In an earlier post, I talked about a phenomenon called the Chinese hockey stick. The concept of the Chinese hockey stick is fairly simple: it takes a while for investment in a new sector to show results in China, but when it does, it takes off, going almost straight up like a hockey stick.
So far, the prevailing wisdom re ecommerce in China is that while the potential numbers are impressive, it’s going to be a while before the upside of the hockey stick becomes apparent. There are some reasons for this: low trust, fear of fraud, etc. So far, the only place where online commerce has performed well has been in online gaming with companies such as Shanda and Giant Interactive leading the way. The trouble with the demographics for online gamers is that it includes early adopters with low incomes who spend a considerable amount of time in China’s Internet cafes. These are people who are using the Internet for cheap entertainment, and are not likely to spend too much money on products sold in in-game ads.
Now, a new report released by the Research Institute Data Center of China Internet claims that online spending has increased to 37.5B US dollars for the first six months YOY, an increase of 58.2 percent over the same period in 2007. This is very good news, and suggests that we are beginning to see traction after many years of investment in the sector. In short, we are beginning to see the upside of the hockey stick, since according to the report, Chinese spend an average of 211.9 yuan on products/services on a monthly basis. If the trend continues there will be a double boost: the number of new spenders online will grow, and the monetary amounts spent by those already in will also go up.
This suggests that many upwardly-mobile Chinese are losing resistance to ecommerce and are overcoming fears to spending online. I believe that this represents the beginning of a secular uptrend for this sector. Within this field, companies which have a successful track record in fields such as Chinese online education will perform well. If Chinese consumers are convinced of the quality of these online companies’ products and services, it would be safe to assume that interactive advertising and Internet word of mouth will also gain greater traction.