China represents a tremendous business opportunity for the application providers who can tap into its market. China is the most populous nation on Earth and 53% of its 1.4 billion people have access to the Internet. That percentage will grow to 66% by the 2020 or beyond as the country expands its web and mobile infrastructure, according to Cisco’s VNI report. Mobile growth is outpacing overall web users, with 95.1% of users accessing the Internet from mobile devices.
Where on the Internet do these users spend their time? The chart below from CNNIC shows the top application categories for Internet usage.
For example, China represents the largest ecommerce market. Experts predict sales will reach $1.1 trillion in 2020. The largest shopping day of the year isn’t Black Friday or Cyber Monday, as some may guess, but Single’s Day. Celebrated on November 11, Single’s Day is dedicated to people buying gifts for themselves. In 2016, shoppers spent $17.8 billion.
One factor limiting the opportunity to reach Chinese consumers and businesses is the ability to overcome poor Internet performance, which can be slowed further by government censorship. The Great Firewall of China limits the sites that are accessible from within China. Officially known as the “Golden Shield Project,” the Great Firewall is a series of techniques and technology that restrict access to content the Chinese government deems objectionable. GreatFire.org tracks domains, pages and URLs blocked in China.
On a related topic, social media is a key part of most companies’ online strategies worldwide. Sites used in China differ from those used elsewhere due to content blocking. To reach Chinese customers on social media, don’t turn to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. According to a 2016 survey by Forrester, the three most popular social media platforms for marketers are WeChat, Sina Weibo, and LinkedIn (the only Western social platform not blocked).
Until recently, conventional wisdom was that Internet performance problems in China could not be fixed. Not so anymore. See our previous post about the myth and reality about Chinese Internet performance.
Adapted from the Catchpoint blog