In the midst of peak summer humidity and ongoing political demonstrations, the fifth edition of RISE took place in Hong Kong last week. Organised by the team behind Web Summit, RISE is the largest tech conference in Asia, attracting over 16,000 founders, funders and industry professionals from across the world.

With most talks running just 20 minutes and speakers ranging from global names like Uber and Spotify to some of the most promising startups in the APAC region, there was no shortage of ideas to take in. Here’s the five key insights for Australian business leaders.

Global scale, hyperlocal focus

Leaders from Spotify, Stripe and Uber all stressed a shift in focus from rapid global growth to an increasingly localised approach.

“In order to serve users globally, we need to be hyper local,” said Stripe Chief Product Officer Will Gaybrick, describing how local regulations, cultural customs, preferred payment methods and local competitors all play a pivotal role in shaping Stripe’s approach to each market.

Spotify’s Head of Global Markets, Cecilia Qvist said that they invest in the right people and partnerships to launch in new markets. Spotify’s launch in China was bolstered by a collaboration with Tencent, while their recent launch in India focussed on investing in localisation of content: language and cultural customisations were made for each region. Qvist also announced the new phase of Spotify’s approach to globalisation, Spotify LITE – specifically designed to work on patchy or weak internet connections, and older phones.

Online expression is evolving from thinking to feeling

Giphy founder Alex Chung explored how conversation is evolving from factual and textural to visual and emotional. With over 500 million daily users sending over 7 billion gifs per day, Giphy does about 15 per cent of Google’s search traffic – but the key difference is the searches are based on verbs; feelings, actions and emotions – instead of things. “There’s 99 per cent more words that nobody searches for on Google that what they do,” Chung said, sharing their vision for Giphy as a search engine for conversational content.

Describing Giphy as a “tiny step in the bigger communication development of the world”, Chung said the increased focus from major tech players on messaging apps speaks to the rise of short, expressive and private communications – not just person to person, but also brand to person. As more major acquisitions and mergers occur between content publishers and networks, Chung said, we’ll see more entertainment and services coming in to conversations through messaging apps.

China’s ‘copycat’ tech industry is now being copied

The South China Morning Post and Abacus walked RISE audiences through their China Internet Report 2019, a deep dive into the Chinese tech landscape from user behaviour to investment trends. A good primer on anyone wanting to understand the Chinese tech landscape and where it’s headed, you can download the report free here.

A key outtake of the report was that China’s ‘copycat’ tech industry is now being copied. Having pioneered the ‘super app’; a one-stop shop for services from shopping to ride hailing to money transfers with platforms like WeChat, Alipay and Meituan, Chinese companies are now seeing this type of app replicated overseas with Facebook’s expanded Messenger app offering, LINE and Go-Jek.

The rise of the Super App, particularly in SE Asia, will be a trend to watch when many of these once-Chinese focussed companies begin to reach further afield – just look at Didi’s recent expansion to Australia.

Rethinking brick and mortar spaces as more than retail

Speakers across fashion, beauty and technology at RISE stressed that physical retail isn’t dead, but rethinking your brand’s physical footprint includes is crucial for retail success in the coming years.

“People misunderstand the incredibly flexible spaces of physical stores – they’ll become part of an industrial solution change like at Apple because they’re part of a distribution network, a place to ship as well as sell,” said Tim Kobe, CEO of Eight Inc and one of the minds behind Apple’s retail strategy back in the early 00’s. “Thinking of [stores] as ‘just’ a retail transaction point is missing some of the complexity these spaces can solve”.

Learning that 90 per cent of Chinese customers born after 1995 base their beauty purchases on online reviews, Masahiko Uotani, CEO of beauty giant Shiseido said the brand looked to bring their products to the user rather than driving them to a store, leading to acquisitions of MatchCo and Optune, both mobile apps that offer personalised product recommendations.

The internet needs to grow with generations

Founder and CEO of kidtech startup SuperAwesome Dylan Collins spoke about how the biggest tech companies used by kids today (such as Youtube and TikTok) weren’t developed for kids – but considering that in 2018 kids under 13 were 40 per cent of new internet users globally, and that 170,000 kids are coming online for the first time every day, we need to develop both infrastructure and design structures to better address this fast-growing demographic.

Rejecting Youtube’s potential direction to moving all kid’s content to its Youtube Kids app, Collins said a better approach for technology brands is to either “design with the assumption [that] kids will use their products,” or appoint a Chief Children Officer, potentially as a mandatory appointment once a platform reaches a certain level of consumers eg; 20 million MAUs. The country Collins thinks will be the first to roll such a program out? China.

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