As a Dutch person living in China, friends back home often tend to ask me why I’m working here. In other words, what makes the Chinese market so interesting? For me, it’s having access to (really) big data. Talking about big data is only useful if your data - and this seems obvious - is actually big, and with a population of little over 1.4 billion people, of whom 60 percent are online, China is a paradise for data enthusiasts like us at Dashmote. More data (often) means better algorithms, more information, and thus even more reliable insights. For instance, just in the span of 60 seconds, hundreds of reviews are posted on Dianping, tens of thousands on Taobao, and hundreds of thousands of videos are played across platforms, of which Douyin alone has over 200 million daily users.
At Dashmote, we see this enormous amount of data to be a huge source of opportunities to provide businesses with actionable market intelligence. For example, during one of our recent market research projects focused on the food and beverages industry, we were able to add value for our clients on the basis of around 20 million photos per city posted on a single social platform. We first understood that Chinese consumers (just like consumers anywhere else around the world) love to express themselves through social media, and this expression includes taking pictures of themselves with their favorite products and in their favorite restaurants, bars, and cafes. We used the data in this case to show what people prefer to consume within a certain type of outlet, and why they do so.
Interestingly, having access to so much data also creates technical challenges in terms of storing and processing that we haven’t encountered when operating in other countries. I’m particularly looking forward to managing this challenge together with my team.
One way or another, these are exciting times for Artificial Intelligence (AI) businesses to operate within the Chinese market. Being a Dutch AI scale-up that turns images into insights for multinational brands, it’s specifically the dynamic aspect of the Chinese market that creates a challenging environment for our services. The preferences of the Chinese consumer are continuously changing, so market intelligence here is becoming even more significant. After having studied the market, I see this going hand in hand with a cultural shift as well. Whereas collectivism has been the dominant factor in Chinese culture for centuries, Chinese people now seem to be showing more individualistic characteristics, especially in urban areas. I’ve noticed this shift most often expressed through consumer behavior.
Furthermore, while rural areas have so far struggled to catch up with the urban economic powerhouses on the east coast, I believe that together with lower tier cities these areas are going to host the foremost growth opportunities of the Chinese market. As a result, Chinese businesses are going to be in need of reliable market intelligence to be able to move in on these growing and evolving markets.
Of course, China’s massive amounts of data alone are not enough to deliver reliable and actionable insights; there is an increasing importance with data quality. For example, there is a major difference between structured and unstructured data. Whereas structured data is often relatively reliable and comfortable to work with, unstructured and often messy data is what we see a lot in the real world, and it is a whole different ball game when it comes to sorting out meaningful insights. At Dashmote, our AI Image Analytics platform makes sense of unstructured data: we identify the patterns within the messy piles of data and turn those into actionable insights for our clients.
So, how will the rest of 2019 be for Dashmote? We’re working hard on further expansion in terms of both teams and projects. As mentioned, our team is growing rapidly, and I expect this growth to maintain its pace and I look forward to welcoming new talent to our Shanghai office soon.
Next to this, we have started to work together with our first local clients, and projects are running at full speed. It is no secret that companies operating within the Chinese market are forced to tailor their product to the local preferences and environment. Looking at our business, this requires us to keep up with the ever changing Chinese online landscape. This will be tough, but I definitely believe we’re able to rise to the challenge!
I am of course always open to meeting new people along the way. Would you like to grab a cup of coffee - Starbucks, Luckin, or Seesaw - in Shanghai? Just send me a message on LinkedIn or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to getting in touch!
Julien is Head of China at Dashmote, an AI technology scale-up headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. With the goal of bridging the gap between images and data, we are working to bring AI-based solutions to marketers at clients like Heineken, Unilever, Philips, L’Oreal, and Coca-Cola. We add value in areas such as Location Analysis, Trends Analysis, and Marketing Intelligence. Doing so on a global level, our company today has offices in Amsterdam, Shanghai, Vienna, and New York. Interested in joining our global journey? Check out our opportunities!