Everyone knows that China is a huge market.
But Western app developers seem to have been taken by surprise by just how huge, how quickly, China is going to be. Companies attending Socialbakers’ Engage 2015 conference in Berlin and Prague told Business Insider that China has suddenly emerged as their No.2 source of customers.
Historically, apps have seen their biggest chunk of users come from the US, followed by Europe. But now the Chinese have pushed Europe into third place, even for app makers based in Europe who began by making apps for Europeans.
And it’s all because Apple began a serious push for the iPhone in China back in 2010 that has recently paid off: iPhone is now the No.1 brand in both China and the US. Apple got $US17 billion in iPhone sales from China in the last quarter, from about 20 million phones. That new Chinese market — 20 million new iPhones per quarter — seems to be creating new demand from China in the App Store.
For instance, Benedikt Lehnert, the chief design officer at app-maker Wunderlist, said that 30% of the app’s 13 million users are in the US, 10% are now in China, and Germany accounts for only 7% of the company’s customer base. Wunderlist — which makes a productivity app based on “to-do” lists — is based in Berlin. “China became our second biggest market within only a few months of launching there,” he said.
Even the pronunciation of “Wunderlist” in China is a problem, and the app had to adopt a new name there. “Obviously, culturally that would be the biggest challenge,” Lehnert said, referring to the difficulty of translating the app and ensuring that its various features make sense in a country that is so far away and so different from the West.
Socialbakers, the Prague-based creator of a suite of social media marketing management products, just announced a big new partnership with the Chinese blog platform Sina Weibo. CEO Jan Rezab told us that Apple’s contract with wireless carrier China Mobile, signed last year, was the tipping point. “It has an effect on the adoption of social media,” he says. China Mobile is the world’s largest wireless carrier, with 760 million customers. Apple CEO Tim Cook described it as a “watershed” moment for the company.
“Carriers are the big drivers of adoption in China and Brazil,” Lehnert says.
It even affects non-app development companies who nonetheless depend on apps. The airline KLM, for instance, handles 70,000 customer service questions through its various social media channels, according to Gert Wim ter Haar, social media hub manager for KLM. Of those, 1,000 questions per week are coming from China on WeChat.
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