The PapayaMobile we know today is a global, award-winning performance mobile marketing company, playing into the app and big data ad technology space.
But before it made an essential pivot, founder and CEO Si Shen started PapayaMobile back in 2008 as a gaming company. When this keen entrepreneurial mind recognized that businesses in China needed support in digital marketing services, she made the decision to reinvent PapayaMobile.
Here, Si Shen shares how other businesses can find their niche, what following the latest market trends can do for innovation, and the importance of fostering a more inclusive work environment in an evolving APAC landscape.
Go beyond what you know to find a niche
When Si Shen ran PapayaMobile as a gaming company that created social mobile games and a social gaming network, she recognized that many Chinese gaming companies faced one common problem: they needed to secure more traffic from outside of China but had no idea how to do so.
After identifying this gap in the market, Si Shen made a big but important leap — turning PapayaMobile into an ad tech service provider to help companies engage with users outside of China through mobile marketing. Her keen ability to observe and lean into the needs of the market enabled her to take PapayaMobile to new heights.
Her advice for businesses looking to pivot is to identify a market that is growing that they are the right fit for. Whether it’s market knowledge, technology, or data, businesses should rely on the experience they have gained over time.
“Pick something that you’re really good at, match that with a good market opportunity, and you can pivot successfully.”
It’s also crucial to find the right partners that support you and assist you in crafting a good strategy. For example, this could be an executive within your company, an experienced mentor outside your company, or even one of your investors. Strategic thought planning has a higher chance of success when you gather all these partners together.
Innovate to capture the latest trends
The APAC region has always had a unique relationship with mobile devices, observes Si Shen. Across the region, many developing countries skipped the dominant PC-era and leaped straight into a mobile-first world. This was further accelerated by the pandemic, where 1 in 3 digital consumers were new to the service due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
One of the biggest trends she saw this last year was the changes in mobile marketing. Most notably, this included the way e-commerce has started to meet social content and how people are discovering new products and brands via live videos and online content creators. Nearly 30% of internet users across seven countries frequently watch livestreams from influencers they follow on social media. Among those who do that, 80% say they’re likely to buy products as a result.1
Some businesses have caught on to this trend already. In China, employees in physical stores have even started shooting videos for online users. According to Si Shen, if you go to a store like Adidas, you’ll find there aren’t many shoppers — but instead, staff are using their cell phones to showcase all the new shoes they have in store through live video. They will show online viewers their products, saying, “Hey, these are the new shoes and their features. If you like it, buy it at the Adidas store on Taobao.”
“People don’t need to go to the store. Offline stores become a showcase or a live video venue for online business.”
Find out what’s unique about yourself and go for it
As a female entrepreneur, Si Shen recognizes that gender inequality exists but believes that confidence in your own skills and showcasing your experience can help break that barrier.
As a female CEO in tech, she stands out, but she doesn’t allow herself to dwell on such perceptions. New acquaintances often think her male colleague is the CEO of PapayaMobile, but they quickly recognize her role. Si Shen is confident that her own unique skills and experience set her apart and that these people will not harbor any biases once they see her work.
“Being a woman entrepreneur is something that I don’t think too much about. Because being a unique person is much larger than the variance of gender.”
She also recognizes the need for more role models to inspire and groom the next generation of female entrepreneurs looking to break into the industry. For these young women, Si Shen wants them to realize that they’re unique — they need to find their passion, leverage their talent, and then “just go for it.”
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