An iPhone app I want to make that helps people make sentences in Chinese

Several time per day I look up Chinese words using the http://dianhuadictionary.com/ app on my iPhone. Often my goal is a sentence. I look up several words at a time that I will need for saying or text-messaging a sentence in Chinese. I usually know the correct way to say it and all the small connecting words, it’s the nouns I forget. For sentences, tools like Google Translate are generally not accurate beyond the most simple phrase, also they require an internet connection which can be spotty or too slow to bother with in mainland China. Searching the dictionary one word at a time is not an efficient way to create a sentence either.

So, I mocked this up. Write English words. Search. Select the proper characters/Chinese words to form your sentence. If words or phases are in the wrong order, drag up or down to correct them. Copy and paste, save, or just read aloud.

Perhaps a later version would have some simple Chinese grammar structures the user could drag in and place words into.

I’ll also say, Chinese dictionaries could benefit from cross referencing their search results with a Chinese character/word frequency lists such as: http://lingua.mtsu.edu/chinese-computing/statistics/char/list.php?Which=MO This way, when I lookup a word I don’t know, the most frequently used corresponding Chinese word appears at the top. (I know this would not work in all cases, but definitely most.) Since cross-referencing would likely decrease search speed, I suggest only showing the top 3 or 4 results and allow the user to press “show more” if need be. I’d also love to be able to mark words with tags, remove them from search results, and add example sentences. All this could even be synced back up to a main source or http://cc-cedict.org to help everyone.

A (illegitimate) strategy for Groupon clones

Is http://ubuyibuy.com slowing down? Or do Hongkongers just not care for Italian food? Their current (at the time of this writing) deal has been up more than half the day already and has only sold 35 coupons — low considering their first several daily deals were consistently around 200, with one from AMC Threatre selling 1500.

Something else different with this deal is the deal timer, which currently reads 60 hours remaining. Is this a three day deal? This multi-day or week long strategy is what other sites like http://funshare.com (which I learned of bc they tweeted me after my last post) and http://twangoo.com are doing to make up for having a smaller audience. But I’ve heard of another strategy.

When I was in Shanghai a couple months ago for the World Expo I met the founders of another Groupon clone, http://cooltuan.com. With them there was some joking about these clone sites just buying all the coupons themselves and giving them away to their large extended families and friends. There was also some suggesting that other mainland knockoffs were absolutely using this strategy, especially at first.

For all these sites, the real Groupon included, you can’t NOT sell all the coupons. The base number doesn’t function as a real minimum anymore, it just has to be set high enough to encourage early, excited deal seekers to send it to a couple of friends. And, what it’s really about, especially when you’re a clone site hoping to stand out from the other 200 on the block and be purchased for hundreds of millions, is showing off how far ABOVE the minimum you’re selling.

As the plan goes, once you get some press for that, then hopefully the bandwagon effect will have worked and you can slowly phase to over to all genuine buys.

I’m not saying http://ubuyibuy.com is doing this, I think the fact they now have over 40,000 Facebook fans is proof they are legit. Nevertheless, seeing their numbers drop a little bit, and now the extended time makes me think perhaps something is up. Their Taiwan site is also showing 60 hours remaining on it’s current deal.

Anyhow. It’s raining in Seoul.

Groupon clones in Hong Kong

uBuyiBuy is doing very well. We can look at their Recent Buys page and determine their revenue thus far.

By looking at sales from the first 9 days since they launched — at that time they had ~20,000 Facebook fans — they’ve sold HKD$299,280 worth of coupons. I believe they take a 20% cut of everything. Not sure how quickly they pay their advertisers, could be Net 30, could be instant. Most coupons save the customer ~50%, e.g. spend 50, get 100. There are also credit card processing fees.

So of that HKD$299,280, 20% is HKD$59,865 or approximately HKD$6651 (~1k USD) per day thus far. Multiplying than times twelve is around HKD$1.7M (~200k USD). I imagine they will likely break into different districts as awareness grows — kowloon, island side, etc. — to try and offer more than one deal per day. Probably good potential to do USD$500k this year just in Hong Kong. They also have Taiwan and Singapore. Taiwan seems to be performing similarly and Singapore is yet to launch.

I can’t tell what their web traffic is since they’ve only been online about a month.

They have been gaining Facebook fans at the rate of 1000 or more per day, which is very impressive. They have nearly 39,000 now — most all of which look to be local, Chinese, Hongkongers, maybe 25 and under (I’m just looking at faces), perhaps the same fan base who listens to MC Jin and Van Ness Wu, their pop-ambassadors. I would suspect these guys are actively telling their fans to go “Like” the Facebook group. Their Facebook page for their Tapai site has 27,000 fans.

The other HK group buying site that I’ve been seeing is Twangoo. It’s up and running, but not with the kind of popularity uBuyiBuy has. They’re offering their second deal this week (they do things by the week) and 7 people have bought in so far, at least the met the deal minimum of 5.

Twangoo has 330 Facebook fans. They mostly look to be Chinese, but with a few more expats mixed in and still all young. Their posts are in English verus uBuyiBuy who posts almost exclusively in Chinese.

With all this said, who is going to win overall in HK? Seems like uBuyiBuy is on it’s way. Thought I’m curious to know their penetration in the expat market. Here’s an interview with ubuyibuy founder on Bloomberg: http://www.executiveinterviews.net/players/mini/default.asp?order=AS04107 He says he was living in the US running a business, used Groupon himself, got a ton of business from it, and decided to head back to Asia to get it started there. We’ll see if he also ends up selling to Groupon. CityDeals from Germany sold for a reported 200M Euro. There are reportedly hundreds of Groupon clones in mainland China.

Is group buying a trend that is going to last forever, one that will become engrained in our buying habits?