Wechat Marketing: How to get a Wife in 30 days

I’ve been back and forth between China and the USA for a good many years and in that time many things have changed on how I have been able to communicate between the 2 countries. It used to be the good old wired landline (and lots of long distance charges!), then to Microsoft MSN Messenger (is that around any more?), then to Skype and now the last couple of years it is using Wechat.  Wechat is an mobile phone based instant messaging App like none other. One of the leading Apps in China at 750 million users it has a plethora of features from online banking, video calling, instant messaging etc etc.  But just like any other powerful tool, it also has some interesting unintended uses that are just being discovered and explored. In fact, a friend leveraged a Wechat feature to meet new people and in a short 30 days was married!

So what are the secrets of Wechat marketing? Lets take a look at how to use some of the features that  are being used today to reach customers:

  1. People NearBy: this is a location awareness feature that allows you to browse people that are nearby you.  If you are in the mood to chat or send some interesting information then this is the way you can do it. In the US, there are many established dating apps like eHarmony, PlentyOfFish, match.com and new entrants like Tinder, League Dating app etc.  Putting together Wechcat with more robust “dating funnel” features from these other Apps would certainly be an interesting “habit forming” feature.
  2. QR Code scanning: walking down a road in Shanghai I noticed a table where there were a bunch of excited people looking at their phone playing with an App and eating oranges. It turns out distribution of Apps in China is not typically done online (like the App stores or through online ads) but actually is physically done by setting up a table and giving away food to people in exchange for downloading the App.  The QR scanner feature on Wechat allows App developers to easily get peoples’ account information quickly and also allows the user to be exposed instantly to the App in exchange for some goodies. Win-win!
  3. Company Groups: online business communication and group communication is now primarily done through Wechat. These group chats allow people to seamlessly communicate on any issue instantly.  It also allows companies to setup their own private group, which people to subscribe to and get updates from the business.  I’ve personally seen dozens of such groups setup on people’s accounts.

With all the marketing noise in China it is a never ending battle to capture the attention of the Chinese consumer.  Wechat is certainly a key marketing platform to any business trying to grab a piece of that attention.

If you like this post, then please check out our other thoughts atwww.impact10x.com/blog or email us atinfo@impact10x.com.

Why Internet Tech Companies Should Be Building Cars

The fastest I have ever driven a car is 180 km/hr on the German Autobahn.  The slowest I have ever driven a car was in Shanghai in 2016 when it took me about 2 hours to travel 700 meters when a major overhead car lane was damaged. That’s the equivalent speed of a crawling baby! So although it seems the “killer app” of autonomous cars is that I can drink my latte while scrolling through some cat videos on Youku (Youtube equivalent in China), that’s not what I am waiting for. One of the real disruptions of self driving cars is their ability to remove traffic delays from my life (and having a latte while watching Youku is a nice bonus).

Sohu.com is a leading internet brand in China, providing online games and news to over 400 million people,.  In a recent conversation I had with Charles Zhang, the thoughtful and humble CEO/Founder of Sohu.com, he commented that internet companies will be eventually building cars.  Internet companies building cars? Although this does not seem obvious, the idea of Charles Zhang is to take the efficiency and power of information provided by the internet to understand what the Chinese consumer really wants in an automobile. This allows Sohu.com to build cars that are tailored specifically to the Chinese consumer.  Baidu’s CEO Robin Li says that “China has a lot more population and hence has more chance to uncover needs before US companies do”.  By aggregating search queries (in Baidu’s case) and looking at sales of used cars through online classifieds (in Sohu’s case), these companies are getting an unprecedented view into automobile consumer needs and wants.

Most traditional auto companies are also now pivoting their strategy and are now envisioning a future where selling a car is not about the car at all…its about how to give the consumer a better experience while traveling IN the car. Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn commented recently in January 2014 that “we are moving from the car being a slave to becoming a partner”.  Toyota designers are pondering the question of how to make the time in the car the most valuable part of your day.  General Motor’s recently created a position of “Senior VP Customer Experience” with their philosophy being the product is not the car anymore, the car is the container of the experience.  Ford is focusing on Infotainment for the car and their tagline is to deliver cars that are “safe, green and smart”.  The pattern is clear and the auto industry is heading towards a future of the “conscious car”.

