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Would You Sacrifice Your Privacy for Convenience?

by Rodrigo Stabio, Class of 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Would you sacrifice your privacy for convenience?

Before you answer, think about the following:

  • Did you read every paragraph before agreeing to download your last phone app? 
  • Is the location service on your phone ON?
  • Do you have a phone that is always looking to connect to a nearby available WiFi?

The WSB Global Marketing trip to China has opened my eyes to a whole new digital world. Some consider China to be a developing country, but in some aspects, they are so far ahead.

As we visited Starcom today, we learned about the big 3 in China- Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba. Baidu is the Google of China, Tencent is the parent company of WeChat, and Alibaba owns Tmall, the Chinese version of Amazon. These are necessary apps to have in China to thrive and survive.

These apps make your life easy. You can use WeChat to speak with friends, post on your WeChat wall (like fb), share a picture of your latest meal, and pay for practically anything. When you buy something, instead of using cash or a card, you just use your QR code to pay. 

Remember QR Codes?


Yeah... I thought QR codes died too. But not in China. These can be used to pay the street vendor, your house maid, nanny, Starbucks, dinner, rent... you get it. Everything.

Having cash in China is the equivalent of walking around with your checkbook in the US and writing out a check at a Kroger grocery store. This app is so convenient.

On the other hand, through these apps, these companies and the government can track everything you do. They can track what you buy, where you are, what your last post on WeChat was, how much money you have, etc. Seems a bit scary. However, from a marketing perspective, it can be amazing.

Imagine that you are out walking around town looking for a place to eat. As you are looking for a restaurant, you get a digital coupon or promotion for dinner at a nearby restaurant. This restaurant could be one that you’ve been to before or one that you might like, based on previous purchases. Another example: many marketing KPI’s revolve around measuring the effect of advertising. However, until now, it’s been hard to measure effectiveness of non-digital ads like billboards. Being connected is revolutionizing this as companies can now see who is nearby a billboard by tracking your proximity through mobile WiFi activity. Scary? Creepy? Convenient?

During the visit at Starcom, we learned that out of the 1.39 Billion people in China, 56% of them have access to the internet, and of that, 97% rely mostly on mobile. While many US companies are adopting a “mobile 1st” approach, China has an “only mobile” approach. China’s investment in IT has grown 551% YOY.

As we continue to move into the digital space, China has a great structure in place to learn from. Marketers in China are able to create great brand awareness, user engagement, and purchase through one app that is used by a big portion of the population. If you are a marketer, you’d be a fool not to learn some lessons from China.