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Online Shopping in China

For those who have been to China but have not tried online shopping, they haven’t really been to China. Online shopping is probably the fastest growing industry in China. Here are some numbers to testify that:

  • In 2012, online sales counts for 5.5% of all domestic retail trade in China; whereas in the U.S. the figure is 5.1%. Chinese love online shopping more than Americans!
  • On Nov. 11, 2012, the sales on Taobao & Tmall (both belongs to Alibaba) reached 19.1 Billion CNY ($3.12 billion), dwarfing American’s Cyber Monday sales, which totaled $1.5 billion. And that $3.12 billion went to just one company in on day!
  • In 2012, online sales totaled $212.4 billion, playing a catching up with the U.S., where online sales totaled $228.7 in 2012.
  • The industry was growing by 75.3%, 66.3% and 48.5% in 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively.

If the above figures do not impress you, consider this scenario: on Monday morning you go to work and one of your colleagues recommends you a lipstick that she finds excellent. You go to your favorite online shopping website and added the lipstick to your shopping cart and check out without really paying for it, choosing to pay when the lipstick is delivered to you. Then you continue working and have lunch. After lunch the delivery guy showed up and your lipstick is here. You pay for it and you just bought a lipstick and are already trying it!

That was not exaggerating at all, especially if you live in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. If you happens to live in smaller cities like I do, I still get most of my purchases within 10-24 hours. I usually buy books at night and the next morning they’re delivered to me. That’s probably I bought a lot of books! When I was living in Finland, the delivery often takes days, if not weeks. You will definitely feel the difference the first time you try online shopping in China.

But the fast delivery is not the only reason why online shopping is popular in China, most people buy stuff online because it’s convenient and you can compare things. And often you have many choices. Online stores ofter many different models for the same product. Different stores sell different things. And you can literally find everything you need online. Clothes, shoes, books, tickets? Of course! Meat, vegetables, eggs? Why not? Gold, investments, Cars, apartments, helicopters? No problem, how many do you want? OK, you made your point. How about boyfriends and girlfriends? Hell yeah, pay now and you’ll have one tomorrow!

Besides, things are cheap online, even if you count in delivery fees. Clothes are sold from a few dollars to a few hundred. Most are of good quality. And if you are not satisfied, you can most likely ask for a refund. Most stuff sold online are warranted. What? Chinese only make cheap crappy stuff? Jesus, from whom do you hear that from? Your grandma? Well, we may have different standards for “crappy stuff”, but I do believe most things are more than worthy of the money you paid for.

I’m not here to persuade anyone to try online shopping in China, but I assure you if you do, you’ll be amazed. I was amazed when I first come back from a few years of stay in the Nordics. If you ask me for advice, there just one: check your credit card regularly so that you do not shop too much!

Anyway, bellow are the top online stores in China. They are mostly in Chinese and you should ask your Chinese friends for help. and, they are the largest online shopping store in China, both belonging to Alibaba. Taobao is mainly C2C and Tmall is mainly B2C. Often stuff on Tmall are also available on Taobao, but Tmall stuff usually are of better quality., the second largest online store, mainly B2C. Best known for its fast delivery., online supermarket. Meat, vegetables, seasoning stuff, imported food, etc.

Happy shopping!

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More beautiful than you’d thought

Two videos today. The first one: Real Beauty Sketches (

We all get used to the good parts of ourselves and often get trapped in the parts that we don’t like about ourselves. However, others may not view you the same way as you do. Things you hate may be the favorite of another. In a different eye you are more beautiful than you think you are.

And the second one: Information management as an organization on (

I didn’t know I could make a video relatively smoothly with much confidence. But I made it. It sounds not bad. I’m confident when talking about things I know and familiar of. I’m not afraid of getting my voice heard. On those occasions when I’m reluctant to speak out, it’s not because of I’m afraid I have a horrible voice or my English is not interpretable. But now I know my voice is more than OK and so is my English. I just need a little confidence on the contents when I start to speak. I may do more of these in the future, but probably with a script before rolling the camera. 🙂


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Traditional Chinese Festivals: An Infographic

Last week I made an infographic on Traditional Chinese Festivals. It’s the first time I make this sort of things and I’m already in love with it. Infographics are straightforward in showing ideas using numbers and pictures. Unlike blog posts, infographics are easier to read; and unlike tweets, infographics can contain a lot of information. In a way infographics are similar to fruit salad: you like it because it tastes good, and it’s good for you because it supplies you a log of nutrition; plus, you never get bored with it since it comes in various combinations!