So will internet tech companies transform the automobile industry? Well if Google and Baidu is any indication the shift has already started. Google heavily invests in mapping technology through Google Maps, it’s a leader in autonomous vehicle technologies, has a mobile phone OS through Android and recently purchased a company called Waze (which does crowdsourced traffic updates). All this technology allows us to be more efficient with the modern day automobile. No longer do you need to buy a car… maybe you can use it less, share it or get one only when needed because you are a lot more efficient through the use of these technologies.   This is the “dematerializing” effect that technology will have on the auto industry…a lot less cars and we are a lot more efficient with them.  So maybe Sohu or Baidu will not build the cars, but they will certainly make the use of them a lot more efficient and customized.

If you like this post, then please check out our other thoughts atwww.impact10x.com/blog or email us at info@impact10x.com.

China App Hacks That Are as Addictive as Good Dumplings

In March 2016, the largest gathering of Buddhist Monks since the Qing Dynasty reigned over 2000 years ago took place in a small mountain town of WuTaiSha, China. With my family having roots in Sri Lankan Buddhism and my wife who was a newly minted “Master Administrator” of one of the many Buddhist temple groups in China, we took the long voyage to participate in this gathering. It was a live 3-day spectacular gathering of people and monks showing their devotion to the Buddhist way of life. As intensive and social as this event was, there also is a very heavy use by Chinese Buddhist Temples to spread their teachings through the online environment. Wechat groups which aggregate hundreds of followers and managed by volunteers help to keep the community vibrant and alive. What is surprising though is that it just maybe the subtle features of Wechat that keep the community alive rather than the actual teachings of Buddhism.

One such innovative feature on Wechat is called “Red Packets” which allows a member of a group to send any amount of money at any time to other members of the group. The brilliant (and habit forming) part of this feature is that people don’t know how much is actually being sent. A typical example is:  Bill sends a red packet of $10 to the group. The people on the group gets notified via the App that someone has sent a packet of money which is an unknown amount. People then have the option to accept and whoever accepts splits the money.   At one point, my wife had asked her Buddhist group to send in some information on how many times they had done something. No response from the group. She then decided to send $1 as a “red packet” to see if people were actually online. Virtually everyone responded and accepted the packet! The power of small monetary awards in China can go a long way!

Another China App that brilliantly tapped into their members motivation was Didi Dache, which is the largest taxi based App service in China. Because of the large demand for Taxi services during peak hours it can be very difficult to get a Taxi in any reasonable amount of time.  In this case, the taxi drivers had all the control and would be able to accept or deny rides at their discretion. Some clever passengers decided to use the “voice chat” feature to not only tell the taxi driver where they were located but to make the messages funny and enticing for the driver to choose them over others. The drivers actually benefitted the most, giving them some humour and power of their otherwise dreary driving day on the congested streets of China. By adding a little bit of mystery to every ride request, the Didi Dache App added some fun to their driving day.

Basketball is gaining a lot of traction in China as a sport. Michael Jordan to this day is still an icon in Chinese culture even after retiring 13 years go.  This is no more evident in the shoes that bear his name and that Nike sells as an exclusive product every couple of months.  These exclusive deals are typically sold out online in seconds.  People would literally by waiting online at the precise moment of the opening of the web page to get on the list. Because of the overwhelming demand, even if you get on the list there is still a random selection process that happens afterward.  The list is constantly being updated which causes consumers to continually monitor the Nike App to get the latest information.   By adding randomness, exclusivity and time pressure the Nike App cleverly retains the attention of those shoe addicts for the duration of the deal!

Thanks to the work of Nir Eyal (author of Hooked) and research at Harvard, habit forming tactics are now an integral part of the design of the best Apps in the world. China Apps have certainly embraced their own unique twist on it.

If you like this post, then please check out our other thoughts at www.impact10x.com/blog or email us at info@impact10x.com.

