Summary of Lessons from China’s Digital Battleground

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China’s digital market has attracted some of the West’s smartest companies – Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and eBay, among others – only to leave them sidelined while Chinese players have grown at mind-boggling rates. In this concise and authoritative report published in MIT Sloan Management Review, a team from the Boston Consulting Group explains why Chinese giants like Alipay, Didi and Tujia.com have bested their Western counterparts. The authors outline four imperatives for non-Chinese companies seeking to participate in the exploding Chinese digital market.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why China’s digital giants have grown so big so fast,
  • Why some of the West’s strongest digital players have failed in China and
  • What Western companies need to do to compete in China’s gigantic digital market.
 

About the Authors

Shu Li is a partner in the Beijing office of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). François Candelon is a senior partner in BCG’s Shanghai office. Martin Reeves is a senior partner in BCG’s New York City office and global leader of the BCG Henderson Institute.

 

Summary

The Chinese digital market is booming: 700 million Chinese users – and counting – are increasing their online spending by 32% every year. In May 2017, the $1 trillion market boasted 63 unicorns ($1 billion-plus private start-ups); nearly half of those companies had needed less than two years to reach unicorn status. At the end of 2016, annual mobile payments in China had topped $8.5 trillion. Income growth among Chinese consumers and pent-up demand resulting from an underdeveloped economy fueled the rocketing market. Chinese giants such as ride-sharing company Didi, mobile payments provider Alipay and e-commerce platform Taobao flourished because they’ve solved systemic bottlenecks: a dearth of retail floor space, low penetration of credit cards and lack of mechanisms to build confidence in online transactions. By adopting solutions such as e-commerce, mobile payments and digital escrow transactions, the Chinese online economy has leapfrogged the West on many metrics. China now boasts a mobile payments volume 70 times that of the United States and an e-commerce share of retail that’s 50% higher than in the US.


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