A long, prosperous future
Updated: 2011-08-12 12:33
(China Daily European Weekly)
Wedding website hopes to lure chinese couples
Love and marriage are obviously big business. On June 25, the day after New York state legalized same-sex marriage, the US wedding information provider theknot.com recorded a doubling in its traffic as gay couples rushed to make wedding plans that had been on hold for many years.
The New York City Comptrollers Office estimated the state would enjoy a net gain of $184 million (130 million euros) within three years of the law being passed.
And David Liu, chairman and chief executive officer of XO Group, which owns theknot.com, is certainly excited about the prospects of having a bigger slice of the wedding cake.
But what thrills him more is the lucrative market half a world away in China, a market with annual revenue of $57 billion.
"China is by far the world's largest wedding market, with approximately 10 million weddings a year, which is five times the number of weddings in the US," Liu says.
His company entered the Chinese market in November by launching ijie.com, which aims to provide Western inspiration and local advice on weddings, relationships and pregnancy for Chinese consumers.
The gleam in the eyes of the boss of the US-listed company is not difficult to understand when you consider the growing size of China's middle class and the money they are willing to spend on tying the knot.
An average of $12,000 is spent on each wedding, excluding the cost of the wedding ring, attire and honeymoon, according to China Wedding Industry Development Report issued in March.
Liu says that the average age of a Chinese bride is 29, which means the generation born after China adopted family planning policies have started to get married.
"So for every wedding now, on average, you have two sets of parents and four sets of grandparents. It is the only wedding they get to celebrate. It is a lot of pressure and a tremendous amount of money being spent."
What's more, younger Chinese are being lured by Western traditions and rites, feeling that in adopting them they are showing off their education and affluence, Liu says.
Western elements such as multitiered cakes and diamond engagement rings have become more and more common in Chinese weddings over the past decade, which offers a fantastic business opportunity for Liu's company.
"So being the largest wedding resource online for the West actually gives us credibility in this marketplace," he says.
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese-American brides have planned their weddings using theknot.com since the website was created in 1996. The site offers creative wedding experiences that blend Eastern and Western traditions, a perfect fit for the Chinese market.
"We had a Chinese girl in Texas who had a wedding cake that looked like qipao (a traditional Chinese costume)," Liu says.
"The picture is amazing. I'm pretty sure that you (won't) find a cake like that in China yet."
Local competitors in China don't have this kind of experience, he says.
However, Liu's local competitors are skeptical about ijie.com and doubt that it will alter the landscape of China's wedding information website business.
Liu Xiaodong, chief executive officer of xfwed.com, based in Beijing, says that while there is no doubt about the quality of ijie.com's ideas and its experience, advertisers and vendors have their eye on just one thing: a return on their investment.
Since launching xfwed.com in 2007, Liu Xiaodong's company has attracted advertisers and vendors by leveraging the number of the website's registered users, of whom he says there are now 350,000.
Maintaining registered users is a difficult feat because after most people have their weddings they move on.
As more companies launch similar websites in China, the competition stiffens, Liu Xiaodong says.
The company is trying to tackle this competition by opening regional sites, catering to diverse needs and tastes throughout the country. Twenty sites are now running, and that will double by the end of this month.
The secretary-general of China Wedding Services Association, Lin Bojin, says that with companies of all types and sizes joining the already crowded market, the onus is on them to be creative to succeed.
China's first wedding information website is believed to have been launched five years ago, and since then many companies have followed suit, eager to cash in on a burgeoning market that offers to bridge the gap between couples who want to have a perfect wedding and vendors eager to sell wedding cakes, bouquets, photographic services and more.
Lin says that since there are no dominant players in this market, it is hard to tell whether ijie.com can reproduce its US success in China.
"After all, they have money and the experience. If they are creative enough, they may still win in China."
Li Xing, China Daily's assistant editor-in-chief and veteran columnist, died of a cerebral hemorrhage on Aug 7 in Washington DC, US.
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