Why Zappos Would Fail in China

There are many ways to deal with the punishing air pollution that sometimes falls upon the big cities of China. When outside you can wear a mask and when inside an air cleaner can be used to scrub the pollutants.  When we first shopped for our first air cleaner in Shanghai it was still common practice to choose foreign brands over those that were locally designed and manufactured. A quick comparison of Japanese models and we settled on a Sharp model. A long 2 hours later we were back at home, deboxed the unit and proceeded to get on with the cleaning of our apartment air. Unfortunately that was just to be the start of our woes as a rattling noise emanated from the unit.  My first reaction was “great…another 2 hour commute to return the thing and get another one”. Fortunately this is where my assumptions went wrong. With a quick dial on the mobile phone, my wife called the manufacturer and proceeded to discuss a way to remedy the situation. And this is where I discovered that service and support takes on a very distinct meaning in China compared to the USA.  Within the next day a service person showed up to do the first level fixing and within the next week another 2nd level team had arrived to remove the unit, give us a temporary replacement and take it to their repair shop. Within a day of that the unit was returned and all was well.

This pattern of servicing defective products rather than replacing them was a pattern that I experienced repeated over and over during the next years in China.  Whereas in the USA returns are a commonplace occurrence, this is rarely the case in China. Many factors have led to this unique practice including low labor cost (it is cheaper to pay someone in China to repair something rather than return it).  Structurally there is also financial reporting friction for most manufacturers in tracking returns because of the paper based accounting methods still demanded by Chinese government tax  requirements. Finally because of the frequent fraudulent schemes that are pursued by some consumers, manufacturers are reluctant to give money back after a product is purchased.  What that means for most hard-good companies coming into China is that having a robust service team or partner that can deploy people for repair and servicing is going to be expected by the Chinese consumer. Whereas Zappos would just say “go ahead and return the product no questions asked” with any product problems in the USA, the model would definitely need to be a lot more hands-on and personal in China.

If you like this post, then please check out our other thoughts at www.impact10x.com/blog or email us at info@impact10x.com.

5 Secrets Of People Management that Confucius Never Talked About

Ever taken a personality test? I have. Many, in fact. The most popular one when I was in school in the 1990s was called the Meyers-Briggs personality test. It is a series of questions which you self answer and then at the end a score is tallied which puts you in a series of personality buckets – introvert/extrovert, Sensing/Intuition etc. As I went through the test at school I realized that I wanted my answers to nudge towards the coolest personality type…extrovert and intuition. My hopes were dashed when it turned out I was in the opposite bucket of what I had hoped for. Although it served the purpose of defining some interesting attributes of personality types it never really became a practical way for me to understand or manage people’s strengths and weaknesses. When you meet a person for the first time, it is hard to ask them to take a personality test so I could get to know them better!

But this problem was actually solved thousands of years ago in China through an ancient practice called Face Reading. Written references to this practice go back 600 BC but the earliest roots can be traced back to 2600 BC. I was first introduced to this practice in 2013 when I stumbled upon a seminar in Shanghai being taught in the subject.  Even now in China this practice is not widely adopted or followed but my experience over the last years has put me in the camp of a firm believer that this is a great way to get a quick idea of how to manage people or understand the best way to communicate with them.

A blog post can do no justice to this topic but the core foundation of the practice is that the shape and features of the face determine personality types. Whaaat??…you might say.  The shape of the face is genetic and determined by genes its got nothing to do with personality! That was my first reaction, but as in anything living…the environment can have a huge influence on the physical form of something.  Communication between people has very little to do with the words or the actual voice but 70% of communication is through body language. Our brain has a massive 30% of it dedicated to visual processing and a large percentage dedicated to decoding facial features and expressions.  So why do we biologically have such an inclination to decode the face to such detail?  The face tells a lot about the emotional and thinking state of a person. The face is in fact a reflection of our internal state.

So when we have consistent emotions with certain personality types these characteristics will inevitably show up as consistent signs on the face. That is the foundation of Chinese Face Reading. One of the fastest ways to get a general idea of the personality of someone is to look at the shape of the face.  In Chinese Face Reading these are broken down into 5 major types:

  1. Metal: Sharp high cheekbones. Personality is professional and seeks perfection. The archetype is the Defender – who value justice, perfection and wholeness but are often the last to accept change.
  2. Earth: Round, squarish face. Nurturing type personality caring about other people. The archetype is the Muse – who want to see others reach their full potential but can often drift into passivity.
  3. Water: low round cheeks. Stubborn and likes options. The archetype would be the Pioneer—curious, innovative, brave and optimistic but does not stick around for long term value building.
  4. Wood: rectangular face and bushy eyebrows. Likes to take command. The archetype is the Captain —  who is confident and tireless to support a goal but can fall victim to issuing orders rather than inspiring.
  5. Fire: Oval egg shaped face. Passionate and likes to do many things. The archetype is the Magician – who is playful and delighting people around them but sometimes the mystery may look like fraud.

