The invisible fence between the Chinese network and the rest of the world
US based IT firms have difficulties to break into the Chinese market. Unfriendly business regulation, unusual consumer preferences and language barriers are but a few of many obstacles that prevent their apps from attracting Chinese customers.
And it doesn’t help that the Chinese internet leading companies, such as Alibaba for shopping and payment (Taobao, Tmall, Alipay…), Tencent for social (WeChat, QQ….) and Baidu, the national search engine, remains limited to the Middle Kingdom and have almost zero consumer-facing presence abroad. But the situation is quite similar concerning Chinese application designers trying to break into foreign markets. If you take a look into US top ranking applications you’ll barely find any Chinese. The same applies to the top ranking apps in China. Among all the Tencent and Baidu app, only one or two have an English-language name.
However recently, some Chinese firms seem to have found a way to overcome that virtual fence between China and the rest of the world….
The success of Chinese utility app
The most popular Chinese applications worldwide are utilities such as web browsers, android launchers and security apps. Indeed, Chinese giant IT firms are investing heavily in this kind of app in order to attract international users.
Cheetah mobile, a Beijing based company, announced last September that Clean Master, an app that manages junk files on Android devices, had passed 100 million daily active users and a total of 284 million of monthly active users for its all range of app among which CM Security, CM Browser and Battery Doctor.
Sungy Mobile’s GO Launcher Ex has surpassed 200 million downloads, making it it one of the most popular Android launcher. The Chinese company that also developed weather app, SMS management app, a keyboard app, a junk file management app and a battery saving app clams that more than 70% of its users are from abroad.
The Du Speed Booster, an Android app that optimizes the phone’s performance, has become Baidu’s biggest international hit, with about 100 million downloads from outside China.
Guangzhou’s UC Browser, the most popular mobile browser in China, is also strong in India, Nigeria and Bangladesh.
Baidu, Cheetah Mobile and Sungy Mobile are now all listed on the US Stock Exchange. But how why are those powerful Chinese IT companies focusing on those boring utility app when they aim to break into foreign markets?
The advantages of Chinese firms on the utility app market
Cheetah Mobile developed Kingsoft Antivirus for PC in 1999. Baidu also produced browsers, anti-virus software and junk cleaning app for Windows machines. Though, first of all, Chinese giants are making utility app because they have the experience in this area; they know how to make them.
Now that they are focusing on export, Chinese companies have realized that those utility app are also the most suitable ones since they are easy to adapt to foreign markets. There is no need to hire local people to make it works and there isn’t much competitive disadvantage from local app with a utility app contrary to what it would be for an e-commerce app for example.
Another advantage of utility app is that people don’t need to be active in any way to use it, like it would be the case with some other popular application such as Facebook or Candy Crush Saga. After downloading the app, the user engagement only requires them to push a button.
Finally, this kind of applications is the best to break into emerging markets such as Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt and Brazil. In those countries people are using law range mobile phones, and are more likely to try to make their device more efficient thanks to this king of specialized application, than American iPhone owners.
And the fact is this is a blind spot. Those big Chinese companies are the only ones to provide free-to-download utility app, which are boring and expensive to develop and unlikely to provide immediate returns. And furthermore, they appear to be spending a lot not only for the development but also for the marketing needed to promote those apps abroad.
Why? Because getting users is the key…
Actually it’s even more than that :
App-selling companies can collect data about their customers as well as engage them into buying more of their services and products even when they seem free at first. A good knowledge of your customers has always been the way to clearly identify your core customers;