I had a chance to visit this internet company a while ago. It has been around for 11 years in China and even appears not to have any threatening rival now. It actually had and has some competitors, but no one is able to take it down seriously. Whenever I think about it, it is primarily about finding out where and what to eat, though it is already foraying into other sectors. It never acts that cool, boisterous, or glamorous like other major online companies in China. You even do not often notice headline news about it in the media, but it actually manages to infiltrate itself into every Chinese netizen’s daily life. This is Dianping.
Founded in 2003 in Shanghai by a man named ZhangTao who happens to be a foodie himself, Dianping’s humble beginning was simply an online site about restaurant review like Yelp. Round A fundraising from VCs did not occur until the year 2006.
Below is a clear roadmap of its business model evolution during these 11 years. Now it’s ultimate goal is becoming comprehensive O2O (online to offline) life service platform with focus on the mobile end, aggregating all merchant services, i.e. restaurant meal, beauty care, wedding, trip…basically any service which you would like to buy cheaply online, but must enjoy it offline in the merchant shop afterwards.
Dianping’s untapped big data
I had a short conversation with Dianping’s National Account Director who is a very nice man. He revealed current revenues of Dianpiang mainly come from online advertising, O2O campaign promotion for the merchants, the commission earned from those group buying deals etc.
I also asked him: “there must be tremendous amount of consumer data including reviews, profiles, preferences in Dianping, do you provide those detailed information to merchants registered on Dianping?”
He said “No, those consumer data stay in Dianping and we do not share externally now”.
“So even we are embracing the era of Big Data, you just let those data sit there like a gold mine and do not intend to make some money out of that?” I was quite puzzled.
“Yes, at least not at this stage”. He gave me his firm answers.
Dianping must have harvested abundant consumer data and digital footprints, but since its current priorities are still expanding its O2O service business model, gaining more incomes, hopefully accomplishing IPO in the near future, therefore I believe insufficient attention has been paid to its big data.
Needless to say, O2O big data analysis can put forward precision marketing, platform website optimization, fraud analysis and precaution, personalized recommendation, the development of value-added services and product innovation.
Dianping’s marriage with Tencent
Tencent decided to invest 20% stake in Dianping. Business marriage is rarely about mutual admiration. So for what?
- Dianping needs Tencent’s money. Most internet companies are often fed by venture capitals to make ends meet. So does Dianping. Tencent is rich enough to support Dianping.
- Tencent wants to leverage Dianping’s traffic and O2O influence, i.e. now integrating Dianping Daily Deals into Wechat, to promote its own Wechat payment in order to compete with Alibaba’s Alipay.
Will Dianping eventually end up as a trophy wife for Dianping, losing her independence? Or Dianping will utilize Tencent to secretly nurture her own full-fledged O2O ambition, then divorce Tencent afterwards? Somehow I feel Dianping is a more calculated lady who might take more advantage from her new husband Tencent.