Location-based services boom in China

05 September 2011

BEIJING: Location-based mobile services are gaining popularity in China, as members of the country's expanding smartphone audience increasingly access check-in and daily deals platforms via this route.

EnfoDesk, part of Analysys International, a research firm, estimated 105m such accounts were activated through apps by the end of the second quarter.

This marked an improvement from 65.5m during the opening three months of 2011, and more than doubled the total of 52m recorded in the final quarter of 2010.

Among the primary factors fuelling this trend was the growing involvement of major online operators like Baidu, Sina and Tencent, offering greater integration between the web and mobile.

Similarly, the fact innovative group buying and daily deals providers such as Nuomi and Let's Powwow are optimising their output for mobile phones has also encouraged uptake and usage.

In reflection of this, Enfodesk reported many users had boosted individual activity levels by between 15% and 20% on an annual basis.

Given the intense competition, it predicted industry consolidation is inevitable, arguing some 15 location-based services would probably merit its attention by the end of 2011.

Digu is currently the leading player in this market, with a share of 26%, an increase from 25.5% in the first quarter, and has previously worked with brands like McDonald's on check-in loyalty schemes.

"The key is to develop a feature that strengthens social interactions around locations. It's not an easy thing to do," Dr Li Song, the company's founder, said earlier this year.

Qieke took second on a 14% share, and recently rolled out a high-profile ad campaign in tier one cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou earlier this year in a bid to double membership from 4m to 8m.

Jiepang was third with 12.7%, having added in-store promotional materials in 3,000 merchants across China last month, a move closely coordinated with Nokia launching new, cheaper smartphones compatible with this service.

Kaikai held an 11% share of the LBS market in Q2, with VLD on 8%, Sifang on 7.6% and Bafang on 5.7%, Enfodesk added.

Data sourced from EnfoDesk; additional content by Warc staff