of the more curious insights from big data we’ve seen lately is that women who buy larger bra sizes, are more likely to spend more online. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.