Despite Baidu Map dominating the Chinese market as the most used navigation app, AutoNavi, China’s second largest navigation app, achieved six-fold growth over the past year, the company claimed recently.
When configured via the voice setting, AutoNavi provides turn-by-turn route instructions pre-recorded by famous Taiwanese actress. Another “voice package,” in which Chinese comedian Guo Degang lends his unique voice and occasionally his trademark one-liners, brought about a 230% increase in first-time users.
Photo from AutoNavi
AutoNavi’s Vice President, Dong Zhenning said that celebrity voices helped to “humanize” the mapping app and announced that voice navigation will be AutoNavi’s key development strategy for next year. AutoNavi will add more entertainers to its star-studded portfolio, Dong said.
A recent study conducted by CNIT-Research, a Chinese market research firm, showed that by 2014, the number of mobile navigation apps users in China had soared 22% to 514 million. The top two players, Baidu Maps and AutoNavi, control 86% of the highly concentrated market.
Despite its stellar performance, AutoNavi comes in a distant second after Baidu Maps, which dominates 65.5% of the market. In April, 2014, Alibaba acquired AutoNavi for USD 1.5 billion in an effort to challenge Baidu’s monopoly in the niche, making AutoNavi a wholly owned subsidiary of the ecommerce behemoth.
Meanwhile, user growth in the navigation market has begun to plateau, the study shows. On the one hand, stickiness is so high among navigation app users that a major behavior change at this point is quite unlikely. On the other hand, the satellite technology underpinning navigation apps poses a huge barrier to entry for new players.
“There is little room for breakthrough in terms of functionality and data, so voice brings a new dimension to growth, and has thus become a focal point of competition,” industry analyst Wang Liyang told National Business Daily.
The trend toward personalization and entertainment appeals greatly to the Internet population which is increasingly skewed toward the younger generations.
In an attempt to emulate AutoNavi’s success, Baidu Maps has been ramping up its own effort to provide celebrity voice navigation since last year. The service has teamed up with several Chinese pop icons, mostly singers under the age of 30, and tries to integrate their voices seamlessly with Baidu Map’s navigation function. At the 2015 Baidu World Conference earlier this month, Baidu Maps also vowed to commit to bigger investments in voice interaction and speech recognition.
Edited by Rohan Malhotra
(Feature photo from Bnapp.com)