China has embraced the era of an aging population in recent years. According to the United Nations, by the year 2030, the number of people 65 and above in China is expected to grow by more than 100 million from 110 million in 2010.
Aware of this trend, China’s State Council approved the 2016-2020 National Fitness Plan, aiming to improve national fitness worldwide through increasing the sports participation. As a result, ever-growing numbers of elderly women or “Chinese Dama” have gathered on the street corners of China’s cities to start their zealous business, square dancing.
As a segment of the sports market, square dancing has displayed a remarkable commercial value in the country. It is said that there are at least 100 million square dancers throughout China.
According to a report by the sports start-up Darfoo Tech, in the year 2015, three types of square dancing related products, including apparel, sound equipment and video devices, generated monthly sales of more than 25 million yuan on Taobao, Alibaba’s e-commerce platform. As the report estimated, the sales at brick and mortar stores can be 10 times higher, which reflects an annual revenue of 2 billion yuan.
“It costs me only 15 yuan a month. It’s not expensive,” said Mrs. Deng, an enthusiast of Baba Dance, “in a recent competition, I paid a bill of more than 200 yuan, including a few dozen yuan spent in costumes. All of us believe that health is the most important thing, so we don’t care too much about the bill.”
Many start-ups have seen the industry as their opportunity to grow their businesses. As shown in open data, there are more than 60 square dancing APPs completing financing from 2015 to 2017. Most of them, including 99 Square Dancing, 9igcw and Tangdou, start with training courses or merchandise sales, expecting to exploit the commercial value of elderly consumer market through social networking and e-commerce business.
As the founders of the start-up said before, they are quite interested in the middle-and-old-aged market, since smartphones are getting more popular among this age group. Therefore, they hope to fill the gap to launch internet products, meeting increasing demands with advanced technology.
However, within just two years, many start-ups have had to face the harsh reality: What the Chinese Dama love is the square dancing itself, not the fancy and unfamiliar internet platforms. That’s why most related APPs in China have failed to monetize their ambition, some even greeting their doomsday earlier than expected.
Surprisingly, hardships have not stopped more Chinese businessmen from entering this niche market, because all of them want to become the game changers.
According to Chinese tech news outlet TMTpost, there are still many problems to be solved, including the problem of reaching millions of square dancers, improving means of payment, developing a sound business model, and how to make the products popular for elderly people… There is still a long way to go to make a difference.
A few companies in the sharing business are making progress, which gives the successors in square dancing the confidence to copy their success in the fitness industry.
“I’m now riding every day, since bike sharing firms are providing services for free.” Said Mr. Pan Quan, a 60-year-old Beijing native. With the help of his family, he has downloaded 3 applications on his smartphone, becoming more and more accustomed to the new lifestyle of mobile payment.
Nevertheless, what has been neglected is the fact that Chinese elderly people love free products or services. In other words, it is the free services that have attracted them to use this up-to-date technology, so they may not become loyal customers in the long term.
Additionally, square dancers are busy handling pressure from the government.
As the General Administration of Sport of China said, square dancing, despite its positive influence, has exposed some conflicts between dancers and the public. So, recently, the administration has released a regulation urging regional government agencies to supervise the use of public exercise venues for dancing and other forms of exercise.
Therefore, the Chinese Dama may not have much time to try something very new for them, like buying products via the internet.
Proofread by William Logsdon