So here’s the infographic I made, probably not the best one you’ve ever seen though. But shut up and I’m working on getting it better! 🙂

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Facebook vs. Google advertisements

Since last week I’ve been investigating how to efficiently promote our website ( Our Facebook page got 139 likes a week ago, and now we have 175. Among the 36 new likes, 22 are from two Facebook campaigns. The first campaign cost 15 dollars and earned 20 likes, averaging 0.75 dollars per like with a click-through rate of 0.290%. In a way this is affordable and more efficiently than stand at international students’ dormitory in Shanghai and spread flyers. Three of us probably sent out around 100 flyers to international students but got nothing to our Facebook page nor website. The first campaign focused on gaining new likes and it went quite well; our second campaign cost 5 dollars, promoting a video post with a goal to earn new likes. This campaign boosted another 2,169 reach, 143 clicks and 2 new likes. Had the video been more engaging, probably we could have gotten more clicks, shares and likes. Since Facebook users nowadays are exposed more and more to various contents, it’s become increasingly difficult to get users engaged.

In the meanwhile, we also launched three campaigns on Google Adwords. So far we got 30 clicks and cost about 40 dollars. The average CPC is $1.36 — almost twice of that for FB, but the conversion rate is zero. No one has applied or enquired our pages (maybe due to the low volume). Google Adwords is different from Facebook. On Facebook you attract people to your FB page but not your website; whereas Google takes visitors directly to your website. FB leaves you a space for imagination, though. Once you get a page like from someone, he/she will be able to see the updates your page posts.

Suppose the Google CPC is twice of Facebook CPC, if one in two earned FB followers click one of our promoted posts, FB is doing better. That does not sound like a issue. I’d place all my bet on Facebook and maybe time to buy FB shares?

We also tried to promote on LinkedIn but failed to find appropriate ways. LinkedIn is mainly for serious jobs, not internships. Instagram neither, there seems to be a lot of robots on Instagram; it’s not clear for us to find a way to promote ourselves, either. So for the moment, we only consider Facebook and Google. Oh no, Facebook is our focus and Google is not helping much, but we still need to spend the remaining 90 dollars we got from a coupon, slowly.

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Chief Flyer Officer a.k.a. CFO

We went to attend the Expat Show Shanghai this weekend trying to promote our Yabroad Open Platform. In the show we have to talk to different international people that may be interested in our business. Our targeting group is international youngsters who might be interested in coming to and living in China for internships, studies, traveling, or volunteer works. Unfortunately there were not many people within our target group in the Expat Show: not so many international youngsters came to the show. But we thought it might be worthy of convincing those mid-aged people to get interested in us. We went to speak with them and give them our flyers. I successfully sent out around 80 flyers in the morning and was nominated as the CFO (Chief Flyer Officer) by my team. Here’s what I’ve learnt:

  1. Stand close to the entrance. When people come to a show they may receive as many as hundreds of flyers, so it is important to talk to them as early as possible. Waiting for audience at the entrance has many benefits: they are not bored or exhausted (yet); it impossible to escape from you when they have to enter from the entrance; if people are interested in your business you can tell them where your stand is and they will remember your business when they come to your stand.
  2. Block the way. It may sound nasty but you can do it under camouflage. For example, simply stand in a narrow hallway and slightly stretch out, like bowing slightly may make you appear more politely. If you block people’s way and are smiling at someone, he/she has to listen to you.
  3. Observe and listen. Make eye contact and speak with people you feel comfort with. Generally, women are less likely to refuse your attempt to talk with them. In the meanwhile, listen to what people are talking about. For instance, I heard someone calling his friend “Patrik” with a Swedish accent, then I just asked him if he comes from Sweden. It turned out he is from Finland. Me too! Then I introduced him our business and he seemed interested.
  4. Smile, relate, compliment. Nobody likes a poker face when talked to; smile and people will get pleased. There are many occasions when I ask people where they are from, and I’ll respond “Hey! I’ve been/studied there!” or “My girlfriend is studying there!”. Then people may start to ask you questions like “how do you like it there”. Just compliment them. Then introduce them your business. Hard to refuse.

