You might have watched Chinese square dancing, an exercise routine performed to music in squares, plazas or parks of the nation's cities by middle-aged and retired women, but you might have never expected that there could be a huge market in this area.
Just go to Taobao.com and search keywords such as “video player for the aged”, and you would understand how thriving this market has become.
With over 2 million square dance teachers, 100 million dancers and 500 to 600 million middle-aged and aged target audience, a rather “interesting” supply chain has already emerged in this market.
For sure, products such as loudspeakers and clothes must be quite popular in this market. Other related products and services such as health products, tourism package and financial service are also quite popular.
Besides, some little-known singers could ask popular square dance teachers to adapt their songs into dance music and get popular overnight through viral spread of square dancing among the middle aged and the aged Chinese. At the same time, since this group of people tend to more easily believe rumors and spread them in WeChat, some people would turn to them in order to gain more fans, view times and likes in a short time.
Has internet been able to penetrate into the middle-aged and aged group of people? Is square dancing an effective entry point? Well, it seems that it’s still too early to say so. In this article, TMTpost columnist Fang Dafu will help you have a glimpse of the Chinese square dancing market.
As an early entrant in the Chinese square dancing market, I am often asked by friends if everything is okay recently. They would often send me news reports saying that one square dancing platform has raised another round of financing, the other platform has also raised several million yuan, etc.
For me, however, I don’t find find much difference. The market is still controlled by some early entrants in the market, but some of them have already gained a DAU of over 1 million.
Last year, I released a report on the Chinese square dancing market to get more people focused on this market. However, I never expect that square dancing will really become a hot area of investment only after half a year. For sure, such trend is a good thing for all the players in this market. However, most people might be busy raising money and diversifying products, but forget to figure out answers to questions such as: Has internet been able to penetrate into the middle-aged and aged group of people? Is square dancing an effective entry point?
Smartphones have become quite widespread among the middle-aged and aged population
As a matter of fact, penetration rate of smartphones is surprisingly high among the middle-aged and aged Chinese. Smartphones such as iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 and Xiaomi Redmi are quite popular among this group of people. Since two years ago, this group of Chinese have already begun to use WeChat. In fact, many “chicken soup” articles about keeping fit and becoming successful on WeChat Official Account gained a view time of over 100,000 because of this group of people.
Square dancing circle has even created a well-organized and disciplined mini society where members could communicate with each other both offline (on the squares) and online (via WeChat and QQ). Every square dance team has its own WeChat Group and QQ Group where they could post notifications and share contents with each other, while every city also has its own WeChat Group, whose members are all leading dancers of every square dance team in the city.
Across China, there are also some really huge-scale groups of square dancing fans of popular square dance teachers. Statistics suggest that there are over 100 such national groups and over 600 city-level WeChat and QQ Groups across China. Besides, members are quite active in these WeChat and QQ Groups, whether they are sharing related contents or organizing training lessons and competitions.
However, such active city-level interaction might not be a good thing for entrepreneurs in this market. In fact, leading dancers become very important in square dance teams. After watching videos posted by a few popular square dancing teachers and learning the new dances online, a typical square dancing leading dancer will teach the new dance to other members in the team.
Therefore, although there are around 100 million square dancers in China, only 2 million of them will go online and watch teaching video times and times over. In fact, these 2 million people are exactly the main target users all major Chinese square dancing platforms are competing for.
Some health product companies attracted so many fans just by holding regional square dancing competitions and get participants attract votes by inviting their relatives and friends to follow their WeChat Official Accounts and then vote for them.
During the Second Songcheng National Square Dancing Competition we co-organized, it’s quite common to see teams that attracted over 3,000 votes even when all votes must be casted via real name. A team from Shanghai even attracted 5,542 votes at last.
For “dancing nannies”, they attract votes because they want to contribute a share fighting for the honor of their teams. However, their friends and relatives are always involved in square dancing one way or another, whether they like it or not.
The problem for square dancing platforms is: how to reach 100 million dancing nannies through 2 million leading square dancers and further reach the 600 million middle-aged and aged audience of square dancing?
Two major obstacles
Still, square dancing platforms have to the overcome the following two obstacles to meet the needs of two million so-called active users first of all and seek to make as much profit as possible.
1. From selling products directly related to square dancing to selling other types of products
Products directly related to square dancing, such as dance clothes, dance shoes and loudspeakers can be bought on Taobao at a very cheap price. In fact, many dancing nannies even know how to buy these products at an even lower price: retailing.
Thus, it’s not feasible to make much profit by selling products directly related to square dancing. What about other types of products, such as health products, tourism packages, financial services and education projects, etc.? Many entrepreneurs have already tried to sell these products and services but their efforts turn out in failure. Therefore, I suggest that entrepreneurs in this market focus more attention on attracting more users and raising financing, instead of making profit in the next two to three years. It’s not that we don’t want to make profit. The harsh fact is that, maybe, the time is just not ripe enough yet.
2. Encouraging middle-aged and aged people to use mobile payment tools
Although online ride-hailing platforms have already taught many middle-aged and aged people to use mobile payment tools, most of them actually keep little money in their WeChat Wallet or Alipay.
Besides, most square dancing fans live in fourth or fifth-tier cities or countrysides. How could you expect them to learn how to use mobile-payment tools, go shopping on online shopping platforms and fill in blank their own delivery address. How can you prove to them that you are not cheating them?
