In this week’s roundup of major news in international marketing: Facebook and Google launch services to help users find friends and family; Russia’s 2014 e-commerce market analysed; China set to lower key tariffs on foreign imports; Google pledges £107 million for European journalism; and China’s third place search engine continues to grow.
With social media increasingly at the core of how internet users learn about and react to major events, major tech companies have made a concerted effort to develop tools that serve their communities during times of crisis.
Facebook announced its Safety Check feature back in October last year, and last week’s tragic earthquake in Nepal saw it being widely used for the first time. Users with profiles listing towns and cities near to affected areas are asked to confirm that they are ok when logging in. Friends are then reassured that you are safe via an automated status update, or they can perform a disaster related search to determine how many of their friends are in the affected area, and obtain a list of those who are confirmed to be safe.
Google has similarly re-launched its person finder tool, previously used during Japan’s 2011 earthquake. This system allows users to provide details of a person they are looking for in the affected area, and accepts information from individuals and organisations about those in the affected area.
Russian Search Tips has a useful summary/translation of results released by the Russian Association of Companies in Internet Trade (AKIT), detailing the ups and downs of Russian e-commerce in 2014. Key findings include: the fact that e-commerce turnover is up 31% year on year, the fact that Russian consumers made 80 million purchases abroad and some important ongoing shifts in payment. Specifically on the latter point, cash on delivery is now used by 52% – down from 71.8% in 2011, and this has been the result of growing trust in credit and debit card use (up to 61.7%, from 39.6% in 2011).
There are now 73 million Internet users in Russia, and 40 million of them made at least one online purchase last year.
The International Business Times reports that China’s State Council will trial a reduction on tariffs on certain types of popular imported goods. The measures will come into effect by June at the latest, and are expected to affect goods such as cosmetics and clothing, currently subject to import tariffs of as much as 30%. These high tariffs have been the source of controversy, allegedly fuelling overwhelming numbers of tourists travelling to Hong Kong to buy seemingly trivial everyday goods (particularly baby necessities and cosmetics). A similar trend sees Chinese tourists to Japan buying, among less eye-catching items, large numbers of heated toilet seats.
In a move widely interpreted as motivated by looming antitrust action and investigations by European governments, Google has announced that it will be launching a £107m fund to support European journalism. In partnership with Die Zeit, El Pais, The Financial Times and the Guardian, the money will be used for the research and development of sustainable models for news online over the next three years.
Conspicuous by their absence on the scheme are The Times and Die Welt, whose publishers have been very vocal in their criticism of Google in the past. The Drum’s coverage observes that the publications who have signed up may have set themselves up for a conflict of interest when covering future lawsuits brought against Google.
Sogou.com, China’s third place search engine (behind Qihoo 360 and long-time leader Baidu) recently reported its unaudited first quarter financial results. Highlights from the report reveal that revenues were $116 million USD, up 66% over the same period in 2014 – this was fuelled to an extent by a rise in aggregate search traffic of 60% year on year, and 130% growth in mobile specifically.
The numbers reflect both the growth and change in the Chinese search market – Baidu’s dominance is being eroded by rivals like Sogou.com who are innovating in areas of search that Baidu has neglected. Sogou’s CEO partly attributes its success to a collaboration on its mobile feature-set with major social media, entertainment, e-commerce and web portal powerhouse, Tencent.
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Phewa Lake Sunset – Pokhara, Nepal photo from Flickr user Mike Behnken
GUM, Moscow, Russia photo from Flickr user Martin de Lusenet
China tour guilin department store cosmetics photo from Flickr user Ben Burkland Carolyn Cook
Newspaper photo from Flickr user Maks Karochkin