Overall I think the experience was great. I got to know more about our end customers and how to introduce our business in the shortest time, as well as how to communicate with potential customers and talk with strangers. And hey, being a CFO is not difficult! 😀


A glimpse of Japan

Chinese always have a mild hatred for Japanese: in TV series, movies, advertisements, Japanese are usually depicted as stupid, cruel, lustful and unruly. I didn’t see any movies that shows Japan and Japanese people positively. In fact, China has a term calling Japan and Japanese people: “Xiao Riben”, literally “Little Japanese”. Chinese often talk about Japanese people with contempt. However, based on 10-day visit in Japan, I think Chinese should not be that proud.

The first impression of Japan: neat and clean. You do not see any trash bins in the streets; you do not see any trash either. In Japan you have to bring your garbage back home. You clean up your own mess. And back home, you have to categorize the trash. Japan is a country keen of recycling resources. Plastic bottles have their own bins. In some small places in Japan, only trash in a certain category will be received, i.e., on Monday you can only take your plastic bottles out but not bio trash; on Tuesday you may throw away bio trash but not glass bottles.

It’s quiet. People don’t talk to each other on the bus or subway; if they do, no one hears them. On buses and subway carts, no-talk-on-the-phone signs are quite common. On the road no cars honk. People walk as fast as people in China, but you can feel the difference: it’s more peaceful in Japan.

Everything is in order. People obey rules. No one crosses the red light, be there traffic or not. We went to a city name Takayama and early in the morning  we took a walk around the city. The streets are almost empty, with a few pedestrians, no cars on the street. However, people still wait until traffic lights turn green. On elevators people stand on one side and leave space for those in a hurry. In bus stops people line up and nobody jumps a queue.

People are polite, most are friendly. You may not get used to it when people bow you all the time: in supermarkets, in shops, even on the street. Still in Takayama, a girl tries to cross the road when she noticed a car is approaching; she paused; the driver signals her to go first; the girl bowed to the driver and crossed the road; the car continues moving. You will never see this in China. The car won’t stop in the first place. On the contrary to movie depictions, I found most Japanese friendly. On the streets if you ask for directions, many will take you to your destination if it’s not far away. When my girlfriend is moving out from her student apartment, it was raining. The apartment administrator offered to drive us and our luggage to the metro station by his own car. I doubt this happens in China.

Of course we met a lady who discriminated us in Shirakawa-Go. We ordered food and she asked us to pay first. All others pay after they had food. She might have encountered customers not paying for food. What happened to her may not be pleasant, but how she treated us made us unpleasant as well. But the experience in Japan was extremely positive. I’d encourage every Chinese to go visit Japan. Things will be better if we understand each other better. People should learn from each other and treat each other as equal parties. I believe people in China and Japan are both nice, they are just taken advantage of by those asshole politicians. Well, screw them!

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The power of thinking without thinking

Blink: the power of thinking without thinking is another book by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers: the story of success I just read a few days ago. He is a good writer: he knows how to explains theories with examples and stories that creates resonance to audience. And he knows how to write bestsellers: books should be easy to follow and not too lengthy. This book Blink is a fine example: it’s a less-than-300-page small book.

Compared with Subliminal, this book does not contain too much diving into how human brains work. Instead, it’s all about plain but intriguing stories. It starts by talking about spotting a bogus statue at first sight; then it discusses about how to predict divorces by analyzing how couples talk to each other; then it comes to why we fall for people’s appearances, how newbie police fails to read people’s minds, etc.