However, the more difficult these obstacles are, the more benefits will ensue if you overcome them. Market scale of dancing clothes and loudspeakers has already reached over 2 billion yuan annually, while that of the heath product market has already reached over 200 billion yuan annually. What about other related markets such as domestic consumption, real estate, financial service and education? Coincidentally, dancing nannies have much say in all these areas.
So square dancing indeed can be used to sell other kinds of products services. That’s why examples where leading dancers participated in a square dancing competition held by a real estate center the first day and bought a house the second day are often heard in this market.
This is also why many companies are hold offline promotion activities to sell their products and services to middle-aged and aged people. Besides, television commercials, teased by young people, are very popular among this group of people. Many companies have already managed to make huge profit by attracting users to place orders through telephone calls and pay the bill when the packages are delivered.
Various product forms and using scenarios
Target consumers of the square dancing market include popular square dancing choreographers, leading dancers and members of square dancing teams, but scenarios demanding for square dancing vary a great deal. Fundamentally, square dancing should be a combination point for sports, cultural and the internet industry for the middle-aged and aged people. So there should be lots of choices in terms of the product form in the further development of the market.
1. It remains to see if APP is a proper product form
First of all, it takes much effort for square dancing platforms to attract middle-aged and aged people to download an APP. Currently, the most effective method is to attract target consumers to visit their websites through search engines ads and then further attract them to download their APPs via the websites.
Secondly, the major function of these APPs should be to watch the latest videos released by popular square dance choreographers. It is unlikely that people would turn from WeChat to these types of APPs to contact with each other, or leading dancers of square dancing team would notify other members in the team via these APPs. However, smartphones are too small for popular square dance choreographers to watch and learn at the same time.
At last, users won’t stick to one APP. To solve this problem, square dancing platforms could learn from live streaming platforms and invite popular square dance choreographers to open programs in their platforms and thus let their users stick to their platforms.
2. It is always recommended to develop hardware products
At present, the top three types of products in terms of sales are: loudspeakers, video players and dance clothes. Hardware takes up two of top three list. Currently, many middle-aged and aged people need their daughters’ help to download songs or videos, so they do need hardware products that can make it more convenient to do so.
We believe that alternative products of video players for the middle-aged and aged people will emerge in the next two years. Users can get access to the internet and easily choose to watch or read contents they like. Such products could become the the most widespread tools for middle-aged and aged people to surf the internet.
Of course, it would be quite difficult to develop some really brilliant hardware products. Although entrepreneurs will no longer need to focus much attention on software development, they will instead focus much attention on dealing with the supply chain, distribution channel and offline marketing platforms.
3. It’s quite tricky in terms of holding square dancing competitions
In earlier days, many square dancing teams to rush to participate in square dancing competitions. However, as people have become quite familiar with such competitions, many competition organizers (local governments excluded) have to be paid to participate in similar competitions.
Since there aren’t uniform standards for square dancing, it’s hard to be authoritative enough in judging if a performance is good or not. In the near future, if you want to gain traffic and popularity offline, they would consider holding such competitions. For example, banks could hold such competitions along with local media and raise deposit volume to a new level.
4. Nurturing high-quality square dancing contents and popular square dancers
This area is still not explored fully yet. After all, high-quality contents are still lacking in. For example, we did a party rock activity on the West Lake Square last year. Although we didn’t spend any money promoting the activity, the video was viewed for 3.7 million times and the related article read for 1.68 million times.
Therefore, it’s comparatively speaking easier for high-quality square dancing videos to become wide-spread. In fact, more innovation and new ideas can be brought into square dancing. For example, Qiaqia Square Dancing gave up maintaining the APP, developed a smart television box-based APP instead and successfully became the first company to achieve profitability in the industry.
In 2011, Tangdou Square Dancing launched the PC version; in 2012, aiwudao.com launched its BBS version; in 2014, Qiaqia Square Dancing launched its APP version; in 2015, Dafu Square Dancing started its hardware project, Quanmin Square Dancing launched its APP version, Galloping Age entered a new area via WeChat Official Account, and Yiting Square Dancing music streaming platform evolved into 99 Square Dancing; in 2016, Choreographer Center launched User and Teacher version of 1758 Square Dancing, while lipian.com started providing step-counting service... All these companies have made several attempts to find a proper entry point.
To wrap up, it’s not that the middle-aged and aged generation don’t want to use the internet, but rather there’s still short of products that fit them.
Young people have their needs, so do the middle-aged and aged. They might also love some internet celebrities very much and would send them flowers to show their affection.
Dancing nannies do attach high importance to quality-price ratio, but they also have very strong need for consumption as well as high consumption ability.
If your product really appeals to them, they will by several of them and give their friends and relatives each. However, if your product fails to appeal to them, they will bargain with you just like buying vegetables in the market. They have lots of time to rest and pay more attention to their own and their kids’ health, education, entertainment and financial choices.
Still, there remains lots of obstacles to overcome to attract middle-aged people, from popular square dancing choreographers to leading dancers and square dancers to use mobile payment tools, establish a virtuous business cycle with the help of square dancing and find the most appropriate product form for this group of people.
[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @PMCAFF please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.