Xiaomi, once the most popular smartphone vendor in China, is showing signs of decline. Back in the day, Xiaomi broke the mold by offering a feature-rich phone at an impossibly low price point. Its unique marketing strategy and business model helped it to break online sales records. But soon others started copying Xiaomi’s strategy and the novelty wore off. The company has been slow to innovate. For phone buyers, Xiaomi ended up being a low-end phone: once they had enough money, they would upgrade to an Apple or Samsung. Today Xiaomi is quickly diversifying from phones to rice cookers and drones. But is that enough to come back to relevance?
The Summer 2016 issue of CKGSB Knowledge is out! It has articles and interviews like: COVER STORY: Wanted: A Miracle: Buffeted by economic forces, does China still have the wherewithal to face strong winds? CHINA DATA: From stats on wind power to McDonald’s restaurant openings, the numbers you need to know SNAPSHOT: Out to the world: More Chinese students are studying […]
Just how much time and energy would you spend pondering over which dustbin to buy next? Chances are, not a lot. But for some consumers in China, even seemingly mundane things like trashcans have started to become significant from a social status point of view. More and more Chinese consumers are shifting their consumption of even routine everyday things to more premium categories. They are often influenced by their own experiences or those of their peers, travels abroad, foreign movies or social media. But increasingly now there are a whole host of services that are geared towards exposing Chinese people to newer things—and making them buy.
In China second hand is the latest in thing. Perceptions of greater acceptance for gently used goods is reflected in investors’ enthusiasm for the many start-ups that are now aiming to become the premier national platforms for used goods, ranging from cars to phones, to luxury items and even Han dynasty antiques. Diverse as these markets are, they are all reputation-based businesses where success requires mechanisms to guard against users trying to pass off bad goods as good-as-new. So what is fuelling the growth of second hand markets in China? And how are sellers dealing with the critical issue of creating and maintaining consumer trust?
When you think of sports brands, there’s pretty much a 50% chance that it’s Adidas that comes to mind. This, after all, is the company that has provided the match ball for the FIFA World Cups, whose final is the most watched sporting event in the world, since 1970. But for all that, success in China hasn’t been a given, and at the turn of the decade Adidas found itself languishing in fourth place behind the likes of Nike and Li-Ning.
Luxury brands have never had it this bad in China. For most of them, China is no longer the cash cow it once was. Multiple reports suggest that the luxury retail business in China is shrinking. The top 10 global luxury brands as per Millward Brown’s latest BrandZ report—a list that includes names like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci and Chanel—saw 6% of their total brand valuation evaporate in 2015, and China is partly to be blamed. Already the likes of Louis Vuitton, Armani, Prada and Chanel have started shuttering stores in China. But all is not lost and luxury can still make a comeback in China.
Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo has quickly found huge popularity in China based on an ethos of high quality at affordable prices. It has been steadily building its presence in China over the last decade, and now has ambitious plans to accelerate its growth, most notably through a bold expansion in its number of shops. That might seem sensible given its growing popularity—revenue soared by 21% between August 2014 and 2015 across Uniqlo globally, largely driven by an increase in Greater China revenues of 46% and operating profit of 66%. But is it now at risk of over-reaching itself, particularly given the slowing Chinese economy?
Companies that have spent months being feted by the media don’t tend to revise down their sales target, but in March Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi did just that—from 100 million units set in December 2014 to 80-100 million. Rival Chinese brand Huawei overtook Xiaomi in the third quarter as China’s top smartphone vendor. It’s a reality check for the upstart vendor, which soared to fame and a $45 billion valuation in less than five years as China’s first-time smartphone buyers snapped up handsets at a furious rate. But Xiaomi isn’t the only one hurting from the smartphone market slowdown in China.
As the number of high net worth individuals in China increases, people are developing a taste for luxury. According to The Hurun Report, a magazine known for its annual “China Rich List”, the number of dollar billionaires in mainland China surpassed that of the US for the first time in 2015, with 596 to the US’s 537. As a result, luxury pastimes from the West, such as car shows, auctions, yachting and polo, are making their way into the country. Even services like finishing schools are flourishing. What’s interesting is that these so-called Western luxury pastimes are taking on Chinese characteristics.
The opening of the 1960s television show Star Trek which followed the voyages of the Starship Enterprise explained that its crew’s mission was “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” For firms the mission can be quite different as they often have to go where others have already gone. Unless a firm is the first to enter a market, it will face one or more incumbents upon entry. In such cases, how should a firm decide whether and where to enter? A look at how this worked out in the case of Uber and Didi Kuaidi in China’s competitive taxi hailing app market.