The above is a fairly generic description and there are many subtleties in Chinese Face Reading that give various types of insights. Now whether you believe in it or not, these are great tools to understand there are certain personality types and not everyone is the same nor is one better than another. Each has a unique strength and unique weaknesses that can be accepted for what they are. The power of this practice is that you just need to see someone’s face to get a gauge of their personality…no extensive conversation or tests needed. Confucius was born in 550BC just around the time that Face Reading was being written into texts and although he was not known for his teachings for Face Reading this one was a golden secret that he was wise not to teach so widely.

If you like this post, then please check out our other thoughts at www.impact10x.com/blog or email us at info@impact10x.com.

Taking a Closer Look at Shanghai’s Unique Tech Approach

Shenzhen was the Chinese epicenter of a massive economic shift to manufacturing in the early 1980s and the attraction to most foreign manufacturing companies setting up there was the promise of inexpensive labor.  On a visit to Shenzhen City (near Hong Kong) a couple of years ago I was surprised to learn how much that is changed when a large US optical manufacturing customer was in the process of moving its operations to Vietnam due to the rising cost of labor in China. The shift of manufacturing from China to other countries has also signaled a shift of Chinese companies focusing more on technology and business innovation. Nowhere is that  more obvious than in Shanghai where smaller districts are all setting up innovation hubs and incubators to build the foundation for this innovation economy.

Impact10x had a recent opportunity to speak at one technology park called Keiji50 in the Jiading area of Shanghai. The main focus of this park was  IOT/wearable devices and housed probably 10-20 companies on its campus.  Companies building versions of Google glass, Smart Mirrors and even Smart Coffee machines adorned its demonstration room. Especially interesting was the fact that the center also did China based VC investments through a quasi-government funded organization. We had an opportunity to talk to their Partners to find out a little more about how their VC investments worked in China. It seems most investments were made after a working prototype had been demonstrated and with maximum investments of 3M RMB (approximately $500K USD).  Seed capital financing did not seem to be something that they were particularly comfortable with as some of the frameworks/tools they used to evaluate innovations were based on mass appeal to a broad consumer audience. Most true breakthroughs start with a small core of leading edge customers which then lead to growth.

Another piece of their investment approach was the emphasis on patents or other more basic scientific intellectual property which could be a competitive barrier to entry.  Although this has traditionally made sense 5-10 years ago, with the massive shift to more open source platforms, crowd sourcing and any new innovation being circulated around the planet at light-speed…basing your competitive advantage solely on protection of information is quickly being eroded. As Bill Gates recently said “intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana”.

Stay tuned for the next couple of blog posts as we will be posting some more of our discoveries on China and Shanghai based incubators and technology parks.

 

Doing Business With The New China

I have been privileged to experience the vibrant transformation that China is undergoing to be a greener, progressive and tech savvy nation over the last 9 years. Being based in Shanghai my modest goal is to share stories and thoughts to help businesses, entrepreneurs and people navigate their own unique business challenges in China!

-Harsh W.

Ghost Tech Parks Attracting Some Beijing Attention

China is facing the largest migration in human history of 400 million people moving from rural to urban areas in the next 10 years. Urban areas especially along the coastal areas promise higher wages and a better standard of living as compared to the interior of China. To manage this mass migration, the Chinese government has made a high priority the development of cities interior to China to stem the flow to coastal areas. In some cases, this accelerated thinking has led to interior cities which are heavily built out with shining apartments and office buildings but has a feel of a ghost town.

On an invited visit to a Technology Park in the Yixing area of China (a city 1 hour west of Shanghai) some of this was painfully obvious. Wide streets, massive buildings, large beautiful courtyards, tree lined gardens but with a scattering of people walking around. This particular Technology Park was recently recognized as a National Research Park  by the Government in which only a handful have been given this honor.  The officials who ran the Park enthusiastically welcomed our conversation around bringing internet and IOT technology into the Park.

As the government continues to invest heavily into building out these innovation parks the question for this strategy is whether these gleaming towers will attract and grow the right innovative companies or whether its just putting some lipstick on a pig. What is for sure is that the approach being taken in investment models, company management and technology development is uniquely Chinese with no shortage of ambition to build out this next phase of China’s growth.