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The global digital marketing weekly: Friday 5 September 2014

Welcome once again to Oban Multilingual’s global digital marketing weekly, a regular update on the news that affects international businesses on and offline. This week: LinkedIn may stop censoring Chinese users outside of China; Econsultancy questions whether the EU cookie law was worthwhile; cross-border shopping takes off in China; French online/offline shopping split examined; and Facebook’s Whatsapp purchase under EU scrutiny.

LinkedIn reconsidering Chinese censorship approach

Western social media has traditionally encountered insurmountable obstacles to Chinese market penetration. Complying with government restrictions is a logistical challenge for services built around the idea of sharing information, and the actions of any potential backlash from western users may outweigh the potential Chinese audience gained, considering strong existing Chinese services.

LinkedIn – arguably less exposed to anti-government activity due to its focus on business – was heralded as the first major western social media service operating in China, when it launched a Simplified Chinese version of its site earlier this year.

However, Bloomberg are reporting that LinkedIn is reconsidering its approach to the voluntary censorship that has allowed it to enter the Chinese market. Currently, if Chinese users post content that conflicts with state rules, LinkedIn blocks the post in China and around the world. Claiming that they are fundamentally against state censorship, LinkedIn’s bosses now feel that censoring a Chinese user’s post outside of China is a step too far. The report also mentions that China is now LinkedIn’s fastest growing major market.

EU Cookie Law cookie monster

Econsultancy examines EU Cookie Directive

Pop-ups informing users that cookies are retaining information about their visit (and helping the websites they visit to actually work) have become a common sight in Europe since EU laws started requiring cookie notifications over two years ago. Controversial since its creation, threats of six figure fines for failing to comply never materialised, and now Econsultancy has written an article examining the impact – or lack thereof.

Graham Charlton’s article suggests that considering the lack of complaints about cookies – just 38 ‘concerns’ in Q2 2014 were bought to the UK ICO (Information Commissioners Office) compared with 47,465 for unwanted marketing – the whole thing seems to have been a bit of a waste of time and money. Charlton also reminds us that the EU’s cookie concerns seem more than a little quaint in our post-NSA world.

Cross-border shopping growing rapidly in China

There are 18 million cross-border online shoppers in China, and 78% of them are shopping on their mobile phones – that’s according to a Nielsen / PayPal study discussed over at China Internet Watch. The study notes that cross-border shopping is likely to grow to in excess of 1 trillion RMB by 2018, (216 billion RMB was spent in 2013). Top shopping destinations include the US (84%), Hong Kong (58%), Japan (52%) the UK (43%) and Australia (39%).

French shoppers favour physical stores for furnishings and clothing is highlighting a Wincor Nixdorf report that examines French purchasing habits. The study finds that the French consumer remains a traditional shopper in some respects – 76% said they preferred buying home furnishings in-store rather than digitally, and 74% felt the same about clothing. However, the use of both in-store and digital research to inform purchase decisions is an important element of the market – 46% go online to look at details of the product and potential suppliers, even if they have no intention of purchasing online.

Whatsapp user in Spain

Facebook’s Whatsapp acquisition under close EU scrutiny

Facebook’s $19 billion purchase of Whatsapp is currently under close investigation by the EU, with an unusual “second wave of questions” circulating around competing businesses. The EU’s scepticism of American tech dominance is well documented, and Facebook may still find barrier to it purchase despite receiving the US Federal Trade Commission’s assent in April.

The EU is apparently trying to establish whether WhatsApp can be considered a social network – problematic because the purchase would be seen as removing a significant competitor from the market. They are also keen to establish whether European phone networks are likely to be affected by the purchase.

Interestingly, Facebook specifically requested the antitrust review in order to speed things up – otherwise, they would have had to go through the process in individual states.

To keep up-to-date with the latest international digital marketing news, sign up to Oban’s newsletter, Trendspotter. Alternatively contact Oban on +44(0)1273 704 434 or email [email protected] for advice on how we can help leverage your global online presence.

LinkedIn Logo image by Flickr user Esther Vargas
EU Cookie Monster image by Flickr user Surian Soosay
El whatsapp del boyero image by Flickr user Aurora Suarez