This book brings up a theory called “thin-slicing”: getting the big picture without actually going through the whole picture, but through taking a small part of descriptive samples and inferring the correct result using these samples. Thin-slicing is an ability that only through years of practice can it be possessed. It is a state that spontaneous and correct judgement occurs to you even though your consciousness has yet participated in the process. This ability becomes an integrated part of yourself, just like the instinct to avoid coming cars. It doesn’t necessarily deal with reasoning: your success of getting the correct answer does not guarantee that you know exactly why. If you are forced to give reasons, you may not come up with correct ones and they may hazard your first-sight judgement. To reason means to use your conscious mind; but thin-slicing is from deeper than the consciousness — it comes from the unconsciousness of your brain.

However, thin-slicing may not always give us correct results. We usually trust those who are good looking, while this sometimes leads to unpleasant endings, such as choosing the handsome Warren Harding as the president of the US and who make the worst president in US history; Most white people and including some black people, think under their consciousness that the white is a superior; Many treat women as inferior. These are the unconsciousness that we need to prevent, otherwise we are not able to focus on the aspects that really matters.

In summary, use the unconsciousness, but use it properly. Train the mind, so that the pattern recognition engine in our brains gets recognizing what is important and what is not, so that in a blink of time, we can make the best decision without thinking (using our conscious mind).


What a day: bus and dogs

Almost ran over by a bus at a crossroad when I was riding home from work, I jammed the brakes on and hear the rubbing sound of my bicycle tyre against the ashalt. Fortunately it stopped quickly and the bus was not running very fast, and it slowed down too. I was lucky that I had tuned the bike brakes a fews weeks back so that it can actually stop, not decelerate, in a short time.

After another block I kinda calmed down but two dogs started chasing me. They were barking and close to me. I had to lift my legs up in afraid of their bites. But then the bike slowed down and it almost ran onto the curb. Fortunately enough, the dogs stopped chasing.

So in a way I was lucky not having ended up in the hospital today, I guess there should be some good news for me in the next few days…


What sets outliers apart

There is a famous quote from Einstein that goes “genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work”, and the book Outliers: the story of success proves it correct. As many knows that Einstein has an IQ of around 150, however, IQ is not the definite factor towards success, but rather, IQ is not important at all once it reaches a threshold — as long as you have an adequate intelligence, it’s other aspects that really matters. Those aspects include hard work, social savvy, upbringing and the culture one comes from.

This book tells a story of a man named Chris Langan with an IQ of 195, but he ended as as a bouncer at a bar for the most of his life. He is smart, so smart that he understands Principia Mathematica at the age of 16. But he never knows how to deal with people. He lost his scholarship because his mother forgot to fill a form for him and after he confronted his dean he concluded that the professors do not care about the students. And so he quitted. By contrast, the father of atomic bombs, Oppenheimer is not as smart, but he processes a great practical knowledge. He knows how to get away with punishment after trying to poison his tutor at  Cambridge. He also persuaded General Groves to let him participate in the Manhattan Project, despite his poisoning record and affiliations with Communists. It’s obvious that both Langan and Oppenheimer are smart, but in a way they could not be more different in aspects other than intelligence.

The author also elaborates how important diligence is. It’s known that for one to become good at something, he/she has to spend at least 10,000 hours on it. Bill Gates had more than 10,000 hours of experience with computers before he dropped out; the Beatles had more than 10,000 hours of practice before they made a real hit; the same with Steve Jobs, Bill Joy (cofounder of Sun Microsystems), Eric Schemidt, etc. As the book puts it, “no one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich”.

However, as important as diligence is, it’s equivalently important to have the ability of seizing opportunities. The computer gurus are typically born in mid 1950s (Bill Gates 1955, Paul Allen 1953, Steve Ballmer 1956, Steve Jobs 1955, Eric Schemidt 1955, Bill Joy 1954);If you look at Chinese Internet gurus, same intersting facts: year in which the founder is born: Baidu 1968, Alibaba 1964, Tecent 1971, Netease 1971, Sina 1969, Sohu 1964, why? Because they all had their 10,000 hours of practice when the personal computer revolution began in 1975 (or internet starts to become popular in China in mid 1990s). It did not happen only in computer industry, but also in other industries such as law, manufacturing, and so on.

