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River is 10!

River is 10!

River is ten years old!

In 2008 River started flowing – how time flies!

If you’re reading this then you have helped get us here – so we wanted to say a big thank you! It’s a special thing to reach double digits as a business – and we’re very proud to have made it.

As with all aspects of life the last ten years have been an interesting journey for River and there never seemed to be a dull moment. From launching at the height of the financial crisis in 2008 to being on the verge of Brexit now, the only thing that has been certain over the last ten years is that things change!

But we’ve been fortunate enough to adapt to that change and that’s thanks to the wonderful colleagues, clients and business partners we worked with over the years. With your help we’ve travelled far and wide, from New York to Nigeria, Poland to Pakistan, Denmark to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Always delivering insights, always marvelling at the breadth and depth of people’s imaginations.

It’s been a pleasure working with you all and we hope we’re all still together at 20!

Thanks for all your support.

The River Team

Cryptocurrencies: are you all in?

Cryptocurrencies: are you all in?

If you’ve been watching the World Cup of late you may have seen an interesting ad during the break for Hdac:

https://youtu.be/s8EcrSjb85o

 

As far as we know this is the first time blockchain technology has been promoted to the mass market via TV (in the UK at least) but it is certainly a sign of things to come. A blockchain in its most basic form is the platform that brings cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ether into play.

 

River recently undertook a research study looking at consumers with wide ranging and self-directed investment portfolios and asked them about their understanding of, and in interest in, cryptocurrencies.  The results were surprising and highlight some of the issues with the market as it currently stands.

 

Lots of heat, not much light

 

Firstly, the idea of cryptocurrency is very exciting for investors.  There is genuine belief that this represents a credible long-term investment option and will become an important part of their portfolios.  Whilst there a lot of noise in the financial press about the massive swings in Bitcoin, there is a wider sense that cryptocurrency is establishing itself as a credible tradable commodity that has very good long-term growth potential.  In a market that is always looking for new ways to invest, cryptocurrency is seen as a great growth opportunity

 

HODL: Not for the faint hearted

 

But the key factor putting off many investors at present is the volatility of market and the potential for short term loss that will take a while to recover.  The message you’ll hear on all cryptocurrency forums when asked what to do with their investments is HODL – a slang term that effectively means hold on – don’t lose your nerve.  Many investors jumped on to the attractive upswing in Bitcoin but are now facing a bear market for most cryptocurrencies.  The idea of getting rich quick has fast become HODL – not the investment strategy many were looking for!  The scariest thing for many investors is that there is no long term normative data to benchmark how long or how low currencies will fall for – it’s a new market and investors are learning as they go.

 

Where do I begin?

 

For many this is the key barrier.  Most ordinary investors don’t know the difference between a blockchain and an ICO.  The terminology is a new language – both in terms of finance and technology.  But currency exchanges are now emerging that allow investors the opportunity to buy different cryptocurrencies as easy as regular currencies – you simply need a digital wallet and the conviction to invest.  You may even have seen a Bitcoin ATM near you!

 

 

So despite the perceived complexity and the volatility, blockchains and their cryptocurrencies are generating more interest and forming a larger part of our discussions with investors than ever before.  It’s an emerging, exciting market that many want to be involved in – but indecision over what currency and to some degree what wallet and what exchange is still a factor.   Many however expect the market to consolidate and simplify as it becomes more established – the perception is that it won’t be long before your IFA is recommending some cryptocurrency holdings!

2018 – the year so far

2018 – the year so far

We haven’t blogged for a while – we’ve been very busy on a wide range of great projects.  Here’s 5 cool things we’ve done this year (and we’re only half way through)

 

  We’ve done ethnographic work in Japan and Hong Kong – & compared the cultural differences across the two markets  –  that was interesting

 

   We’ve helped develop new mobile gaming concepts –  which was lots of fun

 

   We’ve undertaken quantitative research in Africa – which was enlightening

 

  We’ve run online communities with football fans – which was close to our hearts

 

  We helped relaunch a major global brand’s e-commerce strategy  – which was commercially illuminating

 

  Oh yes, and we’ve tackled GDPR as well, which was, necessary

 

We’ve done a lot more asides, travelled far and wide as always, and helped turn insight into action for our clients.

 

We live in interesting times, and we never stop learning

We’re Hiring

We’re Hiring

An exciting role for someone who is looking to develop their strategic and client consulting skills. You’ll be a key part of our dynamic team, working across sectors and clients on a wide variety of challenges across the globe.

