Stephanie Rieger: The emerging global web

Orde Saunders' avatarPublished: by Orde Saunders

Stephanie Rieger was talking about the Emerging Global Web at Mobilism, these are my notes from her talk.

The web is 25 years old, created by an Englishman working with a Belgian in France for a Swiss research institute using a server in California.

The early web was dominated by developed economies (80%), not only users but websites. Now the high penetration is still highest in these areas - nearing saturation - but the most popular websites are from China. There are still three billion people who are yet to get access to the internet.

Devices such as the Xiaomi are driving new access, cheap and good Android devices that most people can afford. The internet they will discover is different to ours.

In Kuwait people are selling sheep using Instagram. People post a picture of an item with a price on Instagram and they have a shop front. Instagram is in Kuwait but similar things are happening elsewhere - informal economy. Instead of roadside shops they are using social media, this hasn't been created by the social media networks. They aren't beautifully crafted dedicated experiences, they have penetration and work on pretty much any device for pretty much everyone. They are filling gaps we don't have in the west: areas that don't have brick and mortar shops or reliable deliveries.

Reaching the 600 million rural residence of China sounds like a big opportunity but the 700 million urban residents is still a big opportunity. Chinese e-commerce is 90% through marketplaces - not individual merchants. They are the digital equivalent of the public market place. Alibaba's T-mall has over 180 million customers and deals with large brands. High visibility, high traffic and customisable - companies specialise in customising T-mall shops. It's mobile optimised and works on any device. Even Apple have a store on T=mall! Car companies have stores on T-mall - you can buy a Lamborgini on your phone.

Alibaba's Taobao is a consumer to consumer site, a bit like eBay but also has things like travel agents. Informal businesses spring up, it's like a hobby for tens of thousands of Chinese office workers, housewives and students. For those in rural areas it is increasingly a way of making a living, locally made products can reach an audience of billions. More than 1 million T-mall and Taobao shop exists and account for over half of parcel deliveries in China are from these two marketplaces. Amazon have just opened a T-mall store.

In Africa the are three malls per 20 million people but everyone has a mobile - why even bother with bricks and mortar?

People in the West are now using these marketplaces to source material and using them in their own businesses, sometmes using marketplaces like Etsy. This is creating digital first consumers who live in one region but actively seek or shop for items in other areas. In the west we are behind the curve.

Individuals can now create their own brand and products. Curated collections of products act like boutique shops and get revenue share from every purchase - huge numbers of transactions and revenue. All mobile optimised, of course.

Devloping markets are going straight to social. Users adopt social networking as soon as they come online. More people are using social media before they are going online as we think of it in the west. China loves social media. Facebook is playing catchup with other networks. WeChat is mobile only - no desktop at all. No email, no SMS, no phone calls - only WeChat. Also a payment platform and virtual wallet. Extensive API allows brands to create "mini-sites" including full blown transactions.

This is not a "one-web" thing, it's a completely walled garden. However, there are mobile only "Light Apps" that work in WeChat's web view. The desktop is nowhere to be found.

In sub-Sarahan Africa 1/4 people don't have a formal interaction with a bank, 15% of Indonesians have a credit card. People pay through their device or cash on delivery. There is a very different chain of trust. Alibaba has an escrow service that only releases payment once the goods have been accepted. People now use it to pay for school fees, loads, utilities, medical fees.

As soon as you have a transaction model attached to something people will pay for things. Mobile devices - and QR codes - are what ties this all together. Everything in WeChat is QR code based - no typing needed. Everything has a QR code reader built in. You can buy goods in bricks and mortar stores by scanning the QR code.

Alipay is six times the transactional size of PayPal. Online, offline, and mobile are irrelevant questions - everything just works. Normal is always changing.

What if a drone could bring your order and some other items you might like and then take the payment. What seems futuristic to us might seem obvious to others.

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