The culture you are from and the upbringing shape your thinking and behaviours and in the end how successful you are. It takes three generations for Jews to transform from tailors and garment industry workers to doctors and lawyers. Success is not magic; it’s the hard work passed along generations to generations. Asians are better at mathematics because our ancestors have to calculate carefully when growing rice; and asians are more diligent because our ancestors have to put the hours in hard work so as to survive.

Next time when someone asks how could Chinese economy grow so fast, show him how Chinese work.

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The unconsciousness rules our lives

When my girlfriend asks me if I had vegetables for dinner, my usual answer would be “no, but I had fruits”, upon hearing this she always teases me that I cannot differentiate fruits from vegetables. Well, yes and no – of course I can distinguish them in my conscious mind; but in my unconscious mind, I can’t.  That is, although I know that they are different, deep under my consciousness my animal instinct always categorize food as either meat or nonmeat – thus tricking me into treating fruits and vegetables as interchangeable.

Phenomena like this seem trivial but they happen again and again in our daily life, often without being noticed. Psychologists think our brain is a two-tier system that works like two entire railway systems. These two generally operates independently of each other but they are also connected at various points. The more fundamental tier is our unconscious mind, which deals with our basic animal functions like sensing and safely responding to the external world; on top of the unconscious lies the consciousness, which deals with our rational thoughts and set us apart from other animals. In our daily life it is actually the unconscious that processes more information. Scientists estimate that the human sensory system sends to the brain about eleven million bits of information per second, while we can only handle somewhere between 16 and 50 bits per second. The rest go unnoticed and are processed by the unconscious to produce a much simpler abstraction of information so that our conscious mind is not overwhelmed.

As a result of this two-tier brain system, when something happens, the reality we perceive is not really what we have sensed, but rather what the sensory system detects plus what we think happened. Here’s the catch. Our unconscious mind may trick our conscious mind into thinking about what may have never happened. For example, when listeners in one study hears “it was found that the *eel was on the axle”, where the asterisk stands for a cough/noise covering the sound, listeners thinks they hear “wheel”. If “axle” is changed into “table” they hear “meal”; and with “orange” as the last word listeners hear “peal”. So in a way our brain “invents” reality rather than “senses” it.

This also happens to our memory system. Even though sometimes we think we remember things, the memories may not be accurate. There has been an example of a victim remembering the wrong person as the rapist, even though she saw the rapist’s face under good light condition. She committed the mistake the first time when the police asked her to identify the rapist from several potential criminals and she chose the one that best matched the rapist from her memory. And after that she kept reinforcing the idea that the one she had identified was really the criminal. The problem is that the real criminal never appeared in the lineups, thus resulting her to remember what she wants to believe in – the decision she made when forced (by herself) to identify someone as the criminal.

However, our unconsciousness is not all that bad. It helps us to tell if a person is happy or angry without thinking about it. It also helps us to be social. When we communicate, we always give away nonverbal cues, and we are quite good at deciphering these hints. For example, even if we mute the sound and cover the subtitles when watching a movie, we will still be able to get a relatively accurate clue about what is really going on. Moreover, animals are even better at reading our nonverbal cues. That is probably why sometimes we think our pets actually understand our words – in reality they don’t, but they are good (in particular dogs are better than us) at understand our social signals like emotions.

The unconscious also helps us categorizing things, keeps us in faith of groups we belong to and share the group’s compassion in the face of enemies. Furthermore, it keeps us confident about ourselves. In fact we are often overly confident and overestimate ourselves. Our desire of feeling good about ourselves leads us to have unconsciously biased behaviors. For example, researchers found that in the US people with the same surname are more likely to get married. That is, Browns are more likely to marry Browns; and Smiths are more likely to marry Smiths. The researchers explained that even something as seemingly meaningless as our names could make us feel good and form an opinion in favor of ourselves. This may also explain why in Apple many senior managers have Steve as their first names; and in Amazon many Jeffs hold senior positions.

Another study show that 94% of college professors think their work is above average. Obviously at least 44, or almost half of them overestimate themselves. This human character is a blessing rather than a flaw, since evolution designed the human brain not to accurately understand itself but to help us survive. Feeling good helps our ancestors to endure hunger, coldness and diseases. Even today, this still works. Take the placebo effect for example, patients that are given sugar pills but are told the pills are effective to treat their diseases feel significantly better – sugar pills with a different label actually cures or alleviate pains. They do not in any way alleviate pains in the physical level, but rather, it is our unconsciousness that tricks and treats us.