[embeddoc url=”http://www.riverresearch.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/River-Research-Research-Manager-Job-Description-2016.doc” download=”all” viewer=”google”]

 

Smartphones in Beijing: Hello Xiaomi, Goodbye Apple

Smartphones in Beijing: Hello Xiaomi, Goodbye Apple

ML sellerI took this photo as I walked through a subway in central Beijing, China’s fast-paced capital. The man in the picture, Gao Jie, was playing with his large screen smartphone as I walked past his stand. He runs a street stall, selling a range of products – Thai candles, phone screen protectors and decorative mobile chains. The electric bike in the background is his means of commuting to work. His was sending a WeChat message on his phone K-Touch (a local Chinese brand), which cost him £80 at the time he bought it. When asked how much he could make every month, he was smiling, ‘not too much’, he said. According to official stats, the average monthly salary of Beijing is about £500.

It is not rare to see similar cases as Gao in the city. In fact, it is fairly common to see street vendors, delivery boys, security guards and blue collar workers with ‘fancy’ smartphones – and probably more so in Beijing than in London. That’s not because people in Beijing have higher disposable incomes than those in London. In fact my friend who was visiting China with me is an Austrian national and was completely shocked by what he saw. “Why do these people have smartphones?’. He had assumed that most people like Gao in Beijing would use feature phones or something more basic.

His question was halfway answered when we walked into a local mobile phone store. The Hisense 966, a 5-inch quad-core smartphone with 2G RAM is priced less than £40, and this is just one among many local brands doing in-store promotions. Surprisingly, the deals weren’t attracting many customers – the store was half empty and there were more sales staff than customers. One of the staff told me that these days, consumers prefer to buy mobile phones online, for the additional freebies (such as a free phone cases, back-up battery or a sim-card cutter from the seller).

ML price pic

The Rise of Local Brands

The Chinese market used to be dominated by Apple and Samsung, but this has been rapidly changing since 2013. Local mobile phone brands are now catching up by producing competitive products at more affordable prices, which is proving to be appealing to Chinese consumers.

A good example is hot-selling Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which is taking away dedicated iPhone fans from Apple. Xiaomi smartphones may have started off as a ‘knock-off’ iPhone, running on an Android operating system, but they have now demonstrated their innovative credentials and are endorsed by consumers for their ease to use, high performance and low price. In fact, Xiaomi has numerous customisable features that make the smart more advanced in some ways.

Since December 2013, Xiaomi has beaten iPhone and Samsung, becoming the bestseller smartphone brand in China. While capturing a significant share of the domestic market, Xiaomi have also had some success in other Asian markets – in Singapore, for example, batches of Xiaomi phones sold out within a few minutes of being launched in 2014. The company plans to sell 40 million handsets in 2014, which is more than double the number it sold in 2013. Brands like Xiaomi may be little known outside China (especially in Europe), yet their rapid development is quickly changing existing market dynamics and challenging our way of thinking.

Another half of the answer to the smartphone’s penetration can be found by understanding the Chinese mentality when it comes to technology. In 2012, a 17-year-old teenager notoriously sold one of his kidneys in order to afford an iPhone – shocking the national press. The focus of the story in Western media was on illegal organ trading, while the Chinese media was busy criticising the failure of education or materialistic values. Hardly anybody paid enough attention to the reason behind the trade-off from the teenager’s perspective. Naturally I wouldn’t agree with (or encourage) behavior of this kind, but I do believe that there may have been strong motivations making the young man so determined to trade part of his body for the ideal smartphone.

This left me trying from another perspective to understand how a smartphone could be believed to be so important to an individual. From a cultural standpoint, China is not the best place to talk about freedom. Social norms, family expectations, political constraints and singular definition of success…all of these contribute to the formation of conformist individuals and a collective society as a whole. Unlike the social environment, a smartphone offers open sources (e.g. free applications), equal accessibility to information (e.g. the internet) and opportunities to stand out in non-traditional ways, providing the chance to challenge the status quo and to fully develop individual potential. In a nutshell, it is the freedom that technology brings which turns a smartphone into a magic wand.

The crazy organ selling incident has been almost forgotten since it happened two years ago. What hasn’t changed much is the desire and appetite for advanced technology in China. With an up-to-date touch screen smartphone, consumers are being empowered with the freedom to express themselves and explore the world – a kind of freedom that is incredibly valued by the Chinese and especially by younger generations.

ML pic kids

ML pic kids two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our way back, my friend was once again surprised by how young the Chinese technology consumers were. We kept seeing kids running into mobile phone stores with their parents, or using their own devices in public spaces. Those young people who were born after 1990 or 2000 seem to have more progressive, exploratory attitudes and behaviours around technology and smartphones, compared to those in their late 20s or early 30s. How to appeal to this zealous, fast-changing and increasingly domestically-led market that we see in urban China is a question that marketers and businesses will need to consider.

Michelle

 

[1] [http://www.chinaabout.net/beijing-2012-average-monthly-salary-reached-5223-yuan-us-836/]

[2] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-08/china-s-xiaomi-plans-to-give-the-world-iphone-cool-at-half-price.html

[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/02/us-china-xiaomi-idUSBREA010B920140102