Written by Annick Vandezande

Only recently, my company nexxworks organized an innovation trip to three innovation hubs in China. It was so intense and overwhelming that I had to take a few days to let things sink in. What follows are some of the key insights I gathered over there. WeChat is the operating platform of China in both personal as business relations. 

From MADE IN …to INNOVATION FROM China – PART 1

When William Bao Bean (the Managing Director from Chinaccelerator and partner in SOSV venture fund) said that coming to Belgium feels like taking a time machine to the past, I must say, I was in denial and thought he was just making a funny joke.

Now that I’ve been on an innovation trip to China, I truly have to reconsider my thoughts. It feels really strange now to go to the bakery around the corner on a Sunday morning and pay for my sandwiches with cash money, knowing that in China 44% of the people that are on WeChat never take any cash with them anymore. China is indeed turning into a paperless country…people pay everything through WeChat. Yes, even the farmer selling onions on the corner of the street. 

Since we can only download the international version of WeChat over here and thus have less functionalities, we tend to compare it with WhatsApp or with messenger. Only now do I understand how wrong that is. WeChat is in fact the operating platform of China. You book your flights, your taxi’s, your restaurant via the platform. You provide reviews, you connect with people all through the same platform.

It feels like Tencent is after your wallet…the cash, the bankcards and loyalty cards are already gone...in some provinces, they have agreements with the government to also integrate ID cards and driver licenses in WeChat….

It even grows to such proportions that WeChat is used as the platform for business communication….So you’d better say goodbye to email! With millennials having a great preference for chatting instead of emailing…the Chinese have found a way to integrate their communication habits already in their workforce. 

Back home, I’m happy to see companies like KLM embracing these new communication means (through messenger) but I still see a lot of companies who either send me paper (Come on, people!) or emails.

Data is the new gold

Both companies like Alibaba and Tencent know who you like, what you like, what you buy,…and use that information to build YOUR UNIQUE ID. They know so much about you that then can start to target you in a very personalized way. Through Youkutudo (the Chinese version of Youtube/Netflix) which Alibaba bought 1,5years ago, they can offer you personalized advertisement. Not the type of advertisement we know like when you buy a pair of shoes and keep on getting adds for similar shoes or even worse…the shoes you already bought…. No, really customized ads to what we like and want.

Based on my preferences they will for instance allow to change content in movies on a personal level. I like to drink cola zero so my actor would be drinking cola zero on the stage whereas the same actor would maybe be drinking a beer in your case. But let’s face it, this is still quite innocent….

 

We’ve also visited BGI, the largest genomic organization in the world which so far collected and processed the genomes of no less than 57.000 individuals. In November 2016 a group of Chinese people was the first one to inject GENE EDITING CELLS using the CRISPR(*) techniques into a human person to cure cancer. They do not only know your full DNA but can start to alter it!

As the cost of human genome sequencing is dropping at a rate faster than Moore’s law (*) it is inevitable to imagine how many applications and services will be built upon your personal DNA…and yes that is frightening.

…you can already purchase a life and health insurance at BGI …I wonder how and if they use your DNA sample to determine your insurance fee…

I don’t want people to get depressed about the above. I want to stay positive and urge to take the future in our own hands. There is a lot we can do too. If other European companies can do it, so can you. So let’s move forward and embrace the new tools which are available to us to communicate differently with our clients and to use the customer data we have to personalize the relationship even more!

 

(*) Moore’s law refers to the fact that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits have doubled every two years since their invention, meaning basically that within two years the processing power of a computer doubles.

(*) watch this video to know more about Crispr