As we evolve along the long history, our animal instincts have been kept or even further developed while our rational thinking progresses. The conscious part is what tells us apart from animals. However, animals can survive with little or without much consciousness; while no animals can survive without unconsciousness, neither can humans. Understanding the unconsciousness means more than just survival, but also means better coordination with the conscious, better understanding of ourselves as humans, and really following our hearts.

The book Subliminal: how your unconscious mind rules your behavior is quite fascinating. It provides an extensive range of psychological experiments to support the idea, and explains theories in a great sense of humor. Below are some excerpts and notes from the book.

When the author tries to prove to his mother that a tortoise is primitive by waving his hands to it and it ignores him, his mother argues: “Your kids ignore you, and you don’t call them primitive creatures.”

Smiths are more likely to marry Smiths: people have a basic desire to feel good about themselves, and therefore we have a tendency to be unconsciously biased in favor of traits similar to our own, even such seemingly meaningless traits as our names.

The Pepsi paradox: Pepsi tastes better than Coke in blind tests; while people still prefer Coke when they have a choice. Wine tastes better with higher price labels. Stockings with a particular scent sells better. Detergent with yellow and blue box is more effective. Many of our basic assumptions about ourselves and the society are false.

The human sensory system sends the brain about eleven million bits of information per second, while we can only handle between sixteen and fifty bits per second.

The human mental system is a two-tier system comprised of an unconscious tier and a conscious tier. The unconscious tier is more fundamental. It developed early our evolution, to deal with basic necessities of function and survival, sensing and responding to the external world. Most nonhuman species can survive with little or no conscious thought, but no animal can exist without unconsciousness. Scientists estimate that we are conscious of only about 5% of our cognitive function, the other 95% goes beyond our awareness.

If a animation is shown in front of one eye and a static picture is shown in front of the other, you will only be aware of the animation, even if the static picture is pornographic (but you will probably make a correct guess if you’re forced to). PS. in academia they sometimes take “highly arousing erotic images” from the International Affective Picture System, which contains a range of pictures from sexually explicit material to mutilated bodies to pleasant images of children and wildlife.

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Henry Kissinger On China

The uniqueness of China lies in the long history and profound culture and traditions developed within the long period. Thanks to this uniqueness, we are born with a innate proudness. We think we are the best and in fact we are, at least for most of the time. We have been invaded but never been conquered. The strategy has always been sample as this: we are never afraid of the rest of the world because we are the best; if you want to fight us, welcome; we will fight you and beat you; if we fail we will assimilate you until you become you as one of us, sooner or later. This strategy makes me believe that even if aliens invade China and assume we are beaten, we will not stop trying feed aliens with our values and culture. We will even try to make new species with aliens and make the offsprings behave in Chinese manners. Anyway, we didn’t invite them. They asked for it!

This strategy comes with side effects. One of the most serious is the willingness to sacrifice people in order to save the nation, the history and the pride. Chinese are OK with loosing a few battles but will surely stand up against the trying of eliminate the culture. If you understand this, you will hopefully understand why Mao claims “[T]he death of ten to twenty million people is nothing to be afraid of” when talking about nuclear wars, because nuclear weapons cannot eliminate Chinese (since we have many) and Chinese will eventually win the war by making more offsprings and continue its fight.

Another fact is that Chinese have always been interested in maters under our own dome and have cared only about ourselves. We do everything for our own good and do not force others to think or act like us. In a way Chinese are quite tolerant with ideas and lifestyles — as long as you don’t force us to share your beliefs. China has a long history of been united and independent; and that’s why Chinese do not want to be preached about what we should do to keep it up running. Chinese want to focus on our own matters — for example, poverty — but if you ask us for help, we are willing to do that — in a way to show off our superiority.

So that’s Chinese: we are the best and do not try to teach us anything; instead if you want we can teach you something; otherwise just leave us alone and mind your own business.

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