How Chinese apps like TikTok have been catching on with US consumers
2019-04-30 23:28

Mobile applications developed by some of China's biggest technology firms have been catching on with U.S. consumers in the past few years, underscoring how companies in the world's second-largest economy are expanding beyond their domestic market and Asia.


In the first quarter of 2019, apps developed by Chinese firms or by companies with large Chinese investors, brought in revenues of $674.8 million in the U.S., according to data compiled by Sensor Tower for CNBC. The mobile app research firm only looked at the top 100 applications by revenue and downloads across Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store. The revenue accounted for 22 percent of the top 100 apps' total sales.


This year's first-quarter haul marks a more than 67 percent year-on-year rise in revenue from the same period in 2018.


Chinese technology firms have managed to expand into America despite the ongoing U.S.-China trade war and negative sentiment toward companies like Huawei from Washington.


Viral hit TikTok was the third-most downloaded app in the U.S. in the first quarter, just behind Facebook Messenger and a game called "Color Bump 3D." TikTok is made by ByteDance, one of the most highly valued private technology firms in China.

今年第一季度,热门应用程序抖音在美国下载量排名第三,仅次于Facebook Messenger和一款名为“Color Bump 3D”的游戏。抖音是由中国估值最高的民营科技企业之一的字节跳动(ByteDance)开发的。

While it goes by the name of TikTok in the U.S., the app is known as Douyin in China. Changing names and branding have helped Chinese apps succeed with American users.


"Chinese app publishers are becoming more adept at understanding what resonates with U.S. consumers, whether it be carving out a new niche in social media with apps such as TikTok or capitalizing on hot trends among Western gamers with battle royale titles including PUBG Mobile," Sanders Tran, a data analyst at Sensor Tower, told CNBC.

Sensor Tower数据分析师Sanders Tran告诉CNBC:“中国的应用程序发行商越来越善于理解如何与美国消费者产生共鸣,无论是通过抖音等应用程序在社交媒体上开辟新的利基市场,或是充分利用西方游戏玩家中PUBG Mobile等战役标题的热潮。”

"They have also greatly expanded their understanding of user acquisition in the U.S. market, which has allowed them to mount much more effective marketing campaigns. They've also backed these up with substantial spending, frequently topping the advertiser charts on Facebook and other mobile app install networks."


"PUBG Mobile," short for "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," is a game developed by Tencent, China's biggest technology firm by market capitalization. Tencent makes the iOS and Android version of the game. South Korean firm Bluehole made the original and other versions of the game for consoles and PC.

“PUBG Mobile”是中国市值最大的科技巨头腾讯开发的“绝地求生”游戏的简称。这款游戏腾讯开发了iOS和Android版本。韩国游戏公司Bluehole为游戏机和个人电脑制作了这款游戏的原始版本和其他版本。

Many are using the apps without knowing they are made by a Chinese firm or Chinese-owned company. That is a strategy, according to experts, that Chinese technology firms are intentionally using as they try to expand in the U.S.


"Overall, there is low awareness about the origin of these apps," Hanish Bhatia, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC. "At the same time, it is important for these apps to connect with users in the premium markets. So Chinese tech firms and apps are continuously making efforts to get rid of the Chinese tag. The idea is to position themselves as a global player."

“总体而言,人们对这些应用的起源知之甚少,”Counterpoint Research的高级分析师Hanish Bhatia告诉CNBC,“同时,这些应用程序与高端市场的用户建立联系很重要。因此,中国科技公司和应用程序一直在努力摆脱中国标签。他们是想把自己定位为全球化企业。”

Tencent's tactics


Interestingly, only nine Chinese apps featured in the top 100 apps in the U.S. in the first quarter, down from 14 in the same period last year, according to Sensor Tower. Downloads also fell. However, revenue has risen.

有意思的是,根据Sensor Tower提供的数据,今年第一季度美国排名前100名应用程序中只有9款中国应用,低于去年同期的14款。下载量也下降了,但收入却增加了。

The revenue rise was driven by a number of successful games. Fortnite, which is developed by Epic Games, in which Tencent has a 40 percent stake, was included in Sensor Tower's analysis. It was the seventh-highest earning app in the first quarter.

收入的增长是由一些成功的游戏带动的。由腾讯持股40%的Epic Games开发的Fortnite也被纳入Sensor Tower的分析中。这款游戏在今年第一季度收入排名第七。

Other major hits include "Clash of Clans," which is developed by Tencent-owned Supercell, and "PUBG Mobile."

其他热门应用包括由腾讯旗下的Supercell开发的“部落冲突”和“PUBG Mobile”。

While TikTok has changed branding to appeal to the U.S., Tencent has taken a different approach. Tencent products, such as messaging service WeChat, haven't had much success in the U.S., but the company has managed to get gaming products there through a strategy of acquisitions and investments in other firms.


"Tencent's big push into the West already happened, but they mainly muscled their way into the market indirectly — via acquisitions," Serkan Toto, CEO of games industry consultancy Kantan Games, told CNBC. "So instead of bringing their content to the U.S. and Europe, they rather invest in the crème de la crème locally and maintain a hands-off approach."

游戏产业咨询公司Kantan Games的首席执行官Serkan Toto告诉CNBC:“腾讯已经大举进军西方市场,但他们主要是通过收购间接进入。他们不是把内容带到美国和欧洲,而是在本地进行精准地投资,并保持不干涉的态度。”

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