Chinese Mapping APP Amap Attempts to Become a Gateway to Comprehensive Life Services

摘要: If a Chinese internet user wants to find a restaurant and have dinner, it’s quite common to first open Meituan APP, go to the highest-rating restaurant list, select one to his or her taste, switch to a navigation APP and follow the navigation. However, Amap, one of the major mapping and navigation platforms in China, is trying to turn this sequence around.

(Chinese Version)
Dong Zhenning, vice president of Amap

Dong Zhenning, vice president of Amap

If a Chinese internet user wants to find a restaurant and have dinner, it’s quite common to first open Meituan APP, go to the highest-rating restaurant list, select one to his or her taste, switch to a navigation APP and follow the navigation. However, Amap, one of the major mapping and navigation platforms in China, is trying to turn this sequence around.

The other days, Amap launched “Geek Map”, a platform where celebrities would recommend roadmaps to users. For example, Dong Keping, chief advisor to the popular food documentary A Bite of China, recommended a roadmap of some of the best Peking Duct restaurants. Su Cen, well-known Chinese writer, recommended a roadmap of artsy bookstores in Beijing. Lin Zhiling, popular Chinese actress and model, recommended a roadmap for street snap.

As concepts such as “user demand”, “upgrading”, “transportation” and “lifestyle” are repeatedly mentioned by Amap’s senior executives, it’s not difficult to see Amap’s ambition: grabbing user traffic from APPs such as Meituan and becoming one of the major search gateways when users are going out.

Dong Zhenning, vice president of Amap, revealed in an interview that ultimate their goal was to allow every user to recommend roadmaps, verify and assess users’ recommendations through big data technology. In other words, Amap attempts to fully explore potential of its user base in the mobile mapping navigation industry through “Geek Map” and transform itself into a gateway to everyday life services as well.

“The Chinese information and life service sector has just entered the stage of digitalization. At first, there might be some platforms who succeed because they cater to users’ specific needs, such as Meituan and Dianping. However, as the market matures, they will be replaced by more comprehensive search platforms. Likewise, as search engines like Baidu rapidly gained popularity, traditional media portals met their demise,” Dong explained.

According to him, what Amap is trying to do is digitalize information in the real world, and gather all information in the real world into a comprehensive online platform, thus brought more convenience to users. Besides, it’s quite natural that users will gradually turn to comprehensive information services.

After the rapid user growth in the past few years, use potential of the Chinese internet world has been gradually dwindling. In this case, it’s unlikely to see leap-forward development again. Therefore, for an established company in a mature market environment, it is of vital importance to conduct refined management and meet users’ new need after the fad for concepts such as big data, cloud service. AI and DT all gradually ebbed away.

“For the past few years, search service users have gradually shifted from ‘accurate search’ to ‘extensive search’ due to consumption upgrading. For example, a user might search for an exact Japanese restaurant before turning to the navigation APP in the past; today, however, most users would first ask the search engine to ‘recommend some great Japanese restaurants’ and then select one restaurant out of the search result,” Peng Tie, product director of Amap Information Business, said.

However, it is worth mentioning that Amap is well-grounded for this attempt. Based on public information, Amap has already accumulated a massive data base, over 60 million POIs, nearly 8 million kilometers of driving data. Besides, Amap has also accumulated an enormous data base in areas such as search, shopping, transportation and travelling through over 300,000 APPs that support mapping and navigation services, such as ele.com, Taobao, Tmall, etc.

“Based on these data, Amap can generate high-quality roadmap recommendations. For example, to generate a list of recommended restaurants, Amap could analyze visit, traffic, consumer group and frequency, etc. and generate a high-quality list based on behaviors of a large number of users,” Peng explained.

From the point of Peng, the latest challenge is to reflect the real world. For mapping and navigation products, data from different users are equally important; for users, however, they can enjoy different levels of services based on their real demands. Therefore, the most pressing task for Amap is to provide users with high-quality, appropriate and timely guidance.

However, as Amap starts to provide other services, including search, navigation and transportation, will APPs such as Meituan and Dianping become anxious?

While Baidu was accused of double standards due to differential treatment towards Putian hospitals and their services, Amap seems to be quite clear on this issue.

“We started to meet users’ transportation demands, but next we also want to bring more convenience to users and meet their other needs. After all, there is a fine line between O2O platforms and us. Amap have always endeavored to provide fair and disinterested information to users and shall never make profit by adopting double standards,” Dong pointed out.

Last year, Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba Group, pointed out that Amap wouldn’t take profitability into consideration within a few years. This may also help explain why this issue doesn’t bother Dong and Amap at present. However, it remains to see if Amap could strike a good balance in the years ahead.

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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Li Qin. Please note the source and hyperlink when reproduce.]      